County Wine Review & The Grange of Prince Edward

Visiting the Grange Estate Winery is an exercise in total happiness. Stepping into the great room, you’re struck by the warm, familiar scent of fresh popcorn weaving through heavy wooden beams, alongside the shafts of sunlight that cast patterns onto the high, open ceiling. Huge banks of windows line the furthermost walls, framing the ultimate picturesque view of treetops, duck pond, and original farmhouse just over the hill. I’m not kidding, you could park yourself at a tasting table or on the pretty vintage settee and spend an entire day dreaming, sipping wine, and just drinking in the scene at The Grange. 

In the summer, the outdoors are magical too. The winery puts together picnic baskets filled with the most glorious of local foods and you can walk out to the vines, with a friend or lover, and breathe it all in, along with some gorgeous wine.

Three generations of the Granger family have worked the land of the beautiful Grange Estate, but it was Caroline who first planted vines in 2001, sowing seeds of the legacy winery.

After some time away, Caroline returned to her parents’ home in the County to forge a stronger connection with her three children in a place where she believed they would flourish. “In the city, there was this feeling of just wanting to protect your kids and I wanted them to grow up. This was the safest place I knew to do that.” Settling into County life, she began to give some serious thought about doing something new at her parents’ farm, so she wrote a “little business plan for ten acres” and handed it over to her dad. A few months later he came to her and asked two questions: Can you manage ten acres and will you be going back to school to learn how?

Caroline was already on it—enrolled in a wine technician course at Loyalist College, bundled with envirotech and nutriceuticals. She was preparing to take on the work and it was a go. Suddenly, she found herself managing ten acres and three children—solo. “I turned chores into games, I traded weeding time for beach time” she explains, as if any explanation could make sense of one person managing this load. “Then my dad got excited about what was happening, and other people got excited, and the winery grew. The next year we planted 17 acres, and then another 17 acres, and then it became 60 acres, and somewhere between 2002 to 2012, we learned to adapt.”

County winemakers share a  complex and tumultuous relationship with the seasonal terroir. Amidst widespread relentless flooding in 2016, Caroline confides that they managed to execute the winery’s best Cab Franc since 2012. “Mother Nature puts up barriers and then gives back” she explains. The year before, a sudden intense overnight frost had all of the County’s winemakers desperately working to save their crops—burning hay bales and beating heat into the vines to keep them warm until the sun returned. “We were all up” Caroline recounts “the kids, everyone working against the frost all night. We lost the battle at 4:17am. We lost 140 tonnes of grapes, everything except the precious pinot, which was lower down and managed to hold on until dawn…an hour later. It’s a fact that winemaking is not for the faint of heart and, perhaps, growing up with a front row seat of the glory and tragedy is the only way to truly learn the craft.

Next door to The Grange, winemaker Kimball Lacey at Lacey Estates Winery, was fighting the same battle against the 2015 frost.

In 2010, with 60 acres of estate grown wine, Caroline was no longer a one-woman show. Her daughter Maggie had grown up. She’d gone away and come back to the farm and was prepared to step up to the plate. Maybe a mother-daughter leadership team establishes a precedent—but in an industry heavily dominated by men, the percentage of women at The Grange is notable. “I wanted to create an environment where women could learn and work” Caroline says, “I wanted to see women in the vineyard, increasing their presence and opportunity.” Where many wineries bring in fieldworkers, typically men, from overseas to help out in the high season, Caroline tries to recruit women “to carry more responsibility, to provide supports for their families and to return to the winery year after year.” She describes the “‘brotherhood of wine’, where even wine writers are often men writing on behalf of the female palate. Women drink, enjoy, consider wine” she says, “and if we can really continue to do this here—make and sell enough wonderful wine to pay decent salaries—we can close the loop.”

We pass by the rows of bottles on the shelves lining the inside wall and I comment on the beautiful new labels executed by local illustrator, Chris Deldegan. Caroline notes, “We weren’t looking to rebrand. It was only because of Chris—her patience, vision, and willingness to work with us over many months—that we undertook this.” Chris’ exquisite designs sit so beautifully inside this romantic place. Her pretty drawings stir memories of childhood: storybook illustrations, a mother reading to her daughter, stories about field mice and raspberry brambles, planting the seeds of dreams to be imagined and realized for generations to follow.

—Lonelle Selbo (Story, Photography)

Tasting Notes

—Kirstyn Mayers

2014 Grange of Prince Edward Sparkling Riesling

12.0% abv | 750ml $30.00

Not your typical Riesling or sparkling wine. Lightly effervescent and slightly off-dry, there are notes of honey, ripe peach, petrol and something that reminds me of saltine crackers. Finishes with tart lemon lime flavour. The combination of sweet, savoury, and sparkling with high acidity would make this the perfect match for a cheeseboard stocked with Parmigiano Reggiano, Époisses, and Danish Blue. (Tasted 03.18.18) 

2016 Grange of Prince Edward Isabella Block Pinot Gris

VQA Prince Edward County | 13.0% abv | 750ml $35.00

Extended skin contact has given this Pinot Gris a beautiful rose gold tinge and rich aromatics to match. There’s fruit, but also floral notes and a bit of something earthy in the glass. It’s a dry wine with lots of acid and enough minerality to provide great structure. It’s fresh and vibrant despite 12 months ageing in neutral oak, and would be a great match for rich seafood dishes like lobster with clarified butter or cured salmon with crème fraîche and dill. (Tasted 10.16.18)

2016 Grange of Prince Edward Bunny Wine

VQA Prince Edward County | 13.0% abv | 1500 ml $65.00

A Pinot Noir and Gamay blend with ripe fruit character coming through from both varietals. There are intense aromas of crushed cherries and raspberry that follow through to the palate. Tannin, acid, alcohol, and minerality are all mid-range and well balanced, with a long finish. The large format and crowd-pleasing versatility make it a great choice for holiday dinners, where it will pair with everything from smoked turkey to roast beef.(Tasted 10.16.18)

2013 Grange of Prince Edward Chardonnay

VQA Prince Edward County | 12.0% abv | 750ml $22.00

At five years old this unoaked Chardonnay has tertiary aromas of walnut, honey, and crushed nuts. Extended lees contact has given the wine amazing texture and highlights the stony minerality of Hillier soils. Lemon and tart green apple flavours come through on the palate. Pair with nutty cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Taleggio, and aged Gouda. (Tasted 03.18.18)

2015 Grange of Prince Edward Pinot Noir

VQA Prince Edward County | 13.0% abv | 750ml $32.00

A delicate and restrained Old World style Pinot with red cherry aromatics, a little bit of earthiness, and some savoury notes. Medium tannins give the wine some bite, while the light body and tart acidity is characteristic of the cool climate style. Perfect for summer sipping. Drink by 2020, preferably chilled on a patio in the County with smoked trout, roasted duck, or wood fired pizza. (Tasted 03.18.18)

2015 Grange of Prince Edward Gamay Noir

VQA Prince Edward County | 12.0% abv | 750ml $27.00

The Gamay Noir from Grange has been one of my go-to County wines for years, and it’s still a standout in the portfolio. There are deep aromatic notes of mocha and black cherry, with a bright sour cherry palate and high acidity. Gamay Noir is typically a great value pick, and this one is no exception. The perfect wine for pairing with tomato-based Italian fare like Pasta al Pomodoro and Pizza Margherita. (Tasted 03.18.18)

 

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