Exploring the County: Part II – the Wines

Pinot Noirs. If you like Pinot Noir, this is the place for you.

You may not get the full-bodied reds like in Niagara in PEC. It’s totally different soil and climate. For a deep dive into the details of the soil and climate in the County and the effect on the wines, check out A Must Read Blog’s post on the County. I highly recommend this blog.

Of course some vineyards import grapes from outside PEC – including from farms in Niagara. So you will get places wineries in the County making medium- and full-bodied reds, but not from the grapes grown locally.

The grapes that do best in PEC, and what you’ll see the most of, are Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. In particular, the Pinot Noirs coming out of County wineries are eye-opening and fantastic. A staggering amount of vineyards are producing unique, interesting, and quite delicious Pinot Noirs. It’s not a go-to grape for me, but PEC Pinots continue to impress. In my latest trip, I certainly came home with more bottles than planned!

Previously, in short jaunts to the County, I checked out some of the bigger spots – Sandbanks, Casa Dea, and the such. This year, with a little more time to explore and enjoy, I had to opportunity to discover some of PEC’s other bountiful offerings.

Sandbanks Winery

I couldn’t avoid going to Sandbanks once again. I have many fond memories of glasses enjoyed amongst the vines while puffing away on Partagas D4s. And Sandbanks is simply a beautiful winery and produces excellent product – including some of the more medium- and full-bodied options in the County. This means they’re one of the places who import grapes from outside PEC. That does not make me enjoy the glass of red any less, but it’s not a true local product.

As you can see, Sandbanks has an extensive selection of reds, and most of them are available at the LCBO. I’ve long been a fan of their Baco Noir and Dunes, and in more recent years the Shoreline (Cabernet–Merlot), Baco Reserve, and Cabernet Franc. However, the “winery exclusive” bottles caught my eye this tasting.

The Entre Nous Big Red underwhelmed me. I think with its name, I just expected a fuller-bodied red. The Entre Nous Foch Reserve, on the other hand, is a winner.

Marechal Foch is one of those varietals I just wish I saw more of. While developed in France, it’s mostly grown in North America since it withstand the cooler climate. Wine-searcher.com gives a good breakdown of the grape, and has a handy list of the most popular bottles of Foch. I’m glad to see a number of selections from Canada on the list and a bunch from Ontario. My go-to at the LCBO tends to be Malivoire’s Old Vines Foch.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by Sandbank’s winery exclusive Foch.

  • Varietal: Maréchal Foch
  • Year: 2019
  • ABV: 13%
  • Bottle notes: “A full bodied velvety red with notes of jammy plum, cherry, raspberry, and chocolate”
  • Pairs with: “grilled meats, hearty pasta and good company”
  • Price: $36.95

I walked away with a couple of these bottles. While it was good to drink now, it could age for a couple of years. I’ll dig back into this in 2022-2023.

The Entre Nous Foch from Sandbanks

Day 1: Highlights

Traynor Family Vineyard

Traynor– a truly neat experience. They got a couple good reds, a delightful red “Haberdasher” vermouth, and knowledgeable servers. A fun start to a beautiful November long weekend.

If going for reds, I would skip the Gamay. Instead dig right into the Cabernet Franc.

  • Varietal: Cabernet Franc
  • Year: 2017
  • ABV: 12.2%
  • Bottle notes: “deep ruby wine … with cacao, rich ripe mulberries and fresh fig … great depth of flavour finishing with notes of cold earth and fresh tobacco leaf”
  • Price: $35

I would also recommend the Alta Red. This is Traynor’s biggest red, so you know I was in. While you may not see it on the tasting menu, it was readily available upon request so don’t forget to ask.

  • Varietal: Marquette
  • Year: 2018
  • ABV: 13.6%
  • Bottle notes: “big, rich flavours … jammy with a hint of earth on the palate, with a slightly sweet finish”
  • Pairs with: “meaty dishes or on a cold night with someone special”
  • Price: $35

Finish off with the Haberdasher vermouth. Not my usual drink, nonetheless, it was a pleasant way to top off the first winery of the day.

Waupoos Estates

Next up was Waupoos. It was a bit out of the area of the County we were mostly tasting in, but it was well worth the drive. There are a number of good reasons to make sure you check out Waupoos – the view, the history, and their appassimento Cabernet Franc.

Waupoos is the oldest winery in PEC. They began growing grapes in the mid-90s much to the surprise of many. Obviously with the thriving wine industry in the County now, it certainly worked well! Read about Waupoos’ story on their website, and make sure to ask when you go – it’s a neat piece of history.

For red varietals, the estate grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gamay Noir, Baco Noir, Shiraz, Frontenac, De Chaunac. Out of my tasting, it was all about “the Knoll” – I just love appassimento style wine. It’s a trend I’ve noticed more if in Ontario over the past few years. Grape Growers of Ontario’s 2012 post about the then-emerging use in Ontario wineries is still a relevant and informative read.

As for “the Knoll”, it was a must-buy bottle.

  • Varietal: Cabernet Franc, appassimento style
  • Year: 2017
  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Oak: “11 months ins in French and American oak”
  • Bottle notes: “aromas of dark plum, raisin, blackberry and hints of chocolate, light nuances of vanilla and violet … a luxurious mouthfeel and lengthy finish”
  • Pairs with: “beef, mushroom dishes, hearty stews, charcuterie with strong cheese or lamb”
  • Price: $36.95

Waupoos recommends cellaring this one for 3-5 years, or “even up to 10.” I’ll certainly try, but I can’t guarantee this will last in my storage beyond a few years.

Exultet Estates

A beautiful fall drive later, we arrived at Exultet. Do not leave this one off your list to visit. First of all, and this is unusual advice from me, try the Chardonnay. I really tend not to like white wines. Somehow, they sneak into my collection and just end up gathering dust. I avoid them at all costs. But Exultet’s 2018 cru X Chardonnay is certainly worth a taste. If you like orange wine, they got a good bottle of that too.

For reds, the Royal Road Pinot and the fortified port-style bottles delight. The star of the show, however, is the “the Beloved” Pinot Noir. At $65, it’s a hefty purchase, but one you shouldn’t miss sampling.

  • Varietal: Pinot Noir
  • Year: 2018
  • ABV: 12.5%
  • Bottle notes: “ruby colour and bouquet … with red fruits and sour cherry … elegant fine tannins and a long lingering finish”
  • Pairs with: “salmon, poultry and lean pork dishes”
  • Price: $65
  • Drink: “2020-2026++”

Day 1 of tasting left me excited for the rest of the weekend. I’d found some amazing spots and already tried so many great bottles, but there was so much more to come.

What’s your favourite Country winery? Comment or join the conversation on Instagram or Twitter. More on PEC to come!

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