Gourmet Travel - Prince Edward County Ontario Wineries - Southern Ontario Wine Tour

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Prince Edward County Ontario Wineries in Canada - Southern Ontario Gourmet Travel
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Canadian Wine - Prince Edward County Ontario Wineries

The County - Southern Ontario Wine and Food Culture Comes of Age

by Wade Rowland - Part 2

Country fields - Prince Edward County Ontario Canada
Norm Hardie of Carmella Winery in front of mound of Prince Edward County limestone soil
Photo © Christine Collie
The soil in Prince Edward County is remarkably similar to the soil in Burgundy. You'd think nothing would grow on land that looks for all the world like an undeveloped gravel pit, but the calcareous limestone shale is interlayered with clays and other glacial soil deposits, making it ideal for grape vines, holding water through the hot and dry County summers.

Winters are of course harsher than they are in Burgundy (or Niagara, for that matter), despite the mitigating 'lake effect' - Lake Ontario almost never freezes and thus moderates winter temperatures along its shores. But cultivation techniques adapted from long Niagara experience seem to have solved that problem. Roots mounded in a few inches of soil and vines trained low to the ground have survived even the exceptionally fierce winters of the past two years. Early frost damage to grapes can be can be staved off with powerful, diesel-driven wind machines, and these are becoming a feature of the County landscape.

And when spring arrives, that ideal soil, and the sun beating down on the sloping fields, produces fine crops of cool-climate European vinifera varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc. The wines being made here are distinctive‹more subtle than the big-bodied Californians or Chileans or Australians, and more akin to those of France.

As Prince Edward County's grape-growing acreage expands, more and more of the wines being produced here are able to bear the PECWA (Prince Edward County Wine Growers Association) seal, indicating one hundred percent County grapes were used in their making. Since 1999 more than six hundred acres of vines have been established, and there are now seven wineries open for sales and tastings.

Our weekend excursion took us to three of these new wineries, with a stopover at one of the county's cosiest small hotels, in the pretty lakeside village of Wellington.

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