A day in the county – a promised land for elegant, seductive wines tinged with limestone and an undeniable minerality, “It’s due to the dirt” the locals say. Prince Edward County, located just east of Toronto remains Ontario’s newest wine appellation and quite possibly the fastest growing wine region in the world!
This glorious county has been touted as one of Canada’s top tourist destinations as well, promising the visitor a relaxing and casual vibe in which to enjoy a multitude of amazing local foods, wine, art and activities. Of course there is also the lake, offering up fine sandy beaches, one of Canada’s best, and 800 km of shoreline. Unbeknownst to many Prince Edward County is technically considered an island, man made located in Lake Ontario. The lake not only most welcoming to the 650,000 annual visitors to the county but also most welcoming to the approximate 600 acres of vineyards planted here.
Situated at the eastern end on the north shore of Lake Ontario it is this large body of water that plays an integral role in allowing the grapes of PEC to ripen slowly, and fully. But it starts from the ground up and we go back to the dirt. The limestone bedrock and stoney soils of the county allow for excellent drainage in the spring warming, forcing vines to grow deeper during hot summer months. This is all good, building character with albeit small yields but concentrated flavours and complexity in PEC wines!
We recently had the opportunity to reconnect with a very special lady, the Founder and CEO of one of the pioneering wineries in the county, Caroline Granger of The Grange of Prince Edward County Vineyards and Estate Winery.
We flash back to 2010 when we first met Caroline, hair tied back, casual in faded blue jeans, with precious county dirt on her hands as she lovingly inspected the grapes in her vineyard. Later we ventured into the Grange barrel cellar, where we laughed, and tasted some wines, as Caroline told us that this, the barrel cellar was the most important room above all. “Where the wines have a chance to develop and become all that they can be,” she explained.
We were so taken with Caroline those years ago with her drive, her commitment and courage to follow her passion. You see Caroline Granger was the first female in the county, to open her own winery, a bold move considering at the time there were just three winery licences granted in the whole region. The growth of PEC that earned its VQA status in 2007 now boasts close to 45 wineries of varying styles, with something for everyone, from small and quaint to modern and sophisticated.
We asked Caroline to tell us a little about her and how The Grange of Prince Edward came to be!
We learned that farming and agriculture came naturally to Caroline as she grew up on a small farm her parents purchased back in 1974. Those roots in family farming gave Caroline an appreciation for the land, of hard work and ignited in her a sense of independence. After some time away she found herself back on the farm with three small kids in tow looking to rejuvenate her life. Parents Robert and Diana were finding the daily working of the farm challenging so Caroline stepped up.
In the year 2001, Caroline lead her family into a new form of agriculture replacing the mixed feed crops and sweet peas with vineyard plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! In just a few years, in 2004 she opened the doors to the Grange of Prince Edward County Vineyards and Estate Winery. True to her roots or in the genes, Caroline’s daughter Maggie returned to the farm embracing her love of wine and of the land in 2010. Today this mother-daughter duo is at the helm of one of the most respected and highly regarded wineries in PEC.
The winery, the vineyards and the wines….
The winery situated in a rustic farmland setting is housed in an historic barn built in 1826. Converted into a tasting room, with an art gallery loft and room rentals for events, the space is inviting, casual and inspiring.
It is situated among the 60 acres of vineyards the Grangers have planted, which produce strictly 100 percent estate-grown and made wines. This we learn separates the Grange from many of the other wineries in the county. It allows them to make wines that truly reflect their own distinct style and that of the region. This is not to say that this model doesn’t have its challenges.
As Maggie explains “It’s challenging to rely only on yourself and your vineyard, and so to be able to produce these wines and have them shine is fulfilling and, ultimately, a really unique experience for consumers.” The wines of the Granger gals have been rewarded with Caroline’s and Maggie’s commitment to the winery being self sufficient and producing wines with little intervention. As Caroline enthuses “it is incredibly important to me that I know without a doubt what has gone into the grapes and in turn the wines, and to be able to stand behind them completely”.
The roster of Grange wines is inspiring, from the vineyard plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon. We most recently enjoyed the County Cremant Quartz 2011 and the Estate Almanac White.
Here are our thoughts on these wines and their delectable pairings with a local county cheese!
County Cremant Quartz 2011 $35.00
The County Cremant sparkling wines are a series of bubbly that is meant to vary depending on the nuances of each individual vintage. Cremant are sparkling wines that are produced using the same method as Champagne, costly and labour intensive with secondary bottle fermentation.
Delish! A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay 50/50 this bubbly delivers a beautiful toastiness, with flavours of citrus and notes of honey and brioche with great balance, crisp, good acidity and an elegant mineral finish. After 60 months on the lees, it was worth the wait! Suggested cheese pairing, at the winery the winning partner is the local Buffalina. Delectable!
Availability: Winery Direct
Estate Almanac White VQA PEC $16.95
This is a blend of three varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, 100 % estate grown. Light to medium bodied at 12%, aromatic, crisp with notes of lemon, hints of apricot and pineapple, beautiful balance. Recommended with local Fiftowns Cape Vessy cheese.
If you find yourself sometime soon in the county be sure to drop in and say hello to Caroline and Maggie from us! As a reminder a memorable experience awaits you at the Grange. Experience the beautiful grounds with a local charcuterie filled picnic basket, take a tour or enjoy some beautiful wines at the tasting bar.
For more information www.grangeofprinceedward.com