In case you’re interested, the thesis is coming along beautifully… and when I say that I mean that local business are being well supported as I shack up to use free wifi and carve chunks out of said thesis for hours at a time. No charts or graphs to speak of yet (it is considered passé to chart someone else’s data in a scientific thesis, when one will have one’s own in short order), but I’m busily refamiliarizing myself with the statistical analysis tools I will need to understand my future results.

I need charts like this… who knows what kind of results I might come up with?!

In the meantime, there’s one more winery with a Clos Jordanne connection I visit in Niagara before I hie myself to the County for a weekend of research. Megalomaniac Winery is just across the street from Tawse, so it’s easy to pop over and say hello. Upon pulling into the (very long) driveway, it’s plain to see that even though we’re neighbours and of a comparable size, this winery has a very different strategy. The tasting room and shop are several times larger, highlighting the importance to the Megalomaniacs that they really want you to taste at their shop, rather than anywhere else. The head winemaker, Sébastian Jacquey worked at Clos Jordanne with Thomas Bachelder (now of Domaine Queylus and Bachelder Wines), and was the Le Clos winemaker after Bachelder’s exit, before coming to Megalomaniac.

Looking up the hill at the Megalomaniac winery, where chandeliers dot the barrel cellar ceiling. We talk about experiments with French grapes which don’t often make it over the pond, like this Savagnin (typically hails from the Jura in the north-east of France), and then a quick peek at the view from the terrace.

With his background at Le Clos, it’s no surprise that the Pinot Noir is his signature wine. However, I’m surprised by a few of the other wines. though I’m not typically a Sauvignon Blanc fan, I really enjoy what they’ve done with their Insensitive Sauvignon. What’s in a vowel or two? We also talk about Savagnin, a grape I’ve never seen in North America before now. I love this wine, more usually found in vins jaunes from the Jura, which are aged for many years in barrels without being topped up, which give them a sherry-like quality. I’m curious to see what this one tastes like with the influence of the Niagara soil and climate and following more traditional white winemaking steps (ie. shorter aging), but I’ve been instructed to wait at least a few months!

I keep talking about the County as the place I plan to land – that’s Prince Edward County (not Prince Edward Island).

Prince Edward County is (currently) the northernmost and youngest Ontario wine appellation, celebrating its tenth year this year. Most of the wineries are found on the west side of the peninsula.

The biggest name in the County is by far Norman Hardie, who traded in a career as a sommelier to invest in the local wine scene. With his first vintage in 2004, he’s now the best known winemaker in the County, and one of the top in Canada. This is the first stop of the day, and we’re meeting with a Tawse alum who starts the visit in the vineyard, with a discussion about the weather. As you may know, there has been a lot of rain this year. For Niagara, where there has also been a decent amount of sunshine, this means a bumper crop, but for the County, where the sun has barely come out and the season is a few degrees cooler, this could mean a smaller crop than usual.

This will be an interesting vintage for the County – with lots of rain and little sun, the fruit set has been inconsistent. See how uneven the sizes of berries are. Millerandage, or shot berries, means the berries will ripen at different rates, which could mean a lower yield at harvest time. Outside the cellar, reclaimed dairy tanks are used for the initial fermentation of the Chardonnay as the vertical orientation means more contact between juice and lees. Inside, the cellar is filled to the brim with barrels and hoses and tanks (oh my!).

I’ve tasted these wines before, and have previously picked up the Riesling and the Cuvée “L” Pinot Noir (a blend of County and Niagara grapes). This time I’m really impressed by the Pinot Gris, which has a little skin contact (normal in red wine-making, but rare in white wine-making), making it more intense, as well as the Chardonnay. We’re so taken with these two, that instead of picking up anything in the shop, we promise to come back after they’ve been bottled in September.

It’s an aggressive day for us – 8 wineries in total – so I’ll only call out a few of the highlights. Our host at Norman Hardie recommends the Pinot Noir at Old Third Vineyard, so we head that way. Before we taste anything, we’re already impressed by the refurbishment of their heritage barn from the 1860s – you can see the owner’s background in interior design coming out. This winery really focuses on its Pinot Noir, and is typically sold out by October, so the owners don’t open the shop at all during the winter. As promised, this is a memorable wine – bolder than what we’ve come to expect from an Ontario red, with silky tannins, and even a little spicy.

This refinished barn at Old Third Vineyard and Winery has us captivated, the inside tempts us to linger. By contrast, the Trail Estate tasting room looks a little forbidding on the outside, but once inside, we are so busy figuring out which wines to taste we completely forget to take any photos.

A few days before the County weekend, I stumbled upon an article about the winemaker at Trail Estate, which is the only reason we happen to visit it. This winery specializes in small batch wines, which allows the winemaker to be a little more experimental. We start with the Rieslings – for now the grapes come from Niagara, as the vineyard is still too young to be producing its own fruit. Despite this youth, there’s complexity to be found in the wine list: there are three to choose from – one with wild ferment (naturally occurring yeasts), barrel ferment (as opposed to stainless steel, which is more typical in Ontario), and skin contact. They are all interesting and different, but it’s the barrel fermented Riesling that makes it onto the purchase list. The Chardonnays and Cabernet Francs are also similarly intriguing

There’s one more winery we visit on the way out – Redtail Vineyards does not appear on the official PEC winery map, but it’s the first winery on the wine route, though a little tucked away from the others. They are only 5 acres of planted vines, organic (but not certified) and completely run on solar power. This is pretty much the dream… a littler, starter version of the dream, anyways. The wines are minimal intervention; with no additives and low enough sulfur levels to be interesting to natural wine lovers. The grape varieties are Alsatian and Burgundian: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Thanks to the infamous late frost of 2015, the little Pinot Noir they harvested that year has long since sold out. But the 2016 in barrel tastes incredible despite its youth. This is another wine we’ll be coming back for after it’s bottled in the fall.

This humble winery and shop are completely off the grid, the solar panels are off to the left. Inside, the tiny cellar, which houses both barrels and bottles, is clean and dry thanks to the layer of gravel over the bedrock which offers a natural drain (Thanks to Sonja for the pictures!).

And with that we wrap up our county affair for now, but we’ll be back for more wine. See you in the fall, Prince Edward County!

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