A new winery has leaped the Prince Edward County barrier and
By Gary May
It was bound to happen: Prince Edward County’s wine district has popped its buttons.
At the turn of the millennium, the county boasted one winery; today there are about a dozen, with more planned. But hop across the Bay of Quinte to “the mainland” and you’ll see the first signs that the romance of the vine respects no boundaries.
Mr. Fraser has been busy expanding his vineyards to keep up with his production schedule and now has 26 acres planted. That’s still not enough to satisfy all his needs, and last year he had to buy half his grapes from Niagara growers. So far, with just one small producer nearby, there aren’t sufficient Northumberland-grown grapes to meet his demand, he says.
Mr. Traynor expects the winery’s portfolio to top out at 10 or 11 varieties, which he feels will offer a broad range. Right now it sells a meritage (a blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon), two chardonnays, cabernet franc and two house wines — a white vidal and a red blend of baco noir, marachal foch and chambourcin. Prices range from $12.95 for the house wines, to $29.95 for the meritage and chardonnay reserve. Mr. Traynor’s personal favourite is the meritage.
Will Oak Heights spark a Prince Edward-style winery boom in Northumberland? A Toronto man already has plans for a vineyard/winery near Cobourg and an estate homes developer has teamed up with a vintner to propose a boutique winery near Brighton. Robert Humphrey of Northumberland’s economic development office says the county plans to focus on attracting wineries as part of its tourism development plan.
Citizen wine reviewer Rod Phillips points out that a decade ago there was just one winery in the County, too. Since then, the industry has mushroomed.
Mr. Phillips says it takes at least three years for a new grapery to begin producing a decent harvest of wine-worthy grapes. He says they need well-drained soil and often do very well in soil that’s too poor for other crops.
“It’s an expensive proposition to build a winery,” he says. “The old cliché holds true: If you want to make a small fortune, invest a big fortune in a winery.”
In the meantime, Oak Heights is trying hard to make the trip worthwhile. Here are some highlights:
Education: Oak Heights offers wine tastings, tours and seminars. Details of the seminars are still being worked out. Tastings range from $1.50 to $10 (this one includes a glass of three premium wines and three paired appetizers.)
Gourmet picnics: You can always bring your own picnic. But if you like, you can order baskets with items such as apple wood-smoked salmon, brandade of smoked trout and caper berries with red onion horseradish and sour cream, baguette, beet salad, a variety of cheeses and chutneys, fresh fruit, paté, bison salami and other cold cuts, roast beef and cookies. Baskets are priced individually in the $25 to $30 range for two people. Wine is extra.
Restaurant: An extensive menu includes mille feuille ratatouille oven roasted with Buffalo mozzarella, parmesan & pecans, grilled salmon, grilled beef with Portobello mushrooms, panini and flatbreads with artisan cheeses. Many ingredients are local.
Other activities: Fish in the trout-stocked pond; hike in the area hills along the Russ Creek Trail or through a rare old-growth forest; or indulge your artistic side by photographing or painting the rolling scenery.
If you go