Here and Now – Inked by Joe Hache in The Picton Gazette

December 19th, 2013 | Posted in Uncategorized

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 it`s 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 on 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 sunny Mendoza (Argentina) leaving Webb with the wine-making duties – a flurry of awards and national attention followed as Black Prince produced some good whites and some really 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 vintages of 2008 and Terence continued consulting 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.


“Prince Edward County is 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 get more cooperative – just like 10 years ago when there were only 5 or 6 of us here working hard together. With over 40 wineries now, 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.


Looking around the Black Prince tasting centre, there are lots of indications of pride and a sense of place in this community. Black Prince is a fierce supporter of local community groups, teams and events.  Locally coopered County oak barrel-aged wines and many single vineyard efforts are in evidence, as well as some blended wines – something for everyone, and the largest selection of wines in Prince Edward County.


“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 even a clubhouse – who wouldn`t want to live in such a natural setting, even help look after the vines – a true community cooperative is what we now want to build”, explains Webb.


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.


And what does the future hold for Black Prince Estates ?

“it`s not a secret”, says Webb, “just wait and see”.


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.