County in the City

April 18. The stage in the National Arts Centre was set for the unveiling of… county wines? Yes! Prince Edward County wineries and vineyards made their way to Ottawa’s NAC en masse to share the deliciously alcoholic fruits of their labour.
Hosted and organized by the Savvy Company, this was the second annual County in the City event and the perfect way to encourage Ottawa wine drinkers to taste their way through an intriguing line up of wineries. The County Cider Co. was even pouring their fruit ciders, which was an excellent way to re-energize the palate midway through the evening.
I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Belleville, Ontario, which is just a bridge away from the County. I remember reading about the County wine industry while it was still in its infancy – and although I believe the full potential of the terroir has yet to be unlocked – no one outside of the industry really believed the calibre of wines coming out of the County would be anything worth drinking. Years (and several trips to visit friends and taste wine) later, it is clear that there is a lot of fantastic wine being produced in the County.
There were a number of wineries attending this event that I have not yet had the opportunity to taste. Some of my perennial favourites (Keint-he, Rosehall Run) were in attendance but I was really hoping to expand my horizons and discover a few new gems. Not to say that I didn’t let my old favourites fill my glass, of course!

A few highlights:

  • Stanners Vineyard – I truly loved all of the wines that they were pouring, but the 2011 Riesling is the one I am still thinking about. It had a wonderful nose of pink pearl eraser (a huge compliment in my books), apple, petrol, minerality and a hint of citrus. I can’t wait to get down to the County to taste more of their wines and visit their facilities.
  • Long Dog Vineyard – After fighting through the crowds, I finally had the chance to sample their flight of pinot noirs. Each one I tried had bright red fruits but there were variances between the wines which really showed the difference in vintages (between 2007 and 2009 for the Otto Pinot Noir and between 2008 and 2009 for the Top Dog Pinot Noir). Being able to taste the four wines in succession was, I’m sure, a rare treat.
  • Karlo Estates – the adorable couple pouring at this table were kind enough to keep pouring as the clock ticked slightly past 9pm. I was intrigued by their port offerings. They offered a white port, the 2010 Van Alstine White, which was unique and worth tasting at the show but it was the 2009 Van Alstine Port which was truly delicious and a wonderful way to cap off the night.

I would recommend attending this show in the future, especially if you are interested in trying some wines from Prince Edward County while having the opportunity to chat with winery principals. That being said – next year there is one thing I will do differently. I will bring my own spittoon. My goal at an event like this is to taste as much wine as possible – not to drink as much wine as possible. There were several tables where the spittoon was actually moved behind the wines so the consumer couldn’t reach it. Also there were several that were getting very full. There is nothing worse than ending up with a face full of someone else’s discarded wine!
Finally. This is the elephant in the room, but I would like to know if anyone attended the County in the City event in Toronto. The reason I’m asking? Prices for that event were $39 while the regular price for the Ottawa event was $65 (in Ottawa you could buy in advance to save $10, paying $55 but this almost brings you to the price of the Toronto “at the door” price of $50). Was there a substantial difference between the two events? Inquiring minds want to know!

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