We continue coverage of your favourite beverages. Fair trade coffee yesterday, and WINE today! The Nova Scotia wine industry is fascinating, because it’s young, growing rapidly, and really taking off. Everyone we talked to, both industry and non-industry alike, discussed the province’s wine future with a great sense of excitement and optimism.
The main difficulty of producing grapes in Nova Scotia is what you might expect: the growing season is very short. Almost too short to grow red grapes, according to someone I spoke with at Bishop’s Cellar. For this reