Merrill House: Prince Edward County inn, Ontario Wine Region

Merrill House, located in the small town of Picton in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, is a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Toronto. The Prince Edward County inn is a draw for those who want to explore the area, and enjoy a little R&R.

The ‘county,’ as it is known affectionately, is chock-a-block with charm, history, and vineyards. It’s a popular getaway spot for city folks and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. These include boating and water sports on the Bay of Quinte or Lake Ontario. Plus, you can poke around antique shops, buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets, and sample vintages at more than 30 wineries.

If you are looking for a Prince Edward County inn, the area’s accommodations come in many varieties. But, if you are searching for luxurious, quirky character with a dash of local color, you’ll find it abounds at Merrill House.

Exterior of Merrill House in Prince Edward County.

From the outside, the Prince Edward County inn looks like a rather grand gingerbread Gothic Revival home. Inside, it is full of surprises.  Fossils, framed insect collections, and bold designs greet the eye at every turn.

Originally built as a home for Judge Edwards Merrill in 1878, Merrill House is now owned by Jordan Martin de Rosales. De Rosales has lived around the world, but he returned here, to the area he grew up,  to start his dream project a few years ago. 

The inn has been a labor of love. De Rosales has been careful to preserve many of the building’s original features including the sweeping front staircase and elegant wood-burning fireplaces. The décor is playful and eclectic, a whimsical mix of past and present.

Merrill House front salon.

 

There are 14 guest rooms in Merrill House, and all have unique themes. Many reflect the region’s history. The Loyalist Suite celebrates the United Empire Loyalists who settled here around 250 years ago. Another one, the Marchioness of Lorne Suite, is named after Princess Louise who was the Vicereine (wife of the viceroy) of Canada in 1878.

Walk into the common spaces and you’ll see modern art mixed with antiques and curiosities. There’s even a bust of Merrill.

On the top floor is a guest accommodation called the Owner’s Suite with a sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom. It has slanted, dormer ceilings, skylights, and Arts and Crafts-inspired wallpaper filled with hunters, stags, and castles.

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Here’s a shot of the bedroom.

Owner's Suite bedroom.

On the second floor, you’ll see a display of pictures honoring Prince Edward County from the original owner’s era. The main floor features large abstract paintings by Iranian artist Roshanak. The custom furniture was supplied by Spanish designer Houtique.

Go down to the lower level and you’ll find the restaurant. Take a look at the walls and you’ll see they are lined with hundreds of wine bottles tucked into temperature-controlled shelving. Chef Michael Sullivan helms the kitchen and the menu features dishes with locally sourced ingredients including Ontario beef and lamb. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Saturday and offers two seatings. Reservations are recommended.

Merrill House is the sort of Prince Edward County inn where you might want to cocoon. Curl up with a book in front of the fireplace or indulge in afternoon tea with tasty sandwiches, pastries, and even a glass of bubbly. Curious to learn a few facts about this Victorian custom? English etiquette coach Helen Field is available, for a fee, to share quirks about the ceremony.

If you are feeling a little more active, you can book a private yoga session with a local instructor. There is also a little barrel sauna located at the side of this Prince Edward County inn. Guests who have remembered to pack their bathing suits can ask the concierge to turn on the heat. Give or take 20 minutes in the compact wooden cylinder and all your knots will have melted away.

Breakfast fruit bowl with yogurt.

If you’d like to partake in breakfast, make sure you let them know when you make your booking since reservations are required. It’s worth it. You will be served fresh-squeezed orange juice and aromatic French press coffee. There is also fruit salad, fresh baked croissants.  Mains include items such as avocado toast, topped with a poached egg, pancakes, or eggs, sausage, and bacon.

Since the county is known as a burgeoning wine region, you might want to learn about it from an expert. Your best bet is to schedule a private tasting session with Merrill House wine director, Astrid Young. A wealth of information, she will lead you through tastings of local Riesling, chardonnays, pinot noirs, and cabernet Francs. Swish the vintages in your mouth and you’ll be able to distinguish aromatic and flavor nuances, from grassy and dry to round, soft, and earthy.

Astrid Young doing pouring wine for tasting.

The inn’s wine bar is open Sunday and Monday, 4-8 pm, with walk-ins only.

Whether you want a hub to explore the county from here, or to just stay put in quiet, quirky luxury, Merrill House fits the bill. Room rates range from $245-$550 CND. Breakfast is extra. Go to Expedia or Booking.com to see if they offer a better rate.

Inn feature by Toronto-based travel writer Maureen Littlejohn. Photos © Maureen Littlejohn. Merrill House arranged my stay for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

 

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