Pinot Noir at a purple barn? Craft brew under a canopy? Or maybe a sunny cocktail on a swing? Prince Edward County has no shortage of outdoor locales and patios where you can wet your whistle, whatever that whistle’s preference in libations. In fact, it’s almost too much of a good thing when it comes to choosing between the region’s many wineries, distilleries and breweries. So on a girls’ weekend in late summer, we leaned on a local who lives in Picton to recommend one of her favourite things to do in Prince Edward County, and she organized a grownup pub crawl around the region! Here are 4 of her favourite locales and what you can expect when you visit each of them.
Get Ready for Your Closeup at Closson Vineyards
The purple barn is a signature at Closson Chase Vineyards, and definitely something that makes this Prince Edward County winery stand out from the rest. And while you may not find a red barn here, the red you WILL find is Closson’s selection of small-batch VQA Pinot Noirs, all of which are grown and produced locally, some in batches of less than 150 cases. (Of course there’s also a selection of Chardonnay’s if you prefer white, including a simply grand Grand Cuvée.)
But without a doubt the real scene-stealer here is the property. If the purple barn isn’t photo-worthy enough on its own with its rustic rafters and stained glass, the pretty outdoor garden has a large shaded lawn with wine barrel planters overflowing with flowers scattered between comfy lounge areas and tables. Equally colourful is the abundance of flowery, flowy dresses and sun hats found on the young-and-hip clientele enjoying flights of wine under brightly coloured sun shades.
Between the purple barn, the lush vineyards just adjacent to the garden, and the brightly coloured canopy overhead, it’s no wonder this winery appeals to those looking for a photogenic backdrop.
Things certainly have changed since the time when winery tours were targetting only the silver-haired set…then again, 50 is the new 35, so slip into something summery and join the IN-stagram crowd!
Pop in for a PopTail at the Grange Winery
Like your winery with a side of funky cocktail bar? Then head to The Grange Winery who partnered in 2021 with a local company called Old Salt Cocktails, to add another option for visitors coming to their property.
Similar to the food truck model, Old Salt Cocktails is essentially a mobile bar service that can set up almost anywhere thanks to a re-purposed vintage trailer which they’ve re-imagined into a fun and functional drink truck of sorts. In the case of the Grange, the trailer is set up under the property’s mature trees just beside the tasting barn, where visitors can relax at shaded picnic tables while enjoying a drink.
Old Salt’s owners have added their own fun takes on traditional cocktails as well, including a refreshing frozen treat called the ‘PopTail‘. (You have to be careful when you combine parts of cocktail and popsicle to come up a new word, and they’ve managed to create a name that is still family-friendly, even if the ingredients are adult-only.)
Old Salt also offers an equally fun menu of gourmet-inspired hotdogs (yes, hot dogs!), because no pub crawl is complete without at least one hot dog.
TIP: Old Salt may be popping up in different places around Prince Edward County, so check out their website or Instagram feed to know where they’ll be when you are visiting.
Now Hop Inside the Grange for Bunny Wines
The Grange Winery may not have a vintage trailer, but their vintages are unique nonetheless, the most playful and popular of which is their Bunny Wine. This Gamay Noir/Pinot Noir blend was so well received it sold out completely in 2021, but hopefully the winery will be producing more in the future based on its success. In the meantime, if you are looking to enjoy one of their other vintages that ARE available, my advice is to be quick as a bunny yourself and grab one to take home while you can.
TIP: The Grange has also partnered with Canadian pattern and wallpaper designer Kate Golding to design their labels, and you can purchase tea towels she designed in the Grange’s Tasting Room as well.
Swing on by the Lakeside Motel
Remember those tired old motels from the 1950s that made you feel sad when you drove by them on those near-forgotten Ontario highways? Well, save your tears because these properties have become THE hottest accommodations to be reimagined and renovated into design showpieces, especially if they happen to have a stellar location like the Lakeside Motel in Wellington.
The Lakeside Motel has been completely re-done inside and out, with luxurious amenities, boutique-chic decor in all their rooms and of course, a huge outdoor patio right on the shores of Lake Ontario. The crowd it attracts is a design-forward one (that Closson Chase cohort probably has a room or two here), and the 2-acre property offers fun activities from bonfires and dart games to glamping tents and a huge swimming pool.
If you need absolute peace and quiet for sleeping, or aren’t the type to enjoy the late-night buzz and vibe that comes with this type of playful property, plan an afternoon visit to the Lakeside’s lakefront patio instead. This large outdoor restaurant and bar is definitely the star of the show, and you don’t need to be a guest of the motel to enjoy it. The food and drink menu is oversized (I’m speaking literally, not just about its abundant offerings, as it’s the size of a newspaper!), and the cocktails are as pretty as the waterfront setting.
And if you ARE feeling playful, there’s a swing where you can sip and savour the moment or have a friend snap a photo.
TIP: These reinvented retro motels are seriously all the rage, (we loved our experience at the Zed Hotel in Victoria, BC), so if you are looking to book a night here, plan in advance. Same goes for the patio, especially in peak summer, so you’ll want to make a reservation. (I recommend coming in the late afternoon when the sun on the lake will sparkle almost as much as the prosecco in your glass.)
See the Sun Set at Slake Brewery
If you’ve got the stamina to hit another locale on your Prince Edward County pub crawl, or maybe if you just feel like a beer after a day of small-batch vintages and creative cocktails, the County has a new property where you can slake your thirst for craft beer AND catch incredible sunset views.
Slake Brewing company is built on the top of a limestone hill that offers panoramic views of the region, whether you are in their glass-walled tasting room, or sitting outdoors at one of their canopied picnic tables scattered around the property. There’s no better place to watch the sun go down as you down a cold and frothy one.
And as for the beers, they are all brewed with 100% Ontario malt, and oak-aged in Slake’s own cellar. If you’re not sure which of their ales and lagers to choose, the staff in the tasting room are knowledgable and happy to help. Or do what I do, and pick the label you like the best – which is harder than it looks, because Slake’s designs are as fresh and modern as their brews.
Prince Edward County: Wineries, Breweries, and More
From art tours, to antiquing, to exploring the region’s charming small towns, there is an abundance of things to do in Prince Edward County, making this part of Ontario THE destination for many. And for those who might be looking to visit the region’s many wineries, breweries and unique places to enjoy a cocktail, hopefully these 4 recommendations are a good place to start your liquid taste trail – or as we like to call it, a Grownup Patio Crawl in Prince Edward County.
Here’s to Cheers! in the County!
TIP: If you don’t have a designated driver in your group, consider hiring a local service like unofficialwinetours that will provide a driver to chauffeur you from place to place. They’ll also work with you to create your own patio crawl or taste trail based on their local expertise. Whatever you decide, just drink responsibly and never drink and drive.