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Terroir on the Move

For the first time in years, Prince Edward County’s annual Terroir wine event did not happen in the Crystal Palace in Picton, Ontario, instead, there were onsite events at many participating wineries that were open to people who had bought a Terroir Passport.

The girls at Sugarbush (3)

The first tasting at Sugarbush Vineyards with Owner/winemaker Rob Peck

My daughter and three friends had come down from Ottawa for their belated second annual Mothers’ Day Wine Tour with Spotlight Limousine Tours Our very knowledgeable driver and guide, Mary Dawn,  took us to a number of wineries that weren’t part of the official Terroir passport tour to avoid most of the crowds.

We started our tour at Sugarbush Vineyard a delightful family-run winery that has been around for years and has a wide selection of wines for all tastes.  Rob Peck, owner/winemaker explained the effects of both terroir and weather on the flavour profile of each year’s vintage at a boutique winery such as theirs in comparison to the consistent year to year flavour profiles of corporate wines.

This year’s vines have survived the winter unscathed partly due to Rob’s pioneering use of geotextiles to cover his vines instead of hilling them under with dirt. The high cost has paid for itself over the years in preventing bud death during winter’s icy temperatures and surprise cold snaps in the spring.

Having whetted our palates, we headed off to Hillier Creek Estates for lunch. This is my granddaughter’s favourite winery. She is only nine but thinks of it as the best pizza place in The County and its proximity to North Beach is an added bonus. It’s located in a beautifully restored historic barn, on lovely grounds where kids can explore while parents linger over lunch.

Pizza at Hillier Creek (2)

Pizza and wine tasting at Hillier Creek

We had our wine tastings while waiting for our gourmet thin crust pizzas to be wood fired.  The winemaker, Ana Costillo, has been with the winery for three years and is setting her mark. Her South American background gives the wines her own distinctive style. She has reintroduced a Gamay Nouveau in the fall, Canada’s answer to Beaujolais Nouveau which comes out just in time for The County’s pre-Christmas Wassail Festival

After lunch, we visited Stanners Vineyard, where Cliff Stanner was giving barrel tastings of his Pinot Noir to a group on a Terroir tour. His wife, Anna, gave us tastings of Chardonnay, Riesling and their skin contact Pinot Gris, a beautiful golden wine that VQA insists they call rosé simply because it’s not a typical Pinot Gris colour. There are no bells and whistles at Stanners, but the wines are consistently very good, with national gold medals to prove it.  See my previous blog Stanners & Waupoos win Double Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships.

Rosehall Run Winery was overrun with Terror tasting groups but fortunately, we had our own tasting bar reserved upstairs. Among the offerings, was their award-winning JCR oaked Chardonnay. Absolutely beautiful for those who love oaked Chardonnay.  Our host was horrified when one of our group then asked to taste their fun summer sparkler Pixie.  Sort of like asking for poutine after a beef bourguignon. It was my first time tasting Pixie and it fills the need for a fizzy adult version of Koolaid rather well, but if you are looking for a great rosé, their Just One Rose really hits the spot.

I  picked up a bottle of The Finisher dessert wine made from Ehrenfelser a hybrid winter hardy grape from a Sylvaner and Riesling cross. Rosehall first introduced it in 2014 when they ripped out the hybrid vines to plant more European vinifera. They called it The Finisher because they were “finishing” off these grapes. Ironically, it became such a successful dessert wine that they have recently made a new batch from Ehrenfelser grapes they had to bring in from other wine regions.

Norman Hardie (2)

Fighting the crowds at Norm Hardie

Our next stop was just down the road at  Norman Hardie Winery. It was packed with Terroir tourists and there were a lot of women’s groups there.  A year ago, Norman Hardie, the iconic owner/winemaker came under fire from the #MeToo movement for inappropriate behaviour. As a result, he was shunned by customers, the  PEC Winegrowers Association, and his wines were dropped from the LCBO and many restaurant wine lists. It was questionable that his winery which makes 25,000 cases of wine a year could survive without these markets.

Sometimes, the wines speak for themselves. It takes a lot of people to make a good bottle of wine, as I was reminded by the assistant winemaker, when I visited soon after the scandal broke and wrote about in my blog  Pizza at Norm Hardie  A year earlier, I had brought my  English cousin who had completed the fourth level WSET program and is a member of the UK Wine Society. Our visit to Norm Hardie Winery and the red carpet wine tasting had been the highlight of his trip. WSET Wine Touring in PEC 

Norman Hardie accepted the criticism, issued heartfelt apologies on his website and all social media outlets. He brought in an outside company to do an audit which developed new policies and protocols in the winery.’s operations. Six months ago, the LCBO started stocking his wines again due to customer demand.

Just like Shakespeare in Love will remain one of my favourite movies. Norm Hardie’s Cab Franc is a staple in my wine cellar.

Our tour ended with stops at three new businesses which opened in 2018 Sangreal Vineyards home of Morandin Wines just off the Greer Rd on Loyalist Parkway, Settlers Cider, with a great location on the Danforth Rd and The Strange Brewing Company on the Chase Road. It was late in the day when we stopped in and they all deserve a second in-depth look.

Shopping (3)

Memories to store in our wine cellars

Many wineries dislike visits by wine tour companies. They complain that they waste a lot of wine and staff time on rowdy people who come to drink but not to buy. Not so with our group, who came with shopping lists and filled up the trunk of Spotlight’s limousine.

Related blogs

Spotlight on Mother’s Day wine tour – the first Mother’s Day wine tour with Spotlight

42 Splashes of Wine – Terroir 2015 –  Fond memories of Terroir at Crystal Palace, Picton.


1 Comment »

  1. Loved your article, nice to see the Wine Tourist back and to heat Norman Hardie wines are being stocked again. Hope they make their across the pond again. Paul

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