Latitudes: Prince Edward County, Ontario
A limestone paradise for cool-climate grapes
Twelve years ago, Deborah Paskus left the relative comforts of growing grapes in the Niagara Peninsula to start Closson Chase Vineyards in Ontario’s Prince Edward County (PEC). Her reason for moving?
“It was the soil,” she replies. “For grape growing, either you have it or you don’t.”
Prince Edward County Terroir
And PEC has it, at least for two of the world’s most sought-after grapes: pinot noir and chardonnay. Like in all great wine regions, the key to success starts with the ground beneath your feet and the climate — the terroir. Finding a synergy between terroir, choice of grapes and wine styles is what the winemakers in PEC have done possibly better than any others in Canada.
With regards to soil, PEC has what pinot noir and chardonnay growers dream of — decomposed and fragmented limestone. This subsoil (what many believe is the secret to the success of Burgundy’s pinot noir and chardonnay) lies under shallow soils and comes from glacial and lake deposits. This mix allows for great drainage and lets the roots of the vines penetrate deep into the earth. The result is vines that are naturally low yielding and often show that most elusive and sought-after quality: minerality.
A Cool-Climate Region
Cooler autumnal temperatures and good day-to-night temperature differentials make PEC ideal for cool-climate grapes. Lake Ontario has a moderating effect on the region’s temperature, acting as a cooling influence during the summer and allowing for an extended, frost-free autumn so the grapes can ripen. This extra ripening period is especially important for pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as cabernet franc and riesling.
Unfortunately, the same cool climate that is so ideal during the summer and fall can cause havoc in the spring. Frosts can be deadly, and most PEC wineries use wind machines or fires in the vineyards to prevent vines from suffering damage during bud burst. (Both are common practices in Champagne, where there are similar spring climate concerns.) In winter, PEC winemakers are forced to bury their vines because vinifera such as pinot noir and chardonnay can’t handle temperatures under -10˚C.
Prince Edward County Facts and Figures
Latitude of Prince Edward County
Vineyards in Prince Edward County
More than 283 hectares of vineyard.
Regional Styles in Prince Edward County
Pinot noir, chardonnay, frontenac, cabernet franc, riesling.
Climate in Prince Edward County
Continental climate with moderating lake influences.
Soil in Prince Edward County
Ordovician limestone shale, including two-thirds which are due to glacial action and a third due to lake deposits and sediments.
Prince Edward County's Sub-appellations
For now, Prince Edward County is an official VQA-designated viticultural area, although the PEC Winegrowers' Association has created its own sub-appellations: Hillier, Hallowell, South Marysburgh, North Marysburgh, Ameliasburgh, Athol and Sophiasburgh.
Prince Edward County's Top Vintages
2007, 2009, 2010
Top Wine Producers in Prince Edward County
Wine Production in Prince Edward County
756 tonnes of grapes produced in 2010.
How to Get to Prince Edward County
PEC is located between three international airports: Montreal-Trudeau Airport is 482 kilometres to the east; Ottawa International Airport is 262 km to the northeast; and Toronto Pearson International Airport is 193 km to the west. VIA Rail also offers train service into the heart of Prince Edward County.