In early June, we set out on a weekend road trip to Prince Edward County (PEC). We experienced so much that weekend that we’ve had to split this post into two parts. This first part is a run down of our first eventful day in PEC. We met up bright and early on Friday morning and packed ourselves into our rental SUV. We had booked a Ford Escape but we were pleasantly surprised with an upgrade to an Explorer. It was a comfortable ride for the five of us but as the secondary driver I wondered, “how the heck am I going to drive this thing?” To my surprise, it was an easy drive and perfect for meandering around the county roads.
PEC is about a 3-hour drive from Ottawa located in Central Ontario along the north shore of Lake Ontario on the Bay of Quinte. “The County”, as locals call it, is home to the quaint villages of Picton, Bloomfield, and Wellington, more than 40 wineries, lots of great local artisans, beautiful retreats and some fabulous dining. With stunning views, a unique landscape and Sandbanks Provincial Park, PEC has much to offer. It’s a popular vacation destination for families, couples, and was a perfect pick for a girlz’ weekend away! It was my first time in PEC. I had heard lots about it but never had the chance to get there. The main draw for us, of course, was food (and wine). Of course a trip to PEC must include as many wineries visits as possible. When planning this trip, we found it tricky decide which wineries to hit there are so many great ones to choose from. Fortunately we had all day Friday to tour the county, a full day ahead of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival taking place Saturday and Sunday in Picton. Our Friday included visits to six wineries:
Our first stop was Waupoos Winery. First opened in 2001 by Ed and Rita Kaimans. Waupoos sits on a 100-acre waterfront property and boasts a wonderful view of Lake Ontario. Twenty acres of the property is used for the vineyard and they also have an apple and peach orchard, citrus grove and sugar bush. The site was beautiful and it had a bit of something for everyone. One of our favourites here was the Honeysuckle White (A blend of Vidal, Riesling Auxerrois and Seyval.)
Opened in 2003 on a clay limestone hill, Norman Hardie is perhaps one of the more recognized wineries in the area. We made plans to stop here and try their wood-fired thin crust pizza on the patio that overlooks the vineyard. We shared three delicious pizzas: The Margherita, Salsiccia Bianca and Tarte Flambee Bianca paired with some wines of course! Favourite wines here was the Cabernet Franc and very drinkable County Chardonnay.
Rosehall Run run opened its tasting room to visitors in 2011. It is on the first floor of the original barn built in 2002 to house the wine making operations. An added bonus to this winery visit is the PICNIC food truck that offers foodie-inspired sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and cheese plates. On the day that we visited, we enjoyed guacamole and chips and a unique but delicious lavender donut hole.
Sandbanks is a family run business that has been producing award-winning vines for the past 12 years. The tasting room and surrounding property af this winery offered lots of space for visitors to relax and enjoy. The tasting/retail room was very large and open. Around the back, they offered perfect nibbles for creating a picnic: local cheese, Seed to Sausage meats, and a variety of different crackers. They’ve even thought of the small details and offer knives and cutting boards so guests can take their picnics outside and enjoy the grounds overlooking the vines. There were lots of wines to taste and among our favourites here were the Sandbanks Sauvignon Blanc and Late Harvest dessert wine.
This family run winery is situated on 60 acres of land producing 100% estate grown and made wines to really showcase what the region has to offer. Run by Caroline with the help of her daughter Maggie. On my next trip to the county, I plan to stop in here for a longer visit to enjoy their patio and picturesque surroundings. Here, we learned a lot about local flavours and how different vintage were affected by weather events. We enjoyed a the sparkling wine and a favourite was the 2012 Riesling.
Huff Estates has a very different look and feel from many of the other wineries we visited. The tasting room is next door to an art gallery and offers a large Patio Restaurant with two 24-foot sliding doors opening up to a beautiful patio overlooking the vineyard. The property also features a 21-room Inn. Here we enjoyed a nice Vidal.
We finished our first day in PEC with dinner at The Drake Devonshire in Wellington. This restaurant was recommended to us by friends and we couldn’t pass up the stunning panoramic views from the dining room – sadly that afternoon it was a bit foggy and rain was coming so the view wasn’t as spectacular as it likely is in a clear day. But we were there to eat so…. The Devonshire is led by head Chef Matthew DeMille; the menu features farm and lake to table inspired dishes. Here’s a look at what we had:
Some favourites were the Drake & Bake. The housemade breads were served fresh and warm with spreads -- we like the garlic one the best. The popcorn shrimp wasn’t quite what we expected but it was excellent. The dish came with three perfect crispy shrimp and the maple mustard and kimchi aioli were a perfect combination. The sautéed fresh peas with toasted sesame had a unique taste with a nice crisp crunch to them. The décor here was whimsical and curious and the property was surrounded by unusual art instalments… it’s worth a quick walk around to check these out. The main reason we were heading to PEC was to attend the Great Canadian Cheese Festival held every June. We first heard about this festival in late 2014, so we saved the date and started planning for this weekend in early 2015. The festival, now in its fifth year at the Picton Fairgrounds where you can find more than 125 artisan cheeses by outstanding cheese-makers from all across Canada. The festival is also a crowd pleaser with non-cheese related artisan foods like: breads and condiments, wine, cider and craft beer as well as many other offerings like shortbread cookies, and other yummy treats! This year’s festival brought over 5000 people to the area during the two-day festival. Stay tuned for part two of our Weekend Road Trip to PEC, to hear about our foodie experience at the Great Canadian Cheese festival. To see more pictures from our first day, head over to our Facebook page here.