PEC Terroir (#TerroirPEC) – Day 1

We awoke bright and early on the morning of the event as we wanted to hit a few wineries that wouldn’t be at the Terroir event later in the day. With ~35 wineries now operating in PEC, and only 20 at Terroir, we had several options.

Jane from Bee & Bee cooked up such an awesome breakfast that I had to take pictures of it. She had lots of great info about the things going on in and around Picton and sat and chatted with us for a bit before we had to head out for the day. Here’s the feast she served:

Blueberry Rhubarb Pancakes

Sausages with Edible Flowers

Fresh Fruit Plate

We decided that we had to hit Keint-He and Hinterland this morning – both wineries that we had heard and read about but had never managed to make it to (at least not when they were open!). We started at the furthest point to work back to Picton, and as Keint-He wasn’t open yet, we spent a few minutes at Sandbanks.

Sandbanks Winery

Sandbanks Winery

We’ve had some white wines from Sandbanks before that I would qualify as great summer sippers (or quaffers depending on how quickly you drink), and a couple of their reds that we thought were good value BBQ wines. They have a new white blend called Shoreline that was just released and we picked some for summer patio weather. It is a great blend that we were told would be in the LCBO soon, but I still haven’t seen it appear.

We tasted all of the “reserve” reds and decided on the Cab Merlot and the Baco Noir, as well as a couple bottles of the Baco 10. As I seem to have misplaced my tasting notes for the three of these, I’ll have to post separate articles when I get around to opening a bottle (I much prefer bottle reviews, as this is how most people drink wine).

Keint-He Winery

We made the 30 second trip to Keint-Hex. As it turned out, Geoff Heinricks was there in the tasting room. Geoff is the winemaker at Keint-He but is also kind of famous for his own adventures starting a winery in PEC many years ago, as chronicled in his humorous (“Not to me at the time” he said) book.

Keint-He specializes in high end wines, specifically Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and a Pineaux Sauvage, their botrytis-affected Pinot. They also have a few other wines listed, but we were mainly looking for reds on this trip, so we stuck to these ones.

07 Pinot Meunier (single barrel, non VQA), $30: This barrel has slightly higher Volatile Acidity(VA) than the others and Geoff thought it best not to blend it in, calling it “the orphan barrel”. Due to the VA, it doesn’t meet VQA rules and as such is a non-VQA wine. With great sour cherry mixed with spicy notes, this wine is all about finesse. It is lighter than the blended VQA sample, and I think I actually preferred it.

07 Pinot Meunier, VQA, $40: This one had a nose of dried fruit, oak, and spice. A much darker red than the non-VQA sibling, it had slightly more body. I can’t say I preferred it but I think I would need to go through a larger sample of the two side by side to write much more. Lets just say that we were bringing some of both versions home with us!

07 Pinot Noir, VQA, $45: A fantastic example of County Pinot! This one had sour cherry and spice on the nose. The palate surprised with an almost fig-like fruit, followed by jammy cherry flavours – with candied fruit undertones. A superbly complex Pinot that just kept surprising right into the medium-long finish. Wow!

08 Pineaux Sauvage (Botrytis affected Pinot Noir) $55 (half bottle): This one was fermented and aged in barrels for almost three years, and the nose has hints of petrol and mineral. It is a deeper amber than the botrytis-affected wine from The Old Third, and I think the time in the barrel made the difference on this one. A superb aperitif indeed.

We spent way more here than we intended, but that’s what happens when you hit amazing wineries.

Hinterland Winery

Now already the time we should have been heading back to Picton for the start of Terroir, we had to stop at Hinterland as I had heard just too many awesome things about their wine. Jonas greeted us and gave us a tour of the winery, the wines, and some of the back-story on how it came to be. We sampled through most of his wines and I had heard a lot about Ancestral, so I was saddened to learn that he had none left to sample with but a few cases left. In the end, after tears (not really), he consented and opened a bottle.

Jonas talking to Debbie

Hinterland Production Area

2009 Hinterland Whitecap: This wine is made in the Prosecco style and is light and very dry. With wicked mineral notes, there is both tropical fruit and citrus on both the nose and palate. It had a light secondary of the lees with that yeast-like palate that I enjoy. This would make a fantastic summer refresher with finger foods, or a palate cleanser between courses.

2008 Rosé: Made from 90% Pinot and just 10% Chardonnay, this wine is almost salmon coloured due to the short time (45-60 minutes) on the skins. Again very refreshing, with cranberry and tart strawberry nose and a similar fresh (but light) berry palate.

Hinterland Ancestral

2009 Ancestral: Believed to be the first time this method was used in Canada, the bubbles are from the C02 produced during primary fermentation. It imparts a very slight bubble, and Jonas admitted he would like slightly more in the next vintage (due out this November). This wine just explodes with sweet strawberries in your mouth. We recently served two bottles at two different dinners, pairing it with dessert each time. All guests have demanded that we let them know when this becomes available again as Hinterland sold out of Ancestral the weekend we were there.

