Taste trails, arts trails and wine routes intertwine in loyalist country. Prince Edward County is an epicurean getaway kissed by natural beauty and nurtured by artisans of all kinds.
We begin at Norman Hardie Winery, overlooking the vineyard with an elegant Pinot Noir and wood-fired thin crust pizza. At nearby Rosehall Run we sample the Sullyzwicker’s smooth floral blend of Ehrenfelser, Riesling and Muscat Ottonel. Neighbouring Casa-Dea Estates Winery‘s aromatic Dea’s Cuvee sparkles with notes of peaches and apricots, and we pair it with a fresh summery salad of watermelon cubes, greens and mint, with soft goat cheese and crushed walnuts. At Closson Chase organic vinification is relfected in the clarity and typicity of their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the two elegant pillars of PEC wines.
Next, we get our kicks at 66 Gilead Distillery. Single malt rye whiskey and Loyalist Gin made from juniper, lavender and fresh aroma hops reflect flavours that would have been in abundance in this area at the time of the loyalists. For me, the Pine Vodka is reminiscent of a cold August night in Algonquin. These are distinctly Canadian neutral grain spirits aged in Canadian oak, with inviting character, distinct herbaceous and floral notes and a lingering finish. I am told, “If you try something you like, get it now. It will be gone by the end of the week.”
In Bloomfield we head to Slickers where ice cream is handmade in-house using fresh local ingredients. The list of 12 kinds of chocolate ice cream is tempting; the apple-pie flavour consists of freshly baked apple pies smushed into the creamy mix; and the peanut butter and honey is addictive.
Cycling to Sandbanks Provincial Park, we enter an oasis, but once over the dunes, it’s as though we’re in the Sahara desert. Another strange natural phenomenon is the Lake on the Mountain, a natural wonder sixty two metres above the Bay of Quinte. What makes it mysterious is that it is replenished by a constant flow of fresh water despite not having a visible water source. This defies all geographical and geological theory. It is believed to be a type of sinkhole, but no one is absolutely certain, and no one knows its depth with certainty either. We walk around its trails and wonder…
In the heart of Picton lies a new B & B in a traditional location. The Manse Boutique Inn is a refurbished rectory by the church. This is where priests lived. As the church bell rings we rise for breakfast. Our Holy Trinity includes homemade granola, yoghurt and spiced prunes. We are told that “everyone who has the Finnish pancakes, loves them.” We happily oblige, and are treated to the fluffiest pancakes with fresh fruits and meaty sausages. Chef Chris Wylie cures his own bacon and salmon, makes his own ketchup, mustard and jams. It’s truly his labour of love. Wylie does all the cooking, and proudly uses local ingredients. “What would you like to eat?” He asks; and then makes it using what he can get from local farmers. Outside we laze in the private swimming pool. A midday snack menu includes charcuterie and goat cheese terrine.We are as comfortable as can be, and right in the centre of town. So accessible, there is no shortage of sophistication in this food and wine destination. There is a lot to discover in Prince Edward County, and we do it at our own pace.
For more info, go to: prince-edward-county.com
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.