East Lake was rough and choppy that morning, pulling low grey clouds across its early summer shores.
So, too, were our heads from a rowdy, raucous, wine-filled Friday night, part of our weekend in Prince Edward County.
Six friends and former Toronto neighbours gathered at a Cherry Valley cottage a couple of years ago for a ‘Good Friends and Good Wine’ weekend in The County to reunite, reminisce, and share some laughs over the incredible wine, food and friendship bounty the region has to offer. Join us as we rediscover some of the best wineries in Prince Edward County!
Rosehall Run Winery
JJ Syer welcomes us with a knowledgeable and award-winning smile as she gives us a tour of owner/viticulturist and winemaker Dan and Lynn Sullivan‘s Rosehall Run Vineyard. ‘Winemaking done in the vineyard’ is Dan’s philosophy. He is an extremely personable, hands-on, jack of all trades renaissance kinda guy who works proactively at sustainable farming and is involved in pretty much all aspects of his business: the picking, leaf pulling, disease management, driving the bottling truck, shipping, tasting and marketing his labours of love.
Dan’s obvious passion shows in every glass of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that Rosehall Run produces and, as JJ quips, “He has made all his mistakes in the last 15 years with his previous chemist career when he started making SZ White in his basement!”
Rosehall Run’s proximity to Lake Ontario and the remarkable Hillier clay, shale, limestone and highly mineral soil base add to the entire terroir make-up of Rosehall Run. His Chardonnay juice is poured directly into Oak, integrating and fermenting in some of these uniquely Canadian Oak Barrels.
“They grow up together,” says Sullivan.
And keeping with Dan’s ‘Winemaking done in the vineyard’ philosophy, Marta and Peter from The Carriage House Cooperage are providing local Rosehall Run Oak Barrels directly from an ancient oak tree farmed from the back forty of The Rosehall Run estate, continuing Sullivan’s full circle, keep it in the family approach to the art.
While you are in the tasting shop, take away locally sourced provisions at the Rosehall Run supported Greer Road Grocer, situated just behind the main tasting room. It offers a selection of the best products from local farmers, artisans and purveyors from The County and the surrounding area, including seasonal prepared foods including bread, cheeses, charcuterie, dips, preserves and baked goods. Yum!
A wine tasting and lunch at Waupoos Winery, the oldest established winery in The County, is a must-do. Waupoos, which in Ojibway means running rabbit, began operations in 1983 when Ed Neuser and Riata Kaimins took one look at the apple orchard and rocky, undulating 100 acres they had just purchased, and decided to plant grapes instead. Flash forward to 2001 and their first vintage. Today, winemaker Amy and husband, General Manager Kyle Baldwin, produce 19 different varietals, the largest in the region.
Kyle flashes a smile and adds, “Pinot Gris is our most popular.”
Vines supposedly like to work hard; they produce a better product. And they like it arid. After Ontario’s unusually hot, dry summer, Amy and Kyle are anticipating a bumper harvest. Terroir is an oft-used term in describing wine production in The County, and Amy confirms it’s importance.
“Much like the Burgundy region of France, the broken up, natural limestone base of The County encourages both spreading and a deeper root system and of course adds that minerality we crave in the final tasting.”
Both are proud of their VQA status. “We meet 100 percent match of our list of grapes and usage,” Amy explains. “Others typically reach 85 per cent.”
So much about wine making, we didn’t know! Business has expanded to include a more experiential winery: a guest house, petting zoo, hard cider tastings in their general store, and an art gallery. Our ‘Good Friends, Good Wine Weekend’ continues in the beautiful, sunlit Gazebo Restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and sample some of the best food, wine, craft beer, and incredible views The County and Waupoos has to offer.
Closson Chase Winery
When visiting Closson Chase, be sure to sample the winery’s Chardonnay. As we discovered during our visit, winemaker Deborah Paskus is responsible for one of the best Canadian Chardonnays anywhere. We arrive at a very busy and crowded tasting room, with eager tasters lining up to sample some of the Pinot and South Close Chardonnay on offer. The experience is somewhat rushed and impersonal, but our single taster is happy with the full mouth, mineral results, and walks away glowing and enthusiastic with several purchases of South Clos Chardonnay in his happy possession.
We return to Cherry Valley to a grey and cloudy cocktail hour, but one that entices us to open a bottle of the recently acquired Rosehall Run’s Chardonnay. Soon everyone is back in full chat, wine tasting and more catching up and chatting after our afternoon wine and liquor tastings and purchases.