Friday, August 31, 2012

Prince Edward County, Ontario is a great destination if you like food, wine and art.

We spend the weekend in Ontario visiting family.   “The County” sure is getting sophisticated.  Farmers are turning into winemakers and foodies are following the grape.  Where there is great food and wine there is always art, so there is a lot for visitors to do. 

Friday afternoon we were at RoseHall Run Vineyards enjoying the play Harvest by the Festival Players.  A glass of wine in a tent with exceptional artists performing made for a great way to start a weekend getaway.  Rosehall’s wines are tasty and the atmosphere is happy.  I especially like the Sullywicker Rose.    

Seven of us had dinner at Blumen Garden Bistro in Picton.  We’ve eaten there 3 times and it’s always been excellent.   The chef, Andreas Feller is Swiss and his menu reflects his international background.  You don’t often see gnudi on a menu so I couldn’t resist.  It was a lovely appetizer, Ricotta gnudi with mushrooms, baby bok choy, hazelnuts, gruyere and truffle.  I’d have it again anytime.  For an entrĂ©e I had the pan seared perch, served with a rice and sundried tomato stuffed cabbage roll, wilted spinach with almonds and brown butter vinaigrette.  The servings are generous and the perch was so good I had to eat every bite so I didn’t really appreciate the cabbage roll, although it was getting rave reviews around the table.  Fish with brown butter and greens is one of my favourite things and this one of the best meals I’ve had recently.  The scallops with risotto and chicken supreme were also a big hit at our table.  The room is comfortable and beautiful, the food and service excellent.  Blumen Garden Bistro is a good choice in Prince Edward County.  Reservations are a must. 

Saturday and we were on the wine trail. We started at Devil’s Wishbone, Lake on the Mountain, a new winery for all of us.  A cave like tasting room in the basement of the barn reminded me of Burgundy.  They are creating an experience with their tasting.  Stools made from barrel staves sit up to the bar and each wine is paired with a taste of something the winemaker thinks will showcase his wine.  Salty olives with the Chardonnay, cheese with the Pinot, that kind of thing.    I’m planning to open a bottle of the Pinot today to see if it’s as good as I remember.

Our next stop was the Waupoos Cider company for a lunch on the patio overlooking Lake Ontario.  Fantastic location but the pizza didn’t live up to it environment.  Still they are doing enough right that I’d probably go back and try one of the salads.

The Travel Group was expecting some Ontario cheese for this week’s wine tasting so we went to Black River Cheese Company for some of their excellent cheddar.  There was a queue for the ice cream and apparently, there always is. 

Our goal for the day was Exultet Estates to taste “the Blessed” Chardonnay, alas we were a couple of days too late and it was all sold out.  We did however get to taste and buy some of the Pinot Noir.  “The Beloved” from 2010 was made from a select clone from a particular “sweet spot” in the vineyard.  The 2009 Pinot Noir was also excellent.

Finally we ended our day at Lighthall Vineyards.  One of the best things about wine touring in “The County” is that the person behind the counter pouring wine for you is often the winemaker and can tell you the story of the wine, the vintage and why it tastes the way it does.  Again, winemaker behind the bar, right in the production room.  Nice bubbly. 

We ended the day around the dining table enjoying some of our purchases. 

Finally Sunday we had some new wineries and a favourite to visit.  Karlo Estates was new for us; another winery focusing on food pairings with their wines, they invite you to sit and fully enjoy the tasting experience.  They are growing the Bordeaux blends and are even making the first port style wine in the county.  I liked the Cabernet Franc and we’ll be tasting it this afternoon at The Travel Group.  The stone bridge on the label is a short walk through the vineyards.

Next up was Hinterland.  They produce only bubbly and they do it very well.  Delicious wines and it’s not had to see why they are always sold out.   Another wine we’ll be trying today at TTG.  Good thing I was able to get a few bottles in my suitcase.

Last and definitely not least we visited Norman Hardie Winery.  They have a big pizza oven out back and here the pizza is great.  I asked Norman about the difference between his pizza and the latest Neopolitan pizza craze and he said they add a little less water and cook it a little more to make the crust crisp all the way to the middle.  We actually had to order a couple of extra pizzas we were so enamoured with it.  Might be we needed something to start soaking up the wine we’d consumed.  Talk about experience; when I asked about their Riesling, a tasting glass showed up at my elbow a few minutes later and when we said we heard the latest vintage of Chardonnay wasn’t bottled yet, they brought us a barrel tasting.  I really love this place. After lunch we spent some time trying and buying the delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  As I write I’m wondering why I didn’t buy any Riesling.  We may have to go back.  Norman Hardy wines are a true reflection of the limestone terroir that is responsible for the county emerging as the hottest new wine growing district in Canada.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Julie Child with Guns N' Roses. Ya gotta love it.

Watch Julia Child's 100th birthday on PBS. See more from WGBH Specials.