First up (9:00), Closson Chase. Now to be honest I have always found Closson Chase to be very pricey for my pocketbook – especially for what they were offering, which was a named (and fairly celebrated) winemaker in a new and unproven region. But with a few years of production and experience under their collective belts I think they are finally beginning to hit their stride and the price to quality ratio doesn’t seem so out of whack – we’re really starting to see what the early envisioners of this winery saw all those years ago. It was here that the $40 2007 South Clos Chardonnay mesmerized all who tried it. Bottom line on this one is, if I bought $40 Chardonnays, this would be my chosen poison, so to speak.
In the ten o’clock hour we found our way to Keint-He, a new winery set to open in early September. Keint-He is run by winemaker and self-admitted “soil geek” Geoff Heinricks, who provided us with some pretty interesting facts and quotes about growing grapes in the County. Geoff believes that “high density planting is very important to the region and the best way to express the terroir.” Geoff started making wines in 2003, but has been growing grapes in the area since 1995. Currently, he has three vineyards: Little Creek, Big Lake and Foxtail Swamp, totaling some 27 acres. His best wine was also a Chardonnay, the 2007 Foxtail Vineyard version, for marketing reasons they drop the ‘swamp’ moniker from the label, but the truth of the matter is the vineyard is located off a road called Swamp College Rd. (you can all make the appropriate jokes now).
Eleven o’clock came and we found ourselves in the barrel cellar of Dan Sullivan (Rosehall Run). He poured quite a few wines in a short period of time and managed to speak over the throng. It just seemed that the writers were getting a little rowdy with their banter and commentary back and forth amongst one another; and then to top things off, the representatives from the Wine Council showed up halfway through the tasting, thus causing even more commotion as they made their apologies and said hello to everyone. Dan was pouring some great wines, but decorum seems to have been left on the wrong side of the cellar door. As we left everyone thanked Dan for a wonderful tasting – for his part Dan looked relieved to see us all go and get his barrel cellar back in order and back to a more peaceful state. I don’t usually give a double recommendation from one location in my report from the County, but for what Dan had to endure I’ll tell you the two that really stood out: the consumer friendly, $14.95 Sur Lie Chardonnay 2007 and the big fruited ‘Cold Creek’ Cabernet Franc 2007.
Noon saw us rolling our convoy into Norman Hardie’s place – basically across the road from Rosehall Run. Norman wasn’t ready for our arrival, “first time I’ve ever seen the wine writers on time,” he remarked good-naturedly, as he scurried about organizing packages of technical notes for us. He took us for a look-see of the vineyard, which produced some interesting nuggets of information, such as this one on the living vineyard: “Frogs are a good indication on the health of your vineyard.” It has something to do with their thins skins. And his affirmation of why he chose the County over a more famous Ontario region (a place he sources some of his fruit from): “I’m here because I believe in what’s here.” Norm, often considered to be a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist, showed us something pretty interesting in his 2008 Pinot Gris.
Final stop of the journey was Fieldstone Vineyard, where some of the County’s newest and smallest congregated for a sampling. With the rain pelting down outside 5 wineries showed off their wares inside the barn … so much for the beautiful weather we had been having and the planned outdoor BBQ lunch. I would have to say it was yet another Chardonnay that impressed at this gathering … the Karlo Estates 2008 Chardonnay.
And with that the we were done, out whirlwind, 2 day jaunt through Prince Edward County was over. We visited 9 wineries and tasted wines from 18 – had we had more time than a weekend we could have done the proper rounds. For some it was their first time, for others it was just one of many visits to the County; but whether novice or veteran it’s not a trip one will soon forgot. Thanks to Sadie Darby and David Lawrason for organizing the trip and all the wineries who accommodated and put up with us. (Read Day 3)