We loaded more purchases into the car and figured we had better unload these temperature sensitive beauties before heading to Terroir. A quick stop and finally we were on our way to Terroir.


Terroir Held in Crystal Palace

Held in the beautiful Crystal Palace in Picton, I’ve come to really appreciate this building and the events held within. With 20 wineries and sampling of the wines and food all included for the $25 price tag, this was the best value wine event I have ever attended.

Dan Sullivan and Geoff Heinrich

Great talk by Dan Sullivan and Geoff Heinricks on Terroir was well attended. During the talk they asked people in the audience to describe different wines they sampled. The key word that I kept hearing was “minerality”, and I think the farms of the county have this in abundance. After a while, some questions turned into a quizzing on LCBO and VQA policies. Dan and Geoff had several great one liners during the discussion, including these:

Dan: “VQA is like democracy- the worst system except everything else.”
Geoff: “There is a creeping sameness around the world” (reaction to discussion about LCBO tasting panels preferring rich, sweet wines)

Along with some fantastic food on sample (mmm Buddha Dog lamb dogs!), there were a lot of wines on sample, some great, some good, and some that demonstrate that the region has a wide disparity in quality of wines being produced. Here are some of the ones that stood out for me:

Half Moon Bay 2010 Riesling: A tart Riesling, this one showed tons of mineral and lime on the palate, and a clean mineral acidity on the finish. Great to pair with a creamy fish dish.

Huff Estates 2009 Riesling Medium-Dry: With a nose like a bouquet of fresh peaches with honeysuckle notes in the background, and a palate of peach and lemon, this off dry Riesling has much lighter petrol than the 2007 but it is still there in the background and will emerge with time.

Hillier Creek Estates 2009 Riesling: I’m pretty sure I have a couple bottles of this in the cellar, and sampling reminded me why. It has a great nose with lemon and petrol, and the dry acidity puts it squarely in the same camp as the Half Moon Bay version. PEC’s limestone base provides for great minerality in their Rieslings.

Light Hall 2010 Gewurztraminer: With a great lychee and kiwi nose, this Gewurz starts sweet and finishes with zippy acidity that whisks away the 10g/L of residual sugar.

Exultet 2008 Pinot Noir: With this vintage spending 18 months on oak, this is a beautiful Pinot from first-time producers. It had more body than I expected with light kirsch-like qualities and definitely competes with the other great Pinot’s coming from the county. See post about the winery visit the next day (post Terroir).

2007 Rosehall Run Coopers Selection Cabernet Franc: This Cab Franc stole the show for me. In what arguably is the county’s first (in modern times anyway) barrel from the Carriage House Cooperage. The oak and fruit were really well balanced and integrated, and worth the somewhat steep $35 price tag. Definitely a bottle to squirrel away for a special occasion.

Karlo Estates 2008 Pinot Noir: I’ve reviewed wine on Twitter before, and really enjoy what Richard has done to bring out some masculinity in his Pinot. Lush cherries and beautiful spice balance really well.

Karlo Estates Van Alstine Port: Already a huge fan of this one, it was interesting to watch people who had never tried it sample the port and have smiles appear on their faces almost instantly. It’s just that kind of wine.

Karlo Estates

With a few hours to kill between the end of Terroir and dinner, we decided we had time to pop out to Karlo Estates. There were a few others at the winery when we arrived but soon there was just Debbie and I chatting with Richard and Sherry. We had another sampling of the Fifth Element (Petite Verdot) that we had last tried in March and I can only say that it was even smoother than before. This is going to be a very interesting wine indeed!

Sherry asked Richard to open one of his wines from when he was an amateur winemaker. My eyes bulged with anticipation as Richard pulled out a bottle from 1998. The writing on the cork had long since disappeared and Richard could no longer tell himself what the wine was. It was definitely something in a Bordeaux style though, and my guess was a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot, but it was hard to tell.The amazing thing was the wine was still going strong. Sure there was a bit of madeirization happening, but there was still fruit and tannin holding it all together. It reminded me of some great aged Spanish or Portuguese wines that I have sampled. A rare treat indeed…and kind of explains why Richard decided to make this a career. Before we left I had to snap some shots of the new and improved tasting areas, and Richard himself with the ’98.

Main Tasting Area on Covered Deck

New Tasting Room at Karlo Estates

Wine Display at Karlo Estates

Richard Recants His Amateur Winemaking Days

We had ran into old friends who are wine reps from Vineland Estates and made plans for dinner at East & Main with them and another couple they knew. We were able to sample three great county wines with dinner – the ’07 Grange Pinot, ’10 Norman Hardie Melon De Bourgogne, and a nice ’10 Riesling from Lacey Estates. All county, and all paired beautifully with the appetizers and main courses.

All in all, the main day of Terroir was packed with great food, great wine, and great people. It kind of explains why so many people are flocking to the county to launch new businesses and wineries, in spite of some of the challenges this unique region brings.

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