Tiny bubbles: top picks from Prince Edward County’s first sparkling wines

Tiny bubbles: top picks from Prince Edward County’s first sparkling wines

Prince Edward County’s first sparklers are incredible: you’d swear you were drinking champagne

(Image: Jack Dylan)

The first three sparkling wines to come out of Prince Edward County are taut, tender and dance across the palate: they taste more like champagne than any non-French bubbly I’ve ever tasted. The secret is in the dirt. The sunny farming region south of Belleville has almost as high a concentration of limestone in its soil as France’s Champagne district. Limestone is fissured and spongy, which allows vine roots to penetrate deep into the bedrock, and the wine it yields is full of refreshing minerality. The similarities in terroir and climate were so striking that two expat Torontonians, Jonas Newman, a former maître d’ at Scara­mouche, and his partner, Vicki Samaras, have opened Hinterland winery, the County’s first dedicated exclusively to bubbly. It’s one of 14 launches in the past year, bringing the total number of wineries to 31. The region once considered laughably marginal is full of undercapitalized but pioneering vintners. Many are eking out fewer than 1,000 cases from small acreages, making their wines scarce (most are unavailable at the LCBO) and expensive. But low yields create better quality wines. Here are some examples of PEC’s finest to seek out on your next, or first, trip.


The Grange of Prince Edward
2007 Brut $29.95 | Prince Edward County | 90 points
The debut sparkler from the County’s largest winery has great minerality and depth of flavour. A mix of pinot and chardonnay and aged two years, it’s lighter than champagne. There’s good tension and ping, with toasty aromas and a mouth-watering finish. Try with oysters. grangeofprinceedward.com

Hinterland 2007 Les Etoiles
$39.20 | Prince Edward County | 90 points
Out of their converted dairy barn in Hillier, Jonas Newman and Vicki Samaras have crafted a standout pinot noir–based sparkler. Smelling of dried cherry, peach and almond, the pale pink wine is bone dry, with typical County mineral grip and excellent flavour concentration. hinterlandwine.com

Huff Estates 2006 Cuvée Peter F. Huff
$39.95 | Prince Edward County | 91 points
This chardonnay bubbly is a fine follow-up to the winery’s historic 2004—the County’s first sparkling wine. The nose wafts almond, lemon and apple pastry. It’s light bodied and creamy; the finish is slightly sweet, but brisk acidity keeps it in balance. Excellent length. huffestates.ca


Huff Estates 2007 South Bay Chardonnay
$29.95 | Prince Edward County | 91 points
This 2010 Artevïno gold medallist from Burgundy-trained winemaker Frederic Picard is maturing gracefully. It’s lush, with barrel notes of butterscotch, cedar and smoke that are melding nicely with the honeyed, peachy fruit. With great length, it can be enjoyed through 2013. huffestates.ca

Lacey 2009 Gewurztraminer
$22 | Prince Edward County | 88 points
Vintner Kimball Lacey delivers a fragrant and spicy gewürz with County minerality and slightly sour acidity. Don’t expect Alsace or even Niagara opulence, but Lacey’s eight-year apprenticeship with local vintners is paying off as his family’s vineyards mature. laceyestates.com

Rosehall Run 2008 Cuvée County Chardonnay
$19.95 | Prince Edward County | 90 points
Chardonnay is winemaker Dan Sullivan’s favourite wine, and it shows. This second-tier bottling won gold at Artevïno—remarkable for this price point. It has the lime and green apple freshness of the cooler 2008 vintage, spun with spicy, cedary notes from the French oak barrels. rosehallrun.com


Casa-dea Estates 2008
CD Rosso $11.95 | Prince Edward County | 88 points
Under new ownership, this small winery (formerly Carmela Estates) is showing Italian flair. This value blend of gamay and zweigelt has the rustic charm of an Italian red, with sour red fruit, tobacco and meaty character. Chill slightly and serve with pizza or burgers. casadeaestates.com

Keint-he 2007 Little Creek Pinot Noir
$45 | Prince Edward County | 92 points
Geoff Heinricks pioneered County pinot by scraping out a gravelly plot in the late ’90s. At his new winery, he sources pinot grapes from three vineyards. This elegant organic wine has pitch perfect sour cherry, bacon, cedar and allspice notes. Amazing length for a wine so light. Best now to 2013. keint-he.ca

The Old Third Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir
$35 | Prince Edward County | 89 points
With this debut, Bruno Francois joins the top echelon of County pinot winemakers. Refined layers of cranberry, spice, thyme and minerality are set in a sturdy if youthfully tannic frame. The winery feels for all the world like a tiny family farm in rural France. Cellar until 2013. theoldthird.com