A year ago was my first visit to Taste the County, the annual celebration of food and wine in Prince Edward County. I’d recently moved to Ontario from the Maritimes where I had a column about the burgeoning Nova Scotia wine industry, and now discovered another relatively new wine region on my doorstep. It was so interesting that I wrote my first wine tourism column as the Prince Edward County Wine Examiner the next week.
Last year’s Taste began with a fascinating talk by wine critic and writer Michael Pinkus as he explained about the flavour of wine. It was the inspiration for a column I wrote later What’s in the taste of your wine.
I also met Pete Bradford of Carriage House Cooperage at last year’s Taste, he was giving a demonstration on making oak barrels. Bradford is one of only a couple of coopers in Canada and he is experimenting with Canadian oak barrels. He was so interesting that I wrote an article on him for the County’s HornTrip magazine. A second article I wrote for HornTrip on winemakers Dan Sullivan and Frederic Picard which was to be the first of a series on PEC winemakers, did not get published as the magazine folded.
A year ago, I was so familiar with Nova Scotia wines that I was looking for those hardy hybrids that can cope with the short East Coast growing season: New York Muscat, Vidal, Seyval, Ortege, Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, Lucie Kuhlman, Gamay, Geisenheim and Baco Noir. Instead I found Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Rieslings, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and I had no measuring stick aside from my own taste buds to tell me what was good and what wasn’t. Actually I’ve discovered over the past year that my taste buds can be pretty reliable. Wines that I like often win medals.
This has been a year of discovery. I’m moved from “I don’t like oaked Chardonnay” to “What is this marvelous wine oaked in?’ I’ve moved from “I’m not wild about red wine” to only tasting Pinot Noir at this year’s Taste and I guess like the wines themselves, my taste is maturing with time and exposure to oak.
Unfortunately I’ve also had to move from saying $20 a bottle is my top price to grudgingly parting with $35 for something really special and even $50 for a bottle of Barrel Aged Iced Cider from County Cider. Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run taught me why County wines do cost so much and I wrote a column about that too: Are Ontario Wines Overpriced?
I’ve visited 23 wineries in the past year and interviewed three others at Taste and Terroir that I haven’t visited yet; however, talking to the winemakers and tasting their wines at these events have helped me feel like I know them anyway.
It was great to be greeted by some of the winemakers I’d met over the year at this year’s Taste like David Bergeron and tasting his new hard cider release. Bergeron Winery and County Cider were subjects for a recent article I wrote for County and Quinte Living An Apple a Day in the Glass.
I was also drawn to the Huff Estates booth last year, I have yet to taste a wine made by winemaker Frederic Picard that I haven’t liked and their sommelier on site, Brian Hanna, is a fount of information on food and wine pairings. An event Brian hosted at Huff last winter was the subject of my column, Blind Taste Testing with Huff’s Brian Hanna It provided material for a recent article I had published in Brockville Recorder’s BackPack magazine on hosting a wine tour party in your own home.
From being a stranger in a strange land a year ago at my first Taste, this year at my second Taste celebration I felt at home and among friends.
Thank you, everyone in the Prince Edward County wine industry for sharing your wine, your wisdom and your stories this past year with me. It’s been a good year. Here’s to the next!
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