There’s never been a better time to venture off the beaten track in Ontario. This summer, why not explore the lesser-known corners of the province? We promise you’ll discover some of the coolest and most curious wineries and vineyards around – plus, we’re here to help find your way!
Ontario’s wine regions are diverse. Each community has its own vibe and specializes it different kinds of grapes and wine styles. Located on the north-eastern shores of Lake Ontario and surrounded on the north and east by Bay of Quinte, Prince Edward County is one of Ontario’s popular winegrowing regions, boasting over 50 vineyards and 30 wineries. With its limestone-rich soil and cool climate (thanks to the lake breezes blowing in from Lake Ontario and Bay of Quinte) Prince Edward County has the perfect conditions for growing grapes. And nothing expresses The County’s terroir better than the wines being produced here. Here’s our guide to sipping your way through the hidden-gem wineries in Prince Edward County.
The perfect place to start exploring the wineries of PEC is Black Prince Winery. Named after a legendary Edwardian prince, this charming winery sits on a sprawling 50-acre estate in Picton. It’s one of the oldest County wineries and the first in the region to use local County oak barrels.
On-site, you’ll find a 10-acre vineyard that grows Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, a cozy tasting room, a gourmet wood-fired pizza bistro and a beautifully restored 19th century barn. But that’s not all. Black Prince is also home to Canadian Vinegar Cellars – producers of deeply flavorful, artisan vinegars. Teaming up with Black Prince Winery, Pete Bradford, founder of Canadian Vinegar Cellars and the winery’s cooper, and his apprentice Oliver Webb craft wine-based, barrel-aged vinegars, with flavors ranging from fruity peach to complex Pinot Noir that’s aged for 19 years.
To experience The County’s wine scene in all its bucolic glory, visit Black Prince Winery for a tour and tasting of their very special wines and vinegars. And if you are lucky, you’ll get to see master cooper Pete make his beautiful oak barrels – the old-school way.
Another County winery in the area is Three Dog Winery, whose award-winning, everyday wines are popular with locals and visitors. The 100-acre property, which owners John and Sacha Squair purchased in 1998, features an outdoor kitchen, a patio, and a bottle shop. There’s also a spacious lawn dotted with picnic benches and bright red umbrellas where you can enjoy live music, rustic wood-fired pizza and a tasting flight when the weather is warm. During the winter months you can snowshoe, ski or walk their vineyard trails and sip Pinot Noir by the fire. The winery welcomes four-legged friends.
On the western edge of PEC, situated on Partridge Hollow Road, is an off-the-beaten-path winery focusing on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris made from estate-grown grapes. But Redtail Vineyards’ greatest secret is their Alt-wines. Produced in small batches with minimal intervention, these wines are experimental in style and are alternatives to the classics. Their newly opened tasting room offers stunning views of the vineyard, live music, and thoughtfully prepared local food. And while you’re there, be sure to try a glass (or better yet, buy a bottle) of one of the winery’s popular alt-wines like County Crush, Secret Pinot or easy-drinking piquette.
Just steps from Redtail Vineyard you’ll find Traynor Family Vineyard, a family-owned winery dedicated to sustainability and producing high-quality, low-intervention wines. Owner and winemaker Mike Taynor purchased the property on the corner of Danforth Road and Loyalist Parkway in 2018. Shortly after, it was converted from a frozen cornfield to a 5.5-acre vineyard. The winery includes a patio for wine tasting, an indoor tasting bar (currently closed due to COVID-19) and an on-site wine shop. But what makes Traynor Family Vineyard special is their unique selection of wines. Made with fruit from their own vineyard and fruit purchased from local growers, they produce excellent pét-nat, vibrant piquette, rich floral orange wine and vermouth infused with over twenty different herbs and flowers from their organic garden.
Pair great wine with an epic County sunset at Harwood Estate Vineyards, just a three-minute drive from Traynor Family Vineyard. Open year-round, it’s one of the few wineries in Ontario that’s completely powered by solar energy. The working winery, barrel cellar and tasting room are located inside a rustic tin barn that sits right in the middle of the vineyard, so you can enjoy views of the beautiful vine rows or watch the winemakers at work while sipping on a glass of their handcrafted estate wines, which includes two signature red and white blends created by winemaker Karlee Moore.