There’s no denying that Ontario’s fastest growing wine region is Prince Edward County. Located about 200 kilometers east of Toronto, it is here, on this opposite side of the lake from Niagara-on-the-Lake, that one will find Sandbanks Estate Winery – one of about 40 wineries in this official VQA viticultural area.
Sandbanks Winery has been crafting its award-winning, diverse selection of wines for almost 20 years, making it one of the first wineries in Ontario’s second most popular wine region. The winery has earned a loyal following for its full-bodied reds – their baco noir is a perennial favourite – and crisp whites, and they get full marks for their customer experience – renowned for their welcoming and fun atmosphere, outdoor tasting bars and picnic area, lively events and winery exclusive wines.
Spearheaded by Catherine Langlois, who was born and raised on a farm in Île d’Orléans, Quebec, Sandbanks Winery’s destiny was born after Catherine earned a scholarship to study the art of winemaking in Burgundy, France. When she returned to Canada, she spent time learning more about the wine industry through her career selling Ontario wines. With this solid front line business experience, the ambitious young winemaker changed tracks to pursue a dream of making her own wines.
Unlike many who came to Prince Edward County to focus specifically on pinot noir and chardonnay, for which the soil is uniquely suited, Catherine had a larger vision. In 2001, she began by planting five acres of baco noir, riesling, pinot noir, vidal blanc, geisenheim, and marechal foch, and she would initially focus on crafting full body red wines at a decent price point. Her instincts proved to be right.
The initial 100 cases that came from the basement winery in 2003 has grown to an impressive 75,000 cases. And while the growth has been remarkable, what remains unchanged is Catherine’s vision to continue to produce value-centric wines that pair well with food and conversation.
So, it’s no wonder then that in February of this year, Arterra Wines Canada, Inc. announced that they had acquired Sandbanks Winery – its first Prince Edward County winery acquisition. Success is enviable. And Catherine Langlois was ready to invite another success story in to help make her passion project grow even bigger in scope.
“I have worked my entire career in the Ontario wine industry and have always admired Arterra Wines Canada for being a pioneer in Canadian wine,” said Catherine. “Since first planting almost 20 years ago, we have grown beyond my wildest expectations. Joining Arterra allows us to continue as a leading Prince Edward County winery, but with greater resources and expertise to support our people, grow our business and get our wines to more Canadians.”
The addition of Sandbanks Winery into the Arterra family of wineries complements its diverse selection of Canadian and international wines. Arterra has been making wines in the Niagara and Okanagan wine regions for over 150 years, earning it a reputation in Canada and around the world for creating award- winning, quality wines, such as Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs and Le Clos Jordanne.
“Similar to Arterra’s start in the Niagara region planting grapes and making wine when people thought it impossible, Catherine has done the same with Sandbanks in Prince Edward County, and I personally admire her passion and vision,” said Jay Wright, president and CEO of Arterra Wines Canada, Inc. “I’m immensely proud to add Sandbanks Winery into our portfolio of wines and we look forward to working with Catherine to expand her vision and leverage her strength as an industry pioneer and grow the brands for years to come.”
Sandbanks now has over 16 brands that can be purchased at LCBO stores in Ontario and over 30 brands in total. I recently had the chance to taste through a selection of Sandbanks’ wines – many of which are available in stores and to order directly online via the winery’s website.
Sandbanks Beach Riesling
A refreshing wine that’s mineral driven with hints of lemon, peach and lime. It’s got nicely balanced acidity which makes this easy drinking and even better with seafood. Will please most white wine drinkers looking for something that’s just a bit on the sweeter side. ($14.95)
Sandbanks Pinot Grigio
A bit livelier than the riesling, this is definitely a crowd-pleaser with its easy-going flavours of exotic fruits and zesty notes. There’s inviting aromas of pear and apricot and some stone fruits. A mineral finish gives this wine a clean and refreshing after-taste. ($15.95)
Sandbanks Smugglers White Blend
This is a vidal-riesling blend with pleasing aromas of passion fruit and tangerine. The palate is juicy and fresh with flavours of pear, oranges and honey melon. Generally pleasing and not overly sophisticated. A good patio sipper. ($13.95)
Sandbanks Route 33 White
This one of two new wines that launched in August and is now sold in LCBO stores. The Route 33 White is a blend of riesling and pinot grigio and wafts with exotic fruit aromas which are mirrored on the palate. Charming and very reasonably priced, this will be a new and exciting favourite among the value buyer. ($14.95)
A very juicy and refreshing rose that offers luscious aromas and flavours of raspberry, strawberry, watermelon and a hint of tangerine. Great for hot summer days and at such a pleasing price point. ($13.95)
Sandbanks Summer Rose
Made in a frizzante style with the tiniest of bubbles to add a refreshing effervescence on your tongue, this is a very fun and fruity wine with grapefruit notes and an exotic fruit medley that dances all the way through the finish. ($14.95)
Sandbanks Route 33 Red
This is the red wine compliment to the Route 33 White that was launched in August. A blend of merlot and petit Verdot, this is a very pleasing and easy-drinking red that pairs exceptionally well with most foods. There’s plum and cherry notes with a semi-sweet mid-palate that turns soft and a bit spicy on the finish. ($15.95)
Sandbanks Sleeping Giant
This is a more full-bodied, rustic red that boasts flavours of coffee, dark chocolate, raspberry and spice. A blend of hybrid grapes baco noir and foch, two varietals that Sandbanks tends to do quite well with. ($19.95)
Sandbanks Baco Noir Reserve
Sandbanks’ flagship wine is their baco and this will easily please baco lovers with its intense and rich blackberry fruit and chocolate notes. It’s labeled as ‘reserve’ because it’s aged in oak for a full year longer than their more value-driven baco. This is worth the extra few dollars. ($19.95)
-With files from Wine Country Ontario