Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 22nd, 2020

Prince Edward County’s Quixotic Wines, Top Ontario, & Miscellaneous Smart Buys

By John Szabo MS with reviews by David Lawrason, Michael Godel, and Sara d’Amato

In 2017, my wife and I bought a derelict 1870s farmhouse in the hamlet of Rosehall in Prince Edward County. Another fool and his four acres. But what “good bones”! What potential! A raw structure with old charisma and new potential, at least for anyone blinded by a vision and in complete disregard of fiscal prudence. But as we settled in to rebuild, living the nightmares we had been forewarned of by countless wise people, I realized I was not the only fool in town. The house is in the heart of PEC wine country – one of the reasons I chose it, naturally – and all around me were equally foolish people, blinded by a quixotic quest to make wine against all logic and financial odds.

PEC tasting at the Rosehall Farmhouse

Indeed, winegrowing in PEC seems as ill-advised as renovating an old house. The smart thing to do is bulldoze and start anew. In the case of making wine, it’s not to start in the first place, or rather move somewhere else like Chile or California or even Niagara. What made the PEC wine pioneers even more questionably sane than I was the absence of any grand winemaking past to fuel dreams of a renaissance. At least we knew the house had once been the swankiest in Rosehall, built by George Raynor , owner of one of the County’s first gristmills. But PEC had no wine history, no track record, no roadmap to follow, just some sketchy climate data, promising rocks, and a plausibly charming rural landscape.


Two and a half years later and my acute pain is nearly ended; the house completely re-done and comfortably livable. And a quarter of a century since vines were first planted, the County has proved its potential to make fine wines, comfortable on the table with the finest in the land. And there’s so much more to come. I’m awfully glad both I, and the visionaries with their vines, persisted; the results are worth it.

And what better way to warm up the house than with a comprehensive survey of the state of PEC wine. A tasting in late January of over 70 wines provided insight and opportunity to put together a special PEC report, A Quarter Century In, along with a Buyer’s Guide To County Wine. And if you want to experience PEC wine country first-hand, I’ve got a home base for you. Literally! Check out the Rosehall Farmhouse.

The main report this week covers the best of Ontario featured in the February 22nd Vintages release, themed “Red Carpet Ontario Awards”, including a handful of fine wines from Niagara, as well as a miscellany of too-good-not-to-mention wines from around the globe.

Buyers’ Guide February 22nd: Top Ontario

Megalomaniac Bubblehead Sparkling Rosé, Traditional Method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($34.95)
John Szabo – The best bubbly, and indeed the best wine period to have emerged thus far from Megalomaniac, this salmon coloured sparkler shows substantial autolysis character (smoky-leesy-toasty notes) alongside ripe red fruit flavours. The finish is long. Clean, classy wine. …

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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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Lawrason’s Take
John’s Top Picks
Michael’s Mix
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