Prince Edward County is one of my favourite little vacation destinations, and you’ll know that all ready if you’ve ever read this blog since a large number of posts are devoted to this little wine region in Ontario. After a day trip to the County earlier in the summer we spend another weekend exploring with our family at the end of September when the region was in full harvest mode.
I’ve written a full PEC travel guide and a PEC winery guide with all the best places to visit in the region so definitely check out those for all the information you need. This post is more of a trip report with our most recent experiences at some of our favourite places and a few new ones too. I’ll be updating my full guides later with updated information for next year that will include some new places as well as updated information with regards to pandemic restrictions which changed a lot through the summer this year. When I was planning this fall trip I had to wait until right before we left because I was never sure if the restrictions would change again. When we visited it was the first weekend with Ontario’s new “vaccine passport” system. We had our proof of vaccination ready but since everything we did was outside we never needed to show proof. But if you plan to dine inside or have a tasting inside you’ll need to have your proof of vaccination ready.
The purposes of our weekend in PEC was a little family trip which included two dogs. We were a group of 7 which posed some additional challenges along with the usual Covid challenges. Luckily we didn’t run into any issues being a group or having dogs. Everywhere we went was dog friendly and all the wineries were able to accommodate our group. We did make sure to visit some of the more popular places early in the day though to avoid being turned away. Since we were a large group we stayed at an Airbnb in the Ameliasburgh region of PEC. The Airbnb we rented was a beautiful old Victorian home with lots of outdoor space, ideal for letting the dogs run around. Overall it was nice but could have been much cleaner and better taken care of so I won’t link it since I can’t really recommend it. We were in PEC the last weekend of September when the harvest season was gearing up at the wineries. As a result some were a little short staffed and one was closed entirely. If you visit during the fall make sure you check the hours of operation since some places may have shorter hours or be closed on weekdays for the harvest.
We arrived in PEC around 1pm so we went to Matron Fine Beer in Bloomfield for some food and beers. Matron is always a good place to stop and they have lots of seating so you shouldn’t have trouble getting a spot there. Their food is also always fantastic, it’s a great lunch spot or even a dinner spot but they are only open until 6pm so you’ll be eating a bit early. We love Matron so much that we actually ended up going back Saturday after the wineries. They are also dog friendly but there are some cats roaming so keep your dog leashed.
After lunch we had time to visit a winery before we had to get to our Airbnb to meet the rest of our group. We decided to visit Domaine Darius, which is a winery I’d heard some good things about before but they don’t have any online presence so I didn’t know anything about them. I’d also heard that they are often sold out of their wines so I wasn’t even sure if they would have anything to taste. When we arrived we had to wait a bit before we could be served since there was a group buying some bottles but we didn’t mind too much. It was hard to tell if the winery was short staffed because of the harvest/pandemic or if it’s always just the one older woman running things. Domaine Darius wasn’t doing regular tastings because of Covid but you could buy a bottle to take into their garden patio and then bring it back for them to re-cork so you could take home whatever you didn’t finished. I really liked this method and it worked since we were 4 people but if we had been 2 people it’s a bit more of a commitment to buy a $40 bottle not knowing if it’s any good. This also limits what you can try at the winery but I understand that they’ve had to make adjustments since the pandemic.
We really enjoyed our experience at first despite the long wait to be served when we arrived. The winery is really pretty and I really liked the Alice in Wonderland vibes of the garden patio. The woman running things was also very nice and give very thorough (but maybe a tad too long) explanations of the three wines they had available. We enjoyed a glass each and then took the bottle back to the counter to be re-corked. This is where things went downhill… Another large group was buying bottles and the one woman working there seemed to be incredible slow at retrieving everything from inside. Then there were some incidences with a few other visitors that made our wait even longer. I think we spent more time waiting to get our bottle re-corked and pay than we spent actually tasting the wine. Unfortunately our experience was soured and made us all feel as if we never want to visit Domaine Darius again. Also the wine was only okay.
