After years of lobbying, Prince Edward County wineries were finally able to sell their wines at this year's annual County Terroir event at Crystal Palace in Picton by combining forces with the Welington Farmer Market. Legislation passed earlier this year allowed for wine to be sold through Farmers' Markets as is done in several other provinces like Nova Scotia and British Columbia. In previous years, wineries have provided hundreds of tastings of their wines but no bottles of wine could be sold onsite.
Clarification that they would actually be allowed to sell their wines at Terroir did not come until two weeks before the event and even then only VQA approved wines are allowed to be sold.
Ostensibly the VQA restriction is to ensure that only wines made from Ontario grown grapes can be sold and not those blended with bulk grape juice brought in from other countries. Unfortunately, a great deal of the wines produced in Prince Edward County are not VQA'd sometimes because of the high cost of VQA approval, the small batches of wine made or because they are made from hybrid grapes that are not approved on the VQA list. Ironically while these vines which are 100% County grown as well as any fruit wines made locally are not allowed to be sold at the farmers' markets, some Ontario wines which include a small percentage of foreign juice blended in with VQA wines are allowed.
Such is the tangle of red tape, wound by bureaucracy and special interest groups in the Ontario wine industry.
Still as everyone said, it is the foot in the door. Finally wineries can sell their VQA wines at Farmer's Markets and nearby markets in Belleville and Kingston may soon be the beneficiaries in the changes is in legislation. Markets in Toronto and Ottawa are also possibilities but the red tape that only allows VQA wines has also decreed that wines sold at Farmers Markets must be brought up on the morning of Market Day and returned back to the winery the same evening, preventing wineries from using an agent to take their wines to the city markets.
Liz Lacey, the retail manager of Lacey Estates Vineyard said they offered tastings of all their wines at Terroir and had some good sales of their VQA wines and then customers who had really enjoyed their non VQA Baco Noir headed on to the winery to complete their purchases. Strangely their very delicious Pinot Gris, could not be sold as Pinot Gris under VQA rules because the colour was too warm and so it had to be rebranded as a rosé. Stanners Vineyard and Long Dog have also run into the VQA colour bar on delicious golden Pinot Gris. We bought the Baco and the Pinot Gris.
Although Karlo Estates Winery sold cases of their Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Quintus and Fifth Element at Terroir, they still had a line up at the door on Sunday morning after Terroir as many of their most popular wines are not VQA approved partly because they were made in small batches which did not justify the cost of VQA submission and several of their wines are varietals or blends using hybrids that are not on the VQA list.
My purchases from Karlo Estates included their CHOA Chardonnay a unique chard barrel aged in a cherry hickory oak and ash barrel made by the local Carriage House Cooperage, their Lake on the Mountain Riesling and fermented in a spent barrel resulting in notes of apricot and their critically acclaimed Van Alstine White port-style wine made from Frontenac Gris a hybrid that is not on the VQA list.
"We would have doubled our sales at Terroir if we could have sold our CHOA Chardonnay or either of our Van Alstine ports, there."
Keint-he Winery reported having as many sales at Terroir as they had had at the winery on Saturday. I picked up their Hillier Chardonnay which had an unusual smoky flavour that I think will pair beautifully with chicken cooked on our Kamado Egg barbecue, also Pinot2 a pinot noir / pinot meunier blend and a bottle of Pineau Sauvage, a slightly Botritys affected golden white that is a one of a kind dessert wine also not VQA approved.
All in all, Terroir was a successful start to a new era despite the obstacles that still remain. Having wineries sell through farmers' markets also drastically changed the character of many Nova Scotia's farmers' markets as gourmet chefs and speciality food producers tended to follow the wine which made for far more variety and greater attendance.
Veronica Leonard writes about the wines of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward County, Ontario as well as occasional trips to Niagara and abroad. You can also read her wine blogs at thewinetourist.wordpress.com