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North America

I Am A Wine man For The County

Jonathan van Bilsen



May 31, 2009

I Am A Wine man For The County

There is a region, only two hours from Port Perry, which boasts some of the finest wines in North America as well as quaint shops, unique galleries and excellent cuisine. The area of course, is Prince Edward County, or 'The County' as it is referred to by the self-appointed 'Nouveau Riche' who live there.

I have often heard of the locale and have driven through several times, but decided it was time to make a weekend of it and see what all the hype is about. There is no shortage of places to stay and I chose the Merrill Inn, a historic old house, which has been renovated into a boutique hotel.

The rooms are small, but comfortable. They have character and some have a porch, but to me they are merely for sleeping. Seldom do I travel anywhere and spend much time in a hotel room. The food was good, the service was excellent and the hotel was a first-rate start to what I assumed would be a great getaway.

The town of Picton, raved about by the locals, was OK... not great, just OK. Those who did the raving have probably never been to Port Perry. There were a few quaint stores, but there were also a number of drab establishments. The Home Hardware, on the main street was new and built in a typical 'box' style. The Dollar Store (or equivalent) was very large and also on the main street, which I felt was a little out of character.

It did not take me long to realize that there were no rules and no symmetry to the downtown core. Buildings lacked the character of Queen and Perry Streets, which I have begun to take for granted. The selection of fine gift stores seemed small and the number of eateries was limited. 

Picton disappointed me, but fortunately, the surrounding area was pleasantly surprising. For art lovers there are dozens of galleries. Before you visit be sure to obtain a map or check out the Internet and acquaint yourself with their locations and their hours of operation. Many of the artists cater to their own preferences and you will want to avoid arriving at a closed door.

If wine is part of your daily ritual, you will find yourself in Shangri-la. There is no shortage of vineyards, many of which are quite respectable and serve some delicious vintages. It is very easy to spend an entire weekend ‘sipping the grapes’ in a variety of different establishments. Many are quaint and enjoyable and cater to tourists. Several people had given me pointers on which wines to try, but if you keep an open mind and judge for yourself, you will not be disappointed.

Most of the historic homes have been renovated, but have maintained their charm. A number of them have been converted to hotels or Bed & Breakfasts and, although I did not have an opportunity to visit all of them, they appeared lovely and picturesque.

Most of the boutique hotels have restaurants with excellent specialties. Well known chef of the Garner Museum, Jamie Kennedy has made 'The County' his home. Most everyone you meet will slide his name into a conversation alluding to his or her personal friendship with the famous restaurateur. Unfortunately, I did not run into him, for I would have enjoyed a sample of his famous frites.

To get to ‘The County’ take Highway 401 east to Wooler Road (33) and drive south along the Loyalist   Parkway through Wellington into Picton. The views are well worth the leisurely drive. Discover one of Ontario's natural wonders at Lake on the Mountain Park. Cloaked in mystery and legend, the turquoise lake is a source of amazement and a beautiful setting for activities and of course famous Sandbanks Park, known for its giant dunes.

Driving back, you may want to consider going through Belleville and taking the scenic route home. The trip should be enjoyable, although not as great as I had expected. I am spoiled by the quaint uniqueness of Port Perry, which in my opinion is still the best town in the country... or is it, ‘The County’?

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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