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Welcome to the wine county No.3

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For our final day in Prince Edward County we decided to visit a peninsula in the east of the region that was the home of two cheese producers, several wineries and a cider maker. Before leaving our guesthouse, we chatted with another couple who were also on a tasting tour. I think they’d missed out on the countrylicious deals, as they described eating at an expensive but not very good restaurant the night before.

Driving through Picton, our first stop was the Lake on the Mountain, a strange geographic phenomenon that is hard to describe in writing. Essentially a lake has formed on a hill overlooking the Bay of Quinte, which is part of Lake Ontario. So two lakes for the price of one, I suppose. Our next stop was the Devil’s Wishbone winery. The weather was cold and the lady ushered us in to a lovely old barn with a tasting area under a very welcome and warm heating stand. She explained the wine in detail and clarified which wines were of the vineyard and which were produced using imported grapes.

Devil’s Wishbone was new, she explained, although she stressed that the head honcho had a great deal of experience and I’d say this was evident in the wines we tried. While some weren’t to my taste, I’m knowledgeable enough to know fair from foul. The wines of Devil’s Wishbone were definitely hitting the high notes. The tasting was accompanied with some cheese, which I appreciated. We eventually plumbed for the Cabernet Franc, which had a full body and deeper taste than many of the other varieties we’d tried on our tour. I’ll nail my colours to the mast here; I thought the Devil’s Wishbone winery offered the best mid-priced wine in Prince Edward County.

Next stop was the Fifth Town Cheese where we bumped into the people from our hotel earlier in the day. They were just leaving as we arrived. Anyway, the cheese was very good and surprised me because much of it was goat’s cheese, which I’m not really a fan of. The varieties and blends were fabulous and we also picked up a spicy pineapple jelly. You’d think spicy pineapple was an oxymoron and that on top of cheese it would be inedible; but it was quite the contrary and I really recommend it. The lady at the cheese counter was very informative and told us that the locals were very relieved that planning permission for a proposed wind farm, which would have wrecked the scenery, had recently failed. Incidentally, I bought some Morning Moon cheese made from cow’s milk. It was full of flavour.

I would have purchased more Morning Moon but in Canada, even at the source of production, good-quality cheese is always expensive. Reading into it – because that’s the kind of Rock n’ Roll lifestyle I lead – it appears that Canadian dairy farmers and cheesemakers are heavily subsidised, while imported cheese is heavily taxed. This allows Canada-based dairy farmers and cheesemakers to make handsome profits on fewer sales (poorer customers are priced out, but who cares about them right?) They keep their operating costs down on more efficient technologies and, just as importantly, through subsidies paid for by Canadian tax payers. And they don’t face any international competition because of the tariffs I’ve just mentioned. So yet again Canada has created a monopoly that screws its citizens in order to protect a small but vocal lobby; on this occasion it’s the cheesemakers. Blessed they are not.

Following Fifth Town we arrived at County Cider, Waupoos. The products were pleasant enough –superior to the bog-standard Strongbow or Bulmer brands back in the UK. However, they weren’t a patch on Aspall Cyder (god how I miss a nice crisp glass of Aspall) or indeed some of the artisan ciders to be found in the UK’s West Country. Their Peach cider was also pleasant. Maria who likes cider more than me bought a bottle of their standard fare.

By now the weather was very overcast and I thought it might rain. Thankfully it held off. Not far from County Cider was the Waupoos Estates Winery. It was a corporate affair entirely and while the girls at the counter were welcoming they stuck solidly to their scripts. In fact, I was surreptitiously reading their tasting menu as we were served samples. The sales patter was almost identical to wording. The red wines (we didn’t try the white because of the tasting fees) were so-so. Good for the table and a nice meal; good enough to serve friends who have just popped around; but not good enough to give to hosts of a dinner party. Standard fare really. Still we bought two bottles: a 2009 De Chaunac and a 2010 Baco Noir. Annoyingly, despite two bottles purchased, Waupoos charged us the tasting fee. So marks get deducted here.

Our final stop was Black River Cheese. I wasn’t up to par. Two tubs of cut cheese had been left on a table to try with no one in attendance or on hand to answer questions. The cheese products were kept neatly shelved in large refrigerator units running the length of the back wall. Overall, it felt like a convenience shop that happened to be well-stocked with cheese. There were quite a few visitors – older types. But almost all of them appeared to be buying ice cream on offer by the till. The cheese itself was quite acrid or bitter to taste and not really my cup of tea at all. Still the prices were more reasonable here. So I bought some cheddar with a slight chilli flavour. I found that it was quite good for making enchiladas, but I wouldn’t have served it to guests.

And that was our journey to Prince Edward County. There are still many wineries we didn’t get a chance to visit and I know there were many other sights to see. We’ll definitely be going back. The question is, do we go in the summer? Possibly not; it will be rammed with tourists all jostling for a place at the tasting bar, or cursing each other as they reach for the last bottle of Baco Noir on the shelf. No I’d rather go back in the Autumn. In the meantime, I’ve got some tasty bottles of the old vino to be getting on with.

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