I thought it would be fun to join the Ontario Wine Society (OWS), but I wasn’t sure if the Toronto chapter was right for me. So when Paul and Kari Dearborn (whitbywino and whitbyfoodie on Twitter, respectively) announced the formation of the Prince Edward County chapter, my interest was piqued. I don’t live in PEC, as much as I may wish I did, but I feel a pull to the County in a way that’s hard to describe. When they assured me you don’t have to live in PEC to be a member (they don’t), I was happy to sign up.
My first event was a Wines of Summer tasting at The Grange Winery. I’d never visited The Grange, but it’s a beautiful location and winemaker Caroline Granger was on hand to walk us through a tasting of their Riesling vintages. It’s always a special treat to have a tasting opportunity like that with the winemaker and it was an added bonus that we were given a personalized tour of the cellars and tanks following that.
Add in some delicious snacks and my first OWS-PEC event was a great experience. I loved meeting other members (many live in PEC, many don’t) and getting the chance to have a one of a kind wine experience. The Society is planning more events and hopes to host them regularly as their numbers grow.
I asked OWS-PEC President, Trevor Norris, some questions about the chapter and wanted to share his answers below.
Why did you decide to start a PEC chapter of the Ontario Wine Society?
Being a huge fan of Ontario wine, and after hearing about Ontario's newest wine region in 2009, I decided to take a day trip to check it out and fell in love with the area. From then on I spent most of my weekends in PEC visiting wineries. I noticed right away that something was different about PEC - the wines tasted remarkably different than Niagara and I felt a strong sense of authenticity in the passion of the winemakers. To be tasting wines with an incredible sense of place in my own backyard was intoxicating.
After befriending a few winemakers and seeing the soil first hand I was amazed at the potential of the terroir of PEC. The entire region sits on top of this prehistoric lake bed of ancient limestone and it was this limestone and distinct soil that was adding a wonderful third dimension to the wines much like one of my favourite regions from around the world - Burgundy, France.
To think that someday, this little region toiling away and beginning to produce remarkable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, might rival Burgundy is extremely exciting to me. I love drinking wine where you can taste the vineyard itself, all those terroir-driven complexities and that the winemakers in PEC are focused on nurturing and highlighting that in their wines.
I felt that a PEC chapter of the OWS would allow for us to create a window into a greater awareness of PEC wines and to educate as to why this is an extremely special region. Most importantly, we wanted to create a space for wine enthusiasts at all levels of interest to come together, interact and share their love for wine.
What perks do people receive by joining?
With an OWS membership you (and a guest) get to attend exclusive wine events at a special member price at any of the five chapters - Prince Edward County, Niagara, Toronto, Halton and Windsor-Essex. For our chapter specifically, all new members also receive a membership card and a beautiful Riedel Bordeaux glass engraved with the OWS-PEC logo (valued at $20). Your membership card entitles you to complimentary tastings at participating industry member wineries in PEC, Niagara and other chapters. As well, OWS partners with other organizations to offer discounts to members for wine magazine subscriptions, winery offers, glassware, tour packages, etc. A full list can be found at http://www.ontariowinesociety.com/membership/benefits
How are the winemakers and wineries in PEC responding to the Society?
I think first and foremost the wineries and winemakers in PEC are incredibly happy there is another voice and promotional vehicle in PEC to promote the industry out here. PEC, being a smaller industry in a region trying to prove itself alongside Niagara's multimillion dollar wineries and industry, we have to fight hard for tourism and wine purchase dollars.
A lot of wineries in PEC are small family-run operations whose only source of promotion is word of mouth. With an organization like the OWS, we can tap into our widespread membership and bring smaller wineries into the limelight and showcase their truly exceptional wine.
Our events so far have enjoyed strong turnout and our membership is the fastest growing in the society. We have received great press and very positive feedback from our participating wineries and events held thus far. Our calendar is starting to take shape for 2014 with more and more wineries wanting to partner with us for events and the excitement is building for what we have planned this coming year.
Many people think you have to live in the area to be a member, but I know that's not true. Why do you think so many non-residents are interested in this chapter?
Well I think the biggest reason for non-resident interest in our chapter is that PEC is a destination spot. Unlike Niagara, We are very lucky to have 3 major urban areas - Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto - relatively close by and people that live in those areas visit PEC quite a bit. A great many of these people come to PEC now strictly to indulge in the incredible wine culture here. As wine enthusiasts, they're looking for other unique events targeted to wine than some of the more mainstream festivals and events. I would say more than any other chapter, we are able to attract more non-residents as member as they realize the benefits quickly. They are already here for the weekend and get to enjoy one of our carefully tailored events, get a chance to interact and have an experience with winemakers and wineries on a level that the ordinary tourist wouldn't normally get.
For more information on the OWS-PEC visit their website here: http://www.ontariowinesociety.com/chapters/prince-edward-county/