Atlantic Canada’s best-kept wine-lovers’ secret
May is wine festival month in Charlottetown. The thick pastel blue lick of ice that covers the Charlottetown harbor all winter long will have broken up and melted, revealing the sharp blue water of the bay and Winter River; the first tentative buds will have begun pressing their way up out of the moist earth and branches of the city’s many trees, and food and wine enthusiasts who are in the know will be packing their bags and heading to Prince Edward Island to fill their lungs with fresh salty air, stroll along pristine red sandy beaches and enjoy the island’s bustling cultural and culinary scene. Following right on the heels of PEI Burger love—an entire month where the Island’s restaurants feature the most creative and eclectic selection of gourmet beef burgers you have ever tasted, The Savour Food & Wine Show and the Festival of Wines kick off a steady chain of culinary events and festivals that carry on straight through the summer and fall, culminating with the PEI Fall Flavours Festival and the PEI International Shellfish Festival in September, and Porktoberfest in October.
But May is all about the wine and local foods that complement it. This year’s wine celebrations begin with the PEI Restaurant Association’s 4th annual Savour Food and Wine Show on the evening of May 23rd. The show is held in Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts and highlights local wineries and distilleries, and the talents of some of the island’s best-known sommeliers and chefs. The Savour Food & Wine Show’s VIP reception affords a few select visitors the chance to sip, savour, mingle and enjoy some live music before the main doors open. Tickets to the Savour Food and Wine Show can be purchased at www.confederationcentre.com.
For visitors who plan to linger on the Island for a few more days (and we highly recommend you do), Prince Edward Island’s largest wine-tasting event, the Festival of Wines, is May 24th-25th. Each year the festival organizers choose one specific wine-producing region to feature. This year’s festival, which will highlight over 225 wines from 12 countries (including wines from Prince Edward Island’s 3 wineries – Matos, Rossignol and Newman Estate) will be featuring French wine.
The first day of the Festival of Wines begins with a Surf and Turf buffet at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino’s Top of Park Restaurant at 5pm. The meal features an Island prime rib Carvery, a wide selection of Island Seafood, a glass of wine, an experience voucher plus a ticket to the New Festival of Wines show next door at the Charlottetown Civic Centre.
After supper guests can head next door for the first night of wine tasting and another amazing menu prepared by Red Shores Racetrack & Casino’s Chef Andrew Smith. Saturday evening’s offerings feature more exquisite wines and a menu that will please every palette prepared by Redwater Rustic Grille’s Chef Jane Crawford. After a full evening of wining and dining, festival attendees can take advantage of a free shuttle service that will run between downtown Charlottetown, the Charlottetown Civic Centre, and the Hotel on Pownal —the festival’s featured Hotel—all night long.
In addition to the diverse selection of wines, the festival will also feature Cow’s Cheese and a selection of PEI’s world-famous shellfish. And if you are looking for a bottle of wine to take home and savour later you can pick one up at the event’s onsite Wine Boutique. Tickets to the Festival of Wines can be purchased at www.peiwinefest.com.
There are three ways to get to PEI: by ferry, by bridge or by plane. The ferry and plane (providing it is not cloudy!) free you up to enjoy the gradual (and dramatic) approach to the island, but if you are a bridge aficionado you should definitely take the bridge: at 12.9km (8 miles) long, it is the currently the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water.
Charlottetown has a superb selection of hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts within easy walking distance of the downtown core. To learn more visit www.discovercharlottetown.com.