The next day we started at one of our favourite places, Hinterland Wine Company. They make some of the best sparkling wine for a really great price. We got there a little before opening and there were already plenty of cars in the parking lot. This is a place that you should definitely visit right when they open at 11am. Since we were a group of 7 and hadn’t reserved a tasting we bought a bottle of their Whitecap sparkling white wine and a bottle of Borealis sparkling rose to share. It was cheaper to buy two bottles than for each of us to buy a glass of wine and at the moment Hinterland is only doing tastings by reservation if you are a group. Like most wineries Hinterland is dog friendly but they need to stay leashed and be well behaved. Many wineries use air canons to scare away the bird from eating the grapes so if your dog is scared of fireworks they probably won’t like these either. So it’s something to consider if you want to bring your dog to PEC. Also don’t miss seeing the ducks!
After Hinterland we went to another popular winery soon after they opened at noon, Trail Estates Winery. This place makes excellent wines including orange wines and Pet-Nat wines. They were only offering glasses of wines to taste or you can do tastings by reservation. Their wines are a bit on the expensive side but they are also some of the best and most interesting in PEC so definitely worth trying at least a glass.
It was then time for lunch so we went over to the Grange of Prince Edward Winery where Old Salt Cocktails has a pop-up food truck and cocktail bar serving gourmet sausages. The winery turned out to be closed, I’m not sure if they were closed for the season due to staffing shortages or just closed for the harvest season. But the food truck was still there and the bathrooms were open inside still. We visited at probably the worst time right around lunchtime and the place was packed. There was a massive line but luckily still plenty of places to sit. Definitely try to avoid eating at peak hours or go into town to eat. Since we were a group with dogs it was too difficult to try finding a restaurant patio somewhere so we ate at the wineries.
After the craziness of lunch we went to a place I knew would be much more peaceful, Cold Creek Vineyards. Despite this name, this place actually makes cider and it is amazing. Cold Creek Vineyards has become by favourite place in PEC and will change the mind of anyone who thinks they don’t like cider. I think everyone in our group was really surprised with the cider and enjoyed the tasting a lot. The couple who own the place are so nice and were able to accommodate our group even though they are a pretty small operation.
After our relaxing stop at Cold Creek Vineyards we went to our last winery of the day, Traynor Family Vineyards. They make some really surprising wines that seem to fly under the radar for some reason. It was later in the afternoon so they were able to accommodate our group for a tasting and everyone really enjoyed being able to try a bunch of different wines. After our tasting at Traynor we drove over to Matron for some beers and a bit of food. Even on a Saturday afternoon there was plenty of space to sit and it wasn’t too busy.
On the Sunday after checking out of our Airbnb we went stopped at The Old Third which had been closed the day before for a wedding (there were still some flowers left over from the event the day before which was pretty). This place often only has one or two types of wine available and maybe a cider. They are a very small operation and only make very small quantities of wine but they are really good and worth the higher price tag. On the weekends in summer they also operate a pasta bar which is fantastic if you’re looking for some lunch.
We then drove towards Bloomfield and stopped at a newer cider place called Stock & Row. They have a lovely little patio perfect for enjoying a flight with a nice view of a vineyard. When we visited they had 4 ciders on offer, including a seasonal strawberry cider. I really enjoyed all the ciders there, even the ones that were flavoured weren’t too sweet which is rare to find. The property was really pretty and we were the only ones there early in the afternoon. This place is right close to Kinsip House of Fine Spirits, another excellent place to stop in PEC and they also have a BBQ truck for food there.
To finish the afternoon to stopped at Parsons Brewing for lunch on our way out of town. It was around noon when we arrived and there was a huge line. I think we waited for close to an hour for a table and if we hadn’t been a group with a dog we probably wouldn’t have bothered but it was difficult to switch gears and go somewhere else as a group. I think part of the reason for the long wait was that certain tables were just for people getting beers while others were for people also ordering food. It seemed as though people were also ordering drinks from the hostess stand which made things move extra slow. Overall it could have been managed a bit better. The experience was a bit unfortunate because the food and drinks were good and if it hadn’t been for the long wait everything would have been great.
Overall we had a great weekend even though it was busier than I thought it would be at the end of September and definitely a bit more challenging traveling as a group. I’ve written up a blog post with all my best tips for visiting PEC and this trip helped a lot in writing it. You can also read the rest of my blog posts on PEC with all the best places to visit.