Once a rural pocket of fruit farmers, hobby fishermen and cottage-goers, Ontario’s Prince Edward County has undergone a radical reinvention over the past decade. The vast crumbling barns and sleepy towns – perched enticingly by beach-fronted lakes or rolling fields – have been spruced up and hipster-ified. Weekending couples from Toronto, two hours west, come to raid its cute antique shops, sip sours at its breweries and feast on wood-fired pizzas in its glut of cool restaurants.
They also come to drink wine. Elegant, Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Quirkier Baco Noir and Marechal Foch. Trendy pét-nat, piquette and orange bottles. All these, and more, are now produced by roughly 40 small scale Prince Edward County wineries. Some are only a few years old and most have an experimental mindset.
After all, a pioneering spirit is what’s needed when you’re growing at the cusp of the viticultural world. In the County winters are so cold that vines must be buried below earth each autumn, just to survive.
A place to stay
It was only a matter of time until the region’s accommodation scene caught up with the winemaking. The opening of Wander the Resort in 2020 on the banks of scenic West Lake signalled new levels of sophistication. A step above the surrounding friendly mom-and-pop B&Bs and the funky renovated motels, this stay does glam to a global standard.
That’s not to say that Wander the Resort doesn’t feel local. In many ways, it’s as Canadian as resorts come. The 10 stand-alone cabins, each sleeping up to five, come with cosy wood burners and kitchens so you can self-cater.
In summer, there are marshmallow bonfires, canoe rides on the lake and family barbecues in view of a communal pool. In winter, under a blanket of snow, there are steams in barrel saunas and poaches in a hot tub.
What’s different about Wander, however, is that the typical Canadiana kitsch has been ditched. So there are no red plaid sofas, dull brown woods or stuffed deer heads here. Instead, expect Nordic-style sleek interiors, earthy handmade pottery from nearby Ye11ow Studio, rattan pendant lights and premium soy candles from County Candle Co.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there. Your cabin’s deck has a personal bonfire, lit automatically each morning for you to enjoy alongside breakfast. Rooms come stocked with Polaroid cameras and film so you can capture your memories romantically, in analogue.
Service is personalised and discreet, with most communications carried out by text. Even check-in takes place in the comfort of your cabin via a few taps of your phone. The first (and, should you wish, only) interaction with a staff member will be when they turn up at your floor-to-ceiling glass door with a welcome glass of local fizz or beer.
Eat and drink local
Speaking of food and drink: Prince Edward County fare is, of course, championed. Staff can help stock cabins to bursting with wine from Closson Chase, locally sourced charcuterie boards and Cherry Bomb coffee, which is roasted down the road.
A new series of vinous dinners will bring the best of the region’s winemakers to the hotel for guided tastings. Most are located just a short drive away, if you want to visit.
There is much else in the pipeline. A new communal clubhouse area, opening this year, will host a bar, spa treatment rooms, film screenings, live music and cookery classes. Meditation, self-massage and yoga classes will form the basis of a complimentary wellness programme.
Finally a gift store lets you ‘shop your cabin’, so you can take home the fabulous own-brand smellies and other County goodies.
With so much to look forward to, the future of Wander the Resort is certainly looking bright. Much like that of Prince Edward County itself.