It's just a short drive from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, and the ideal spot for a girls' trip, couple's getaway or family gathering.
The vines may be frozen over, but there's plenty to eat, drink and do in Prince Edward County (PEC). Once a well-kept secret, the County (as its's warmly referred to) has quickly become a popular tourist destination—yes, even Justin and Sophie Trudeau recently spent the night. This island community on the shore of Lake Ontario has plenty to offer with a bounty of wineries, a burgeoning dining scene and a growing community of artists, makers and entrepreneurs. But its new-found popularity has translated to more crowds during the summer season, so instead book a trip during one of the cooler months. Here's our winter guide to Prince Edward County:
THE VINEYARD COTTAGE
The Vineyard Cottage
Enjoy the best of both worlds at The Vineyard Cottage located on Trail Estate winery, a modern cabin that's just steps away from the tasting room. The all-black Scandinavian-style exterior and the airy, light-filled interior has all the comforts of home (a full kitchen, sitting area, outdoor patio and BBQ) with sleeping quarters in the loft (sleeps 3-4 people). Take the Millennium Trail that runs along the southern edge of the vineyard to snowshoe or run to many of the neighbouring wineries. Be sure to take home a bottle or two of their award-winning wine.
Pro tip: Opt for the complimentary wine tasting (or two) before settling in for the night.
THE CRESSY HOUSE
Photography: Daniel Vaughan
Renowned Toronto chef and restaurateur (owner of Toronto's Bar Isabel and Bar Raval), Grant Van Gameren has a sprawling six-acre waterfront property that stretches along 500 feet of Lake Ontario in Waupoos, at the eastern end of PEC, which includes Cressy House. This cozy guest house is made up of three buildings (sleeps up to 14 people) and boasts nine fireplaces (indoor and out). The space eschews a Ralph Lauren meets your well-travelled uncle's country house vibe with thoughtfully curated trinkets at every turn—including a vintage floor-length fur coat. The kitchen is stocked like you'd imagine a chef's would be, kitted with gadgets, finishing salts and bitters to help you host the ultimate dinner party.
Bonus: Don't feel like cooking? Request a tasting menu prepared by GVG.
THE DRAKE DEVONSHIRE
The Drake Devonshire is the country cousin to its city counterpart, The Drake Hotel in Toronto, and the spot that helped put PEC on the map. The 11-room, two-suite boutique hotel includes an always-buzzing restaurant that overlooks the shores of Lake Ontario, a vibrant bar stocked with local wine and beer, a glass-enclosed rec room with board games and a Ping-Pong table and rotating installations by their in-house art curator. With so many spaces to play or cozy up, you'll be tempted to curl up by the roaring fire, but we implore you to venture out.
Pro tip: Need a memento? Take a picture in the photo booth located by the front entrance.
EAT + DRINK
At Flame and Smith the flame really is the nucleus to this farm-to-fire restaurant. Chef Hidde Zomer (previously at Nota Bene and Carbon Bar in Toronto) is at the helm, turning out perfectly cooked fish, meat and vegetable dishes from his custom-made 60-inch Argentinian grill. Start with the tiered fish platter that includes oysters, wild shrimp, snow crab, clams and smoked salmon. Or, spring for the four-course chef menu.
For a little nosh or a cozy place to hibernate, duck in to Bloomfield Public House. It might be the new kid on the block, but it's already a favourite with both locals and visitors. It's the perfect spot for refueling midday or for a leisurely brunch. Order the soufflé pancakes or shakshuka, or try the fondue for two with all the fixings.
New hot-spot Stella's is tucked in just off Main Street and would be easy to miss if not for the illuminating neon-pink sign. The menu is always rotating with fresh and foraged dishes, but if you spot the ricotta dumplings or ssam (Korean lettuce wraps) on the board, be sure to put in an order.
Get your caffeine fix with a side of freshly baked bread and pastries at Enid Grace café in Wellington.
The cure-all following a night with too many Chardonnays is breakfast at local greasy spoon, Lighthouse Restaurant tucked under the Picton Harbour Inn.
With over 40 wineries, plus a number of breweries, cideries and distilleries, be sure to leave room in the car to bring back a few local finds for your wine fridge.
At small-batch craft winery Trail Estates, female winemaker, Mackenzie Brisbois is at the helm, creating old-world, low-intervention orange (the new rosé) and pét-nat (naturally sparkling) wines.
Hinterland is Canada's only winery producing 100% premium sparkling wine from a converted dairy farm. If you can get your hands on a bottle of the collaboration wine they did with Montreal's Joe Beef, grab it.
Housed in a former dairy barn, Closson Chase keeps to the European tradition of wine-making, and is set in a historic barn with gorgeous gardens.
Sitting on 60 acres, Grange Winery is a picturesque 200-year-old farm owned by a mother-daughter team that's producing 100% estate grown PEC wines.
Housed in a former meatpacking plant, Midtown Brewing Co is one of the newest microbreweries. Bonus: You can sit by the fire and enjoy a beer on tap and a delicious bite, like the dirty fries and MBC burger from chef Neil Dowson.
Bloomfield Beauty Co.
Get pampered at Bloomfield Beauty Co., the first luxury spa in PEC to offer both classic (shellac pedicures and facials) and medical (IPL and Botox) treatments. Housed in a heritage home from 1865, the modern yet cozy spa is co-owned by sisters Emma and Anna Woodman, and has the perfect mix of small-town hospitality with a high-end finish.
For outdoor enthusiast, you'll find plenty of trails for hiking, running, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Take the Millennium Trail, a former railway that has been converted into a multipurpose trail, and go for snowshoe and wine tasting. Or, hike up to the Lake on the Mountain, one of Ontario's natural wonders where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas and a turquoise-coloured lake.
This area is bursting with artists, makers and creative types. Visit the shops in Bloomfield, outdoor art event, Icebox, go antiquing, tour the galleries and studios, or try your hand at something new like glass blowing.