BLACK PRINCE HERE & NOW
July 11th, 2013 | Posted in Uncategorized
BLACK PRINCE – HERE and NOW
Staying closer to home Del and I recently took advantage of the good weather to put the top down and venture just down the road through Picton to visit one of The County’s original wineries ~
Black Prince was founded by a group of members of The Opimian Society, the non-profit national wine society of Canada whose members co-operatively purchase wines from around the world.
In the early eighties, the group invested in vineyards in California, when real estate was reasonable in Napa Valley, and wineries were springing up and communities were growing.
In 2000, their attention came back to Canada along with the proceeds of the sale of some of those vineyard estates – which would be taxed at 50 % unless re-invested.
Geoff Webb was involved in purchasing and selling bulk wines from all over the world, and was in a position to convince the group to invest in Prince Edward County, not yet well-known for its wines but an up and coming grape-growing region, and a beautiful place to live and work.
Pioneering of spirit the group agreed and Webb and some Opimian colleagues invested in a property and planted 10 acres on a 50 acre parcel on the Loyalist Parkway – in the western gateway to Picton.
“Immediately establishing a working winery while planting a vineyard and developing the property was the plan and we had no shortage of talent on the wine-side ,” says Webb.
Californian Winemaker Michael Fallow was recruited by John Sambrook (a founding partner and GM of the Opimian Society whom had known Michael from twenty-five years of winemaking in California – Sambrook retired from his position at the Opimian Society to focus on building Black Prince) in order to help hone Geoff Webb’s skills as Black Prince`s Director of Winemaking.
2002 was the first vintage made at Black Prince, and, although all the grapes were from Niagara, Michael was able to cut his teeth in cold–climate winemaking. In 2003 the local grape crop was declared `short` by the Ontario government, and all wineries were permitted to import grapes, which suited Michael fine and he made Californian Chardonnay, while Webb experimented with Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir, Chardonnay and Vidal from local County vineyards through 2004 and 2005.
In Spring 2006 Michael fled the Canadian cold for a new project in Argentina leaving Webb with the wine-making duties and Rod de Courcy-Ireland moved from Toronto to Prince Edward County to become President of Black Prince – a flurry of awards and national attention followed as Webb produced some really good whites and some stunning local red wines in 2006 and 2007.
During this time the team at Black Prince also helped a number of other County grape growers aspire to fulfill their dreams, produce wine and establish themselves, including Sandbanks, Hillier Pinot Noir, Del-Gatto Bella Vigne and Harwood, and some of these labels are still available at Black Prince today.
In 2008 Webb turned to Terence Van Rooyen (Head of Niagara College Teaching Winery) for advice with the challenging vintage of 2008 and Terence continued to consult with Webb as winemaker through 2009 and the exceptional and multi-award winning vintage of 2010 – all the time imparting his knowledge and skills while guiding Webb to the next levels of cold-climate viticulture and winemaking.
Webb was very thankful to have had mentors like Fallow and Van Rooyen – two extremely talented winemakers at the top of their game – along with the business acumen of Sambrook and de Courcy-Ireland.
“I was lucky, Prince Edward County was still very very young as a wine area”, he says, “we have made tremendous strides in only 12 years – but I still worry ! ”
“I think there’s going to be a time of reckoning in the near future when we all have to be more cooperative – like 10 years ago when there were only 5 or 6 of us here working hard together. With the explosion of new wineries here, the fallout is catching-up to the area which is not large enough or draws nearly enough tourists to support us all year around”, says Webb.
Unique at Black Prince are local County oak barrels, crafted by Pete Bradford of Carriage House Cooperage. Over the past 5 years Webb has worked with him to produce some truly local oak-aged wines, and many awards from their efforts are in evidence, as well as some blended wines – something for everyone, and the largest selection of wines from Prince Edward County.
Black Prince is also fierce supporter of local community groups, teams and events and designs private wine labels to support their causes.
Looking around the Black Prince tasting centre, there are plenty of indications of pride and a real sense of place in this community…
And what does the future hold for Black Prince Estates ?
“it`s not a secret”, says Webb, “just wait and see” ~
“We’re intent on growing, not only the wine production but the entire concept of working and living in a vineyard setting – a sustainable, green community built around a working vineyard was in our plans from the start. Situating the vineyard in the middle of the property to be accessible from designated walking paths and constructing the pond to be attractive and maintain wildlife for the residents seemed entirely reasonable – perhaps one day soon cottages and even a clubhouse – who wouldn`t want to live in such a natural setting and help to look after the vines – a true community cooperative is what we now want to build”, explains Webb.
Geoff Webb continues as General Manager and Director of Winemaking and recently added a medal winning Merlot to the stable of interesting fine wines available at Black Prince Winery or through the LCBO.
If you’d like to visit Black Prince Winery, they are located at 13370 Loyalist Parkway, Picton, or call 613-476-4888 for more information.