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Hubb's Elliot Reynolds tells me, when I call him over to rave about the chicken, 'That's the advantage of knowing all the farmers.' As a joke, I ask if the chicken had a name. Following the lead of nearby Niagara, Prince Edward County now has dozens of independent wineries trying to scratch out a decent vintage in defiance of the harsh winters.

Locals loyally insist the wines are terrific, and in truth some are not at all bad, but on the whole one is reminded of Samuel Johnson's dictum that it is 'like a dog walking on its hind legs.

It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.' Over a tasting at the 'When I went to Burgundy on holiday in the 1990s, I couldn't believe the quality of the wine coming out of those tiny vineyards, and when I found out the whole of Prince Edward island is on limestone - which is what Burgundy is known for - I decided to give it a go.' But growing grapes in Canada is, as Gallagher says, 'a brutal exchange of wills between man and nature.' It takes five weeks to 'hill up' before winter, which is to bury the vines under soil to protect them from the cold, and another five to remove the earth in spring.

I find an extreme example of this when I meet up with a friend of a friend, Shannon Kyles, a flame-haired whirlwind of a woman and a professor of architecture, who has recently moved house. Six years ago, Kyles was contacted by the owner of a Georgian cottage in Ancaster, Ontario, which was about to be demolished, and was asked if there was anything she wanted to salvage. Some of the wood was so wet you could push a finger through it.'All the same, Kyles took the lot and, with the help of her students, labelled every salvageable piece, and had it all flat-packed and stored until she could pinpoint the perfect setting.

From here you can stand atop a cliff, surveying a panorama of ferries and boats navigating a maze of waterways snaking lazily towards the , a deserted cove reached along a path half-hidden in the bushes.

Here the water is a rich, deep blue, and the grey stones that divide it from the bright green rushes have a Zen-like smoothness.

In autumn, the woods were ablaze with bright oranges and deep reds, as though swept by a benign forest fire.

Yet in all those years I'd never been to Prince Edward County, an island on the edge of Lake Ontario where it now seems all my friends, grown-up and with kids of their own, escape each summer; a sleepy, secret place where it's possible to roll back the decades to a simpler, kinder time.