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Prince Edward County 2014 summer season

Some chef changes and new releases of wines, cider, beer, etc. What would be your top 3 wineries to visit? What would be your top picks for lunches and dinners if you only had 2 weekdays in the County? Personally, I'd stay for cheap at Angeline's in Bloomfield and spend time in Hillier and at the beach.

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  1. My top 3 wineries in PEC are Rosehall Run, Closson Chase and Norman Hardie. Honorable mentions go to Karlo, Keint-He, Stanner's and The Old Third. I like Huff too, but the style of the operation is a bit more formal and rules-oriented than the region demands. I prefer the smaller operations where the owner is on-site and interacting with clients, as well as part of the day-to-day operations.

    I stay at Angeline's and typically have one dinner there too. The other dinner would be at Blumen Garden. I'd do one lunch at a winery (probably Norman Hardie) and consider picking up lunch items (possibly at Rosehall Run, Schroedters [sp.?] and/or farm stands) to eat out back at Closson Chase, while enjoying a flight of 3 tastings and admiring the wildflowers. If you have the time, head to easternmost part of PEC and buy a load of cheeses at Fifth Town. Make sure you bring a cooler for those cheeses, unless you plan to eat them all within the hour.

    I've never seen the beach. If we have a spare hour or two, we hit one more winery, or a few. We like to drive all over the region, even though our favourite wineries are mostly in the Bloomfield-Hillier areas.

    There are a handful of wineries I haven't mentioned, but might have. There are also a bunch I wouldn't bother with, but that's just my opinion. It's easy to be romanced by the ambiance. Sometimes wines taste better that day at the winery because you're there. They don't always perform several months later, back at home. I always lament the guilt purchases, where we buy a bottle or two because we ate up a pile of the salesperson's time tasting a bunch of wines for free, none of which we liked. After tasting 4 different varietals, I can't bear to smile, thank the owner and just walk out. They're so proud of their wines. I know we're perfectly within our rights to walk out empty handed. I should note that if we have to pay for the tastings, I feel no obligation to buy if I'm not loving the wines. Many of the wineries that advertise prices for tastings later waive those fees if you buy a couple of bottles or more.

    9 Replies
    1. re: 1sweetpea

      Do you like Hubbs at Angeline's since Michael Potters left a few years back? We are staying at Angeline's for 2 nights.

      Does the County Cider still serve food on their back patio? Hard to tell on their website.

      1. re: Food Tourist

        I've only been to Hubb's last year and the year before that. He was already gone. I have enjoyed both meals, though neither were mind-blowing. It was more about local and seasonal food, great service and a really casual, neighbourhood vibe, really. Plus, we were staying upstairs, so we felt free to imbibe!

        Not sure about County Cider. I've tasted the cider, but never visited.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          Cool. It sounds a lot like East and Main. I always used to stay at the Newsroom Suites across from E&M but the price got too high so Angeline's renovated motel section it is!
          I tried the Spirit Tree Cider from Caledon at The Stop Night Market on Tuesday… I think County is doing a better job. Spirit Tree's hopped cider was a little weird but I'm not a hop fan, so I'm probably not the best judge.

          I just sent County Cider an online submission form to ask if they have a lunch menu this season. Was tremendously difficult to send (retried 5 times!)

          For picnics at the beach, I would stop at East and Main's takeout fridge or Bloomfield Carriage House Bakery first and bring a cooler with some county white wine or cider.

          1. re: Food Tourist

            I always think I'm going to love cider, but it winds up too sweet for me. I'm sure this is cider heresy, but cut it 50/50 with beer, and I prefer it.

            I'd love to hear some suggestions from red wine lovers who like county reds. I've found a handful of whites that I love, but thus far, most of the reds I've put in the cellar are pretty thin and light-bodied. I'm afraid to touch the pinot noirs, because I just don't know how long they need to cellar. The cab francs are pleasant, but so light. It's funny how some wines taste lovely when you're at the tasting rooms, but don't have the same allure once you're back home. I suspect it's the amount of time they let them open up, as well as the accompaniments that they pair with the wines, that wowed me at the time. I should take copious notes, but usually rely on a memory tainted by a few tastings, LOL.

            1. re: 1sweetpea

              do try Norm Hardie's and The Old Third's reds!!!

              1. re: 1sweetpea

                I always rely on the advice of the winemaker or winery staff for cellaring time. I suspect you just need to stock up enough to drink in the next 6 months to be safe.

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  The guys at The Old Third released a sparkling cider this year that is very dry ... made from golden russet apples. I really enjoy it ...

                2. re: Food Tourist

                  County Cider food update: "We are indeed serving lunch on our patio. We have several different pizzas made in our wood fired oven. Also, a couple of burgers, vegetarian and chicken wraps, salads, a cheese and charcuterie board, hummus, artichoke and asiago dip and salsa.

                  We are open daily from 11am to 6pm, weather permitting."

          2. I was at Drake150 yesterday. They had a special dinner menu from Matt DeMille - the chef who will at the new Drake Devonshire Inn in PEC. The farm-to-table restaurant is due to be open this summer in Wellington.

            I thought the food was very well executed and reasonably priced. All food was locally sourced (and will be the case at the inn). Appetizer highlights were the oysters from John Bil, as well as the grilled asparagus with pecorino. My favourite dish of the night was the grilled pickerel with corn & crab panzanella salad - nice crunch on the skin and the fish so moist and tender, perfectly seasoned.

            I have no doubt Drake Devonshire will be delivering some delicious eats when it opens in Sept.

            1 Reply
            1. re: happycamper

              I seriously can't believe they're not opening for summer.

            2. For lunch try the Tall Poppy in Wellington... Great spot with lots of interesting choices. Or for something traditional check out Schroeders (close to Huff). Really good breads that they bake on site and lovely soups and sandwiches. Last sumner Taco Girl had her cart in Bloomfield... Not sure where she will be this summer but she makes everything by hand including the tortillas. And of course pizza at Norman Hardie, but that might only be on the weekends.
              For wineries you must go to Exultet. 100% county grapes and award winning wines. Also Hinterland makes fabulous sparkling wine.
              Enjoy!

              1. Closson Chase is our top priority this time around (have been to Keint-he and Norm and Rosehall Run in previous years). Have eaten at East & Main, Blumen, Bloomfield Carriage House (and bakery), and Acoustic Grill in previous years. Going back to Festival Players' theatre show at Rosehall Run again this year for outdoor entertainment (opening night includes catering by Hubbs).

                3 Replies
                1. re: Food Tourist

                  You mean Closson Chase for wine or a meal?

                    1. re: Food Tourist

                      Thanks--funny when I first read your post I thought you had said they didn't deserve food.... probably not what you were trying to say.

                2. Thank goodness Norm Hardie pizza is served Fridays and Mondays in the summer!

                  "Open early-May to mid-October, enjoy our wood-fired thin crust pizza with a glass of wine on our patio overlooking the vineyard.

                  Our pizza recipe has been developed by top chefs from some of Toronto’s finest restaurants: Pizzeria Libretto, Terroni, and Ortolan.

                  May, June – Open weekends, 11am to 6pm

                  July, August – Open Friday through Monday, 11am to 6pm

                  Sept, October – Open weekends, 11am to 6pm"

                  1. Wine must-dos: The Old Third, Norm Hardie, Closson Chase, Hinterland.
                    Runners Up: Lighthall, Stanner's, Karlo.
                    I don't dig on Rosehall Run, though Dan and Lynn are very nice. There are a lot of mediocre wineries but if you find the good ones and get a good staffer (or, winemaker) behind the tasting bar, you're golden.

                    Food: I've had disappointing meals at Blumen, The Hubb and Clara's - service just doesn't live up to the quality of the wine, and at Blumen the menu was really limited and lacklustre. I've had great lunches at the pizza patio at Norm Hardie's, coffee and pastries at Tall Poppy and a good lunch at East and Main, but the only really great dinner we've had has been at Pomodoro (when Matty DeMille was still cooking there). A gem we found last time was the Slow Taco food cart which was parked in Bloomfield; we rented bikes in Bloomfield and biked to Sandbanks and hung out on the beach, then biked back for tacos and ice cream from Slicker's! Acoustic Grill is pretty good for burgers and beer.

