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Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

Time:2019-07-06 14:51wine - Red wine life health Click:

Wine Canada Region Ontario prince edward county

Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

In wine terms, Prince Edward County is just an infant wine region. The County is an island on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in easy striking distance of Toronto and Ottowa, and is even driveable from Montreal. A popular holiday destination, it is establishing itself as a hot spot for some of Canada’s best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine. Although wine grapes were grown here in the past, the County went dry in 1919, and it was only in the mid-to-late 1990s that winegrowing was revived here.

Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

An aerial view of the County sticking out into Lake Ontario (from Google Earth)

Geoff Heinricks, who moved from Toronto to the County to grow wine grapes in 1995, is widely regarded as the pioneer of the modern phase of this exciting region. In the combination of temperatures (1250 growing degree days, very similar to Burgundy) and the limestone-based soils, he saw the potential for world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Heinricks wrote a popular book, A Fool and Forty Acres, detailing his adventures in going rural and establishing a vineyard.

Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

Geoff Heinricks, County pioneer

It is indeed this combination of a cool climate with some interesting soils that has led those with a passion for Pinot and Chardonnay to chance their arm in the County. The limestone in question is a 450 million year Ordocivian limestone bed, and the best sites have this fairly close to the surface, covered by a thin layer of clay/loam, speckled with limestone fragments. Serious vineyard soils.

Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

Limestone-rich soils

Prince Edward County, Ontarios cool wine region (1) overview Jamie Goodes wine blog

A vine head, showing how all the canes come from a low height so they can be earthed over

But there’s a downside to viticulture here, and it’s the winter. ‘We have the most difficult growing season of any place,’ says Keith Tyers of Closson Chase. ‘The stresses we put ourselves through are like nowhere else I’ve known in grape growing.’ The County winter regularly reaches lows that would prove fatal to vines if they weren’t protected. So if you want to grow grapes here, you have two choices. The first, and the path chosen by the majority of growers, is to have a very low vine head, and prune to a few canes straight after harvest. These are then tied down to a low wire, and the vine is hilled over: a tractor is used to plough soil in a mound that covers the vine and its canes. This enables the vine to survive the winter. In April, the vine is carefully unearthed, but inevitably there will be a bit of damage to the buds. The second option is to use a newer technology called geotextiles. These are a felt-like material that insulate the vines enough that they aren’t damaged by the winter lows. It’s early days for geotextiles in the County, but they look like they are going to be more widely adopted.

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