Keint-he, just outside of Wellington is an easy stop when you're in Prince Edward County. The tasting room, surrounded by one of their three vineyards, opens up to a patio with a brilliant view onto Lake Ontario. Keint-he (pronounced kent-hay) is named after an original Iroquois settlement in the area. The winery was started by Ron Rogers in 2006 with 2007 being the first vintage. There are now 28 acres of vineyards planted in the County on limestone-rich soils producing wine that is bottled under the 'Portage' label. Keint-he also sources fruit from vineyards in Niagara (including the great Fox Croft Vineyard), which is bottled as 'Voyageur'. The winery is still quite small, with production under 10,000 cases. Much of their viticultural practices (including the vineyard site selections) are guided by what the Burgundians do and, as you'd expect, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the flagship grapes. Keint-he also grows Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier and St. Laurent, they source Riesling from the Vinemount Ridge VQA in the Niagara Escarpment.
Since 2012, New Zealander Ross Wise has been the winemaker. He's worked at Felton Road, the highly revered Central Otago winery which is a benchmark for New World Pinot and Chardonnay. I'm excited to see more of the upcoming releases where Wise has had a hand throughout the entire production.
It's no surprise that Keint-he's Pinot Noirs are delicious. The 2011 'Portage' Pinot Noir is made from Prince Edward County fruit - a blend of the three estate vineyards. The pale colour and 12.1% alcohol gives you a good idea of what to expect. The style is delicate and pretty with zingy raspberry fruit, a touch of smokiness and a minerally finish. The lower alcohol and bright acidity make for a very refreshing Pinot. The 2012 'Voyageur' Pinot Noir, made with fruit from three vineyards in Niagara, is darker and riper, yet still restrained. There are characters of strawberries and ripe cherries with baking spice and a slight earthiness.
Keint-he's wines offer fantastic value. Many of the labels are available for less than $20, which is great news for wine drinkers.
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.