                    They're doing oysters at Hinterland this summer so that's a new highlight. And I hear great things about brunch/lunch at The Agrarian.

                    We've stayed at Angeline's, The Claramount and Huff. They were all fine, but we've had our best experiences doing flat rentals via Airbnb. We almost planned a return trip for our five year wedding anniversary this summer but we're waiting for the Drake to open because in general we find accommodations and service in the county doesn't live up to the pedigree of some of the wines.

                    Still much prefer the County to Niagara for an on-the-ground wine tasting experience - off season is best, so long as places are open.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: LemonLauren

                      Same - I'm not a huge fan of Rosehall Run's wines but always get tickets for their Festival Players show in the vineyard tent.
                      Have been curious about Casa Dea's Italian food but the menu looks a teensy bit predictable so have never been.

                      Keint-he is also top-notch winery for a tasting.

                      Haven't heard of the Old Third - will be sure to stop in.

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Word to the wise: call the Old Third ahead of time and book an appointment for a tasting. I have not yet successfully found the place open (in mid-September). Perhaps I was unlucky during harvest time, but I only managed a visit the first time I was in PEC. The second time, I didn't get a call back, which was disappointing.

                        1. re: Food Tourist

                          The Old Third serves crepes: "Our Crêpe stand will be open 12-5 Thur-Mon this week! Weekly crêpe special is fresh pea purée with garlic and lemon zest, créme fraîche and red onions."

                        2. re: LemonLauren

                          "Crêpes at The Old Third! Starting Friday we'll be offering authentic French Crêpes as a lunch option Fri-Mon for the rest of the summer!" - Twitter

                          1. re: LemonLauren

                            Hinterland posted a chalkboard menu showing oysters 6 for $14 or 12 for $25; pulled pork sandwich or shrimp roll with chips $9; frozen peach bellini $8; every Friday to Sunday and "soon Friday to Monday". - posted July 11th.

                            1. re: Food Tourist

                              They are willing to serve oysters most days (they get delivered every Thursday if freshness matters to you), but lunch is only on "weekends" now.

                          2. Just spent the weekend in PEC. Stayed Cheap at Queens Inn in Picton. Perfect little spot for the price.

                            Did a wine tour on Saturday and visited 5 wineries. (recommend the tour..sandbanks wine tour)

                            Casa Dea > probably our least favorite of all visited. Descent wines but nothing really stood out. Big winery, with a restaurant (supposedly very good Italian pasta made by an Italian). Busy spot.

                            Rosehall Run > Smaller winery. Met the owner, very nice man. Liked most of the wines we tried. The Righteous Dude Riesling I liked, Husband liked Pinot Noir

                            Stanners > Thought it was descent. People raved about their whites but I just thought they where 'descent'. Very small space.

                            Harwood Estates > Great little place that is off the grid (no plumbing!) They did some food pairings for us with cheese and cookies which went really well with the wines. Liked the Pinot Gris, Friends Rose (different then anything I tried), and Marques (nice dessert wine). Apparently they will ship for free, any amount within ON.

                            Hinterland > Specialized in Sparkling. Liked the Rose. Busy spot.

                            Ended up getting a few cases of wine over the course of the day.

                            At Hinterland they had a Food Truck thing going on so there was about 6 food trucks out back. Some recognizable from Toronto, some not. Hate an Octopus and Fish Taco from Busters Sea Cove.

                            In Picton we stopped into the Bean Counter several times for Coffee and sweets. Amazing Maple Sticky Buns!! They also have a big selection of Gelato and Sorbets.

                            Ate at The Acoustic Grill in Picton one evening for a quick bite. Place was packed. They specialize in Burgers mostly. Husband said the burger was actually really good. I had a chicken burger which was good and healthy (surprisingly)

                            We ate at Portobella for Lunch one day. Definitely descent. Had a Chicken Wrap which wasn't what I expected, but better.. was basically stir fry in a wrap.

                            We ate at Blumen Garden one evening (make reservations beforehand as they where booked out) We enjoyed it. Steak Tartar to start, first for me, husband normal hates it but went for it and said it was the best he has tried (but overall, we just aren't tartar fans). I had the Duck which was really good (and I don't normally like duck) he had the Rabbit Gnocchi. HUGE portion.. huge. Usually gnocchi comes as a small serving as its so filling. This could feed two, if not three people. There was a lot of meat on it. Husband liked it. I tried it and thought it was ok.. found it wasn't as flavorful as I would like. We went for dessert (as full as we were) where I had the Lindt mouse (light) and was really good, he had house made Rhurbarb sorbet which was excellent. All washed down with a bottle of Karlo Cab Sauv. Very good price for a good dinner. Would recommend trying this place out.

                            Sunday we went to Norm Hardie for Pizza. Husbands pizza I did not like at all (can't remember the name but had sausage and onions on it.. was bland and greasy) I had the pizza with Anchovies and it was excellent. Tried a glass of wine each which was descent. Went to go purchase a few but their wines are pricey for what they are. $40 for Pinot Noir which was just descent.. not worth it so we did not get it. Cheapest was a white at $20 I believe.

                            We asked around about Slickers and were told by locals it has gone downhill so we did not go there.

                            Stopped at the Fifth Town cheese. Tried several and bought several. The Chestnut was excellent. They will be getting ice cream in soon that they mix the goat cheese with.

                            Stopped at Black river and picked up a few blocks of Cheddar.

                            We ate, and drank a lot of wine. Great weekend in PEC.

                            11 Replies
                              1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                I can't comment on that as we aren't breakfast people (just a bagel and a coffee if we are lucky)

                                However I was told that the Golf Club Grill (owned by the Acoustic Grill) was supposed to have good breakfast.

                                There was lots of place for breakfast though.. greasy spoon type places or cafes.

                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                  I usually get breakfasts at Tall Poppy in Wellington.

                                    1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                      Ah. Didn't realize you were in Picton overnight. I've only ever been in Wellington overnight. Trying Bloomfield this time, so I imagine Hubbs or Carriage House Bakery.

                                      1. re: Food Tourist

                                        We'll be staying near Sandbanks. Which is beach-convenient and not so much anything else.

                                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                    Depends what kind of breakfast you are looking for. The lighthouse restaurant at the Picton Harbour does a diner style breakfast that is quite good. Also Gus' in town is good too. If you just want a coffee and a pastry then Miss Lilly's at the top of town hill is good for that kind of stuff.

                                    1. re: k8supergrover

                                      I did try the Lighthouse and it was nice.

                                      I loved a place last time that had amazing buckwheat pancakes and some other amazing egg creation (it's been 2 years now since I've been so it's hazy but I posted somewhere here about it..) but someone told me they had gone out of business. I'll look into Gus.

                                      I usually like more than coffee and pastry--though knowing where the good coffee and pastry is can be useful information.

                                    2. re: Ediblethoughts

                                      We had breakfast at the Saylor House in Bloomfield and it was AWESOME. Best bacon ever. Would be a great place for lunch too. Lots of baking to choose from for dessert and beautiful backyard seating. (I liked it better than my dinner at East and Main!)

                                      1. re: tochipotle

                                        My friend just stayed at Saylor's and can't stop talking about how great it was. Amazing breakfasts.

                                  2. I've heard Williams Family Diner is not to be missed. A secret gem, the locals like to keep to themselves :)

                                    1. Our favourite wine this year was Rosehall Run's sparkling rose called Pixie. It is bright and fun and tastes great. Not that it matters regarding the taste of the wine at all, but I love the packaging as well.

                                      1. We have stayed at Away In the County B&B for a getaway and were very happy. We really enjoyed our meals and atmosphere at the Hubb (2x), and on our last visit went to Pomodoro in Wellington and had a fantastic meal. Both restaurants were preferred to Blumen (lunch) and East and Main (lunch). We went to the Picton Harbour for breakfast diner type food. Norman Hardie also serves pizza for lunch but I don't know if that is all the time.

                                        1. Pizza and wine trail map: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/vie... The problem is it doesn't list days/hours of pizza service.

                                          1. From Toronto Life: "Alex Molitz, the chef who helped turn Farmhouse Tavern into a Toronto food destination, is taking his talents to the real-life countryside. Molitz recently left Farmhouse and took a new job as head of culinary operations at the Hinterland winery in Prince Edward County. He’s got big plans for the project. “It’ll change the face of Prince Edward County,” he said. “If everything goes right, this is going to be a game-changer.” Despite the grand plans, he’s taking things one step at a time. Right now, that means developing a simple lunch menu for guests at the winery. The food will be familiar to anyone who’s enjoyed Farmhouse Tavern’s mammoth meat boards and foraged herbs. “It’s going to be rough and rugged, cool-looking food. Food that has a story to it,” Molitz said."

                                            1. Are Barley Days Brewery or Sixty-Six 66 Gilead distillery worth a visit? Barley Days has an "artisan sausage maker Angelo Bean" sausage cart at the brewery on weekends.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                                We did our first visit to Sixty-Six 66 Gilead distillery this weekend. Did a tasting of one of the shochu, the gin, and the whiskey. Have to admit that I was disappointed in all three, though we did end up buying their homemade Ginger bitters, which I am very happy with.

                                                Also, just as an aside, we walked past The Drake Devonshire (including the beach side). They are supposedly opening at the beginning of September, but for the life of me, I can't see how.

                                                Had lunch at The Tall Poppy in Wellington - meatball sandwich was absolutely fantastic!

                                              2. The Old Third: "Crêpe stand open all weekend 12-5!!
                                                Our special this weekend is a sweet blueberry/ginger sauce with lemon ricotta."

                                                1. Our Aug '14 highlights: Hinterland, Closson Chase, Norm Hardie, It's Wickedly Sweet. Low point: The County Cider. See below. Average ratings: Sandbanks provincial park Sandbanks beach, Angeline's breakfast and special event catering, East & Main, Agrarian, Foodland.

                                                  It's Wickedly Sweet - cash only, meat pies ($12) and local fruit ($10) pies, great value for money. 186 Main St, Wellington. Open Tues-Sun 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. They also make mini pies, tarts, and other cookies and cakes.

                                                  Norm Hardie - be sure to arrive early (at noon or earlier) as tables fill up quickly on the expanded patio. We had no problems with service nor quality. Everything was perfect. The special of the day pizza (zucchini flowers! anchovies! ricotta salata!) was good but could have been better -- in comparison to the excellent Angelo Bean sausage onion pizza. We were pleased with our choice of full-bodied Niagara Pinot Noir ($13/glass) with both savoury pizzas. Nice Vicki's Veggies green salad ($9 feeds 2 people) arrives immediately as an appetizer while pizzas ($16-17) are prepared. Tasting room upstairs - the young guy assumes you know nothing about wine - but quickly changes his tune when told otherwise - and service immediately improved. Purchased 2 different whites. Calcaire blend is tasty. Norm himself said hello to a customer he recognized but didn't "work the room" on the patio otherwise. Customers who arrived to an almost-full patio kept getting moved from the large table "saved for potential large groups". It was bordering on comical-ridiculous customer service to keep saving a large table for hours for hypothetical customers while squishing and moving actual customers.

                                                  Hinterland - they don't normally serve food on Fridays other than Malpeque oysters (over $2 each). However, co-owner Jonas was cooking pork souvlaki on "Greek bruschetta" (think village salad rubbed on a ciabatta bun) so they were selling to the public for $9. Co-owner (Greek connection) Vicky was kind enough to pour us some of their Greek white wine from Limnos after we ate. The back patio was full with a large group (hence the special food.) Tastings (3 sparklings) cost $6 total with all proceeds to the Terry Fox Foundation. First time I've seen a charity contribution for tastings -- excellent initiative.

                                                  Closson Chase - first visit ever, 4 years overdue! The 3 ladies at the tasting room were so friendly, professional, courteous and lovely. My $10 tasting fee was waived presumably because I purchased two bottles. What a gorgeous back patio with tables. Indoor art gallery. Stunning gardens and flowers.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Food Tourist

                                                    Low point: The County Cider. Starts badly at the tasting bar. Female pouring samples ignores us while we politely wait at the bar for the previous couple to finish the long flight of flavoured ciders. Our turn -- wait, she acknowledges a just-arrived white-haired couple and pours their glasses first then ours each round. Hmm. I say I only want to taste the classics and then move on to the $2 ice cider. She continues to waste my time by skipping over me. When I ask questions about ciders being poured, she doesn't know any answers. Finally, the other couple walks away from the free tastings and then she pours our $2 ice cider. She always pours less in my partner's glass and this time is no exception. He guesses she might be subconsciously racist. I disagree, saying she is probably just clueless and jaded from hoards of mostly white-haired senior citizen and other tourists wanting free alcohol. We purchase the $30 ice cider but still have to pay $4 for the under-poured tasting.

                                                    Next, we wait in vain for one of 3 empty patio tables. We are finally seated and then ignored for 20 minutes. Patio is clearly understaffed. Server who finally helps us is friendly and helpful. However, it becomes painfully clear that many other newly-arrived tables are already receiving their drinks and/or food before us. My partner again wonders aloud about racism. I claim this would be ridiculous. This is Ontario, after all. Tons of Toronto food-lovers visit the County. Racism would be counterproductive to their main tourist industry. Our food and beverages are decent but not excellent. Pizza could be cooked longer -- when it finally arrives, it's not hot. Weird. It must have been sitting outside after baking in the wood oven, or it didn't spend enough time in the oven. It's not blistered so perhaps the oven is not hot enough.

                                                    Customer service is clearly an issue at County Cider. More later on this.

                                                  2. East & Main: dinner. Although our confirmed reservation was "missing", we still managed to get a table. Kale salad with beets and prosciutto, and pickerel with potatoes and mixed veggies were both decent but nothing worth a long drive. Sadly, the total amount of delicious potatoes in the fish dish amounted to 4 tiny cubes. No joke. My highlight was the $15 glass of Hinterland Rose (traditional method) bubbly.
                                                    Decent service.
                                                    By the way, East and Main no longer has a grab 'n' go takeout section at the front.

                                                    Angeline's: breakfast. Continental breakfast (coffee/tea, real juice, croissant) is included in room rate. Hot breakfast is extra. Eggs and molasses-pepper bacon were decent. One slice of toast included. The problem was the $10 granola. A sweetened almond granola topped with 3 -- yes, three -- blueberries and a small carafe of milk for $10?! Yikes. Yogurt was not offered though I heard someone being offered yogurt the next day.

                                                    Agrarian: after 3 pm, they offer a limited bar menu with nibbles, nothing substantial. However, after the hostesses ignored us at the entrance for several minutes, we decided to leave and find substantial food at Foodland (sadly, Tall Poppy closes at 3 pm daily).

                                                    The Bean Counter: tried the dirty chai latte. (chai mixed with shot of espresso) - too sweet for my taste but friendly staff and wi-fi made it a good pitstop in Picton.

                                                    Foodland carries prepared foods in the back, such as sandwiches, salads (enjoyed a really good broccoli salad with pecans), devilled eggs, etc. Was a life-saver for us in between meal times.

                                                    Sandbanks provincial park beaches were polluted so swimming was not recommended.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Food Tourist

                                                      So what's your take on it all, Food Tourist? Do you think there's just a general lack of passion that accounted for the crummy service you encountered? I would like to say that service during tastings can be spotty. I've been ignored while a server dotes on other people for no apparent reason. It tends to be young summer employees that lack the ability to keep one eye on the flow of traffic in and out of a winery, while giving adequate attention to those actively tasting. I'm not particularly pushy. I believe in waiting my turn, but often get burned when a pushier person or group dives in ahead of me. You can really tell which wineries spend time training seasonal front of house staff and which don't. I have had wonderful and poor experiences with staff at some wineries, as well as wonderful and weaker experiences with owners. Why do you think your partner felt there was racism behind servers' ineptness?

                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                        Based on a Twitter "conversation" we had with County Cider, my take is that they have poor (rude) customer service which starts at the "top" and trickles down. I think my partner felt it was beyond 'unprofessionalism' since he was the only person of colour/asian for miles around Waupoos/Bloomfield. I felt that even though we were their target demographic (or should be - food-loving, alcohol-loving, under 50, no kids, disposable incomes) they didn't take full advantage of great customers. He also chalks up a lot of the haphazard treatment in the county to non-cosmopolitan attitudes/beliefs (rural stereotypes).