4 min

A love affair with Prince Edward County

Urbanites will enjoy a rural romp through charming towns and wine country

Head for Sandbanks Provincial Park and watch the sun set from the top of the dunes. Credit: Andrew John Virtue Dobson

Alexandre Fida wants you to fall in love with Prince Edward County.

On a visit to Toronto, the 27-year-old innkeeper from Bloomfield flashes an honest smile before gushing over grapes. We stand in the sun on my petite patio overlooking the Village, eager to pop open a bottle of his favourite County pinot noir, from Hubbs Creek Vineyard. Over the next two hours, as we swish and sip, he parades me through his past.

I first met Alexandre in the summer of 2011. On that particular day, I spent the afternoon skipping along the shores of Sandbanks Provincial Park with three of my best friends. After tending to our tans, we raced along rural roads to ensure a prompt arrival for a fancy feast. With an air of “beach bum desperation” we collectively attempted to pretty ourselves on the sidewalk. Mel perked her limp bangs, Erica glossed parched lips with a pucker, and Jonathan and I sought to empty our pockets of sand. The four of us burst out laughing before prancing gracefully into one of the County’s most charming fine-dining rooms.

The conversation at dinner revolved around our handsome server, who, with great poise, splashed buttery chardonnay in our glasses and carved a roast chicken tableside. “He’s so handsome! He knows his wine! When’s the last time you saw someone debone a hen with such grace? Is he gay?”

I’ll have to admit, as a dandy urbanite who enjoys rural romps on the regular, I have developed a farmyard fantasy that involves passionate love affairs with sexy gay gastronomes. It isn’t until months later that I discover Prince Edward County’s most attractive innkeeper plays on my team (be still, my heart).

Alexandre’s Austrian parents, Monika and Willi Fida, first moved to Prince Edward County in 1988. Before the family transplanted to rural Ontario, they lived in Toronto, where Chef Willi acted as a mentor to Marc Thuet and managed the kitchen brigades at the Sutton Place Hotel and the Harbour Castle. Alexandre reminisces about the move: “My parents were starting a young family. They already had one child with another on the way and wanted to raise their kids in a rural setting. They saw an ad in the Toronto Star and drove down to a remote part of Ontario to check it out.”

They drove past the Coach House Motel in Bloomfield and stopped to speak with the owners, a German couple, who just weeks later would sell the property to the Fidas. They renamed the property Angeline’s, a nod to the original builder who constructed the home in 1869. “My parents were running the inn before Prince Edward County was a hub for wine tourism,” Alexandre says. “They loved their life out here; it was a great place to grow up.”

Seven years ago, he was devastated by the sudden loss of his father. Keen to continue the family legacy, Alexandre (20 at the time) and his sister Melanie (18) took over the inn, adding a youthful and fresh perspective to the property’s bright future. Today, with Alexandre at the helm, Angeline’s boasts a whimsical redesign that reads hip and cool, a menu refresh that celebrates local producers and a solid reputation in the community as a hub for hospitality.

Visitors driving through the County this summer keen to experience Angeline’s firsthand should stop by The Hubb Eatery, where bistro-style small plates, classic cocktails and an extensive local wine list inspire daily. For those looking to enjoy an extended vacation, Angeline’s offers five luxurious suites in the main house, nine economy units in The Walter, which Alexandre describes as “retro aesthetic inspired revival,” and two cottages, which each offer 800 square feet of breezy beauty.

Before Alexandre hops in his car to zoom back to the County, I press him to share his favourite local haunts. Here are your Prince Edward County essentials:

The dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park: Grab a couple glasses and a bottle of your favourite local wine and watch the sun set from the top of the sand dunes.

Shopaholics looking for chic cottage housewares should pay a visit to Kokito, in Bloomfield. Owners Shelly and Jen have great taste and a good eye for Canadian design inspired by lakeside living.

After a one-year hiatus, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, a 20-minute drive east of Picton, is up and running again! Everyone in the County is excited (as are fromage fans in the city). Alexandre suggests popping by to procure the perfect picnic. He recommends the soft sheep’s milk brie Counting Sheep, best served with fresh focaccia and pickled vegetables.

The Bloomfield Bicycle Company offers rentals to explore PEC’s award-winning vineyards. Alexandre suggests pedalling along Closson Road as it offers the highest density of wineries. Favourites include The Old Third (which offers a fine pinot noir and the new Golden Russet Cider, produced using traditional methods), Closson Chase (famous for its chardonnay and petite art gallery housed in a barn) and The Grange (one of the prettiest and most scenic wineries in the region).

You haven’t visited PEC in the summer unless you’ve paid a visit to Slickers Ice Cream. On a hot day, the iconic sweet shop regularly has a line snaking down Bloomfield’s Main Street. Be sure to sample Slickers’ two signature scoops: Campfire Cream, featuring burnt marshmallows, and Apple Pie.

For those looking for a party, be sure to drop by The Hayloft on Saturday nights, just south of Sandbanks. The bar has been around for over 35 years and is a local dance tradition, playing top 40, hip-hop, country and everything in between. Alexandre says with a smirk, “It’s a barn with a bar and a dancefloor.”