Wine lovers visiting Prince Edward County, are enjoying a wine tasting experience unique to the region. Total Terroir refers to local wine aged in barrels from Canadian oak and other woods harvested locally and handcrafted by the County’s own Master Cooper, Pete Bradford.
Canadian oak has a tighter grain due to our cold climate resulting in a more fruit forward wine less dominated by the flavours of wood tannins. Bradford also produces barrels of mixed woods including Canadian Cherry, Hickory, Oak and Ash known either as CHOA or COACH barrels which produce richly aromatic wines.
The Quest for Canadian Oak begins at Black Prince Winery located at 13370 Loyalist Parkway in Picton where Pete and Marla Bradford have recently moved their barrel business into an adjoining barn.
Originally called Carriage House Cooperage, Pete has rebranded the business over the past year as The Barrel House and opened a sideline business called Canadian Vinegar Cellars. Visitors can watch Pete at work making customized barrels, recoupering old barrels, building barrel themed furnishings and taste his unique line of barrel aged gourmet vinegars. At least once a week, he can be seen toasting barrels over his antique barrel stove.
Geoff Webb, the Black Prince Wine Director, was the first County winemaker to use Canadian oak barrels back 2006. Their first Terroir Elite Chardonnay won a bronze medal in the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde in France. He continues to release Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir in Canadian oak barrels every year. This year also he experimented with a Merlot aged in one of Bradford’s barrels made entirely from cherry wood. It is a “must try” wine.
In Wellington, the popular Sandbanks Winery at 17598 Loyalist Parkway regularly ages their Cabernet Franc Reserve in Canadian oak from the County and Muskoka. This is one Sandbanks wine you have to visit the winery to purchase.
Rosehall Run used Muskoka oak barrels for their 2012 Chardonnay. Only a limited quantity of what fans call the “Oakie from Muskokie” remains and visitors have to request it specially by calling the winery or at their tasting Room at 1243 Greer Road.
Karlo Estates Winery, at 561 Danforth Road, say their CHOA Chardonnay has its own fan club who tweet perfect pairings for thid wine. The Chardonnay was aged in barrels of cherry, hickory, oak and ash. You will never find it in the LCBO but it’s worth a visit to this very unique winery.
Hillier Creek, the big red barn winery at 46 Stapleton Rd, near Hillier has both their 2012 Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir aged in a mix of barrel types including Bradford’s Canadian oak and COACH barrels. Stanners Vineyards www.stannersvineyard.ca at 76 Station Road in Hillier will be releasing their 2013 Chardonnay aged in Canadian oak this spring.
Going across county, 66 Gilead Distillery, on Gilead Road near Bloomfield, aged its recently released Duck Island Rum in Canadian oak. 66 Gilead was the first of a number of Ontario craft distilleries who have been commissioning new and recoupered barrels from Bradford.
There are many good reasons to visit Three Dog Winery, at 1920 Fish Lake Road, even though it is quite a distance from other wineries. One of them is its 2013 Double Barrel Baco Noir aged in Canadian oak for 13 months and selling fast. Their 2014 Baco will be released during Wassail in December.
Devil’s Wishbone Winery, located at 1014 County Road 7 in Cape Vesey, first used Canadian oak for its 2012 Chardonnay. Just lightly aged in the barrel for two months, the wine’s natural flavours were intensified without being overpowered by the wood. It is completely sold out. The 2012 Pinot Noir, a blend of wines aged in Prince Edward County oak and French barrels is still available at the winery. The 2014 Pinot Noir is currently being aged in Canadian Oak and due for release in 2016.
County Cider also located in Cape Vesey at Bongards Crossroad on County Road 8, won Double Gold as well as Best in Show at the Grand Rapids Cider and Perry Competition in Michigan two years ago for their ice cider aged in the aromatic COACH barrels. There will be a new release early this summer, an exquisite dessert cider for very special occasions.
Wines aged in Canadian oak or COACH barrels are unique mementos of a trip to Prince Edward County, great for gifts and for sharing with other wine lovers who appreciate trying something unique.
You can read more about Pete Bradford’s cooperage and Prince Edward County wine touring on Veronica Leonard’s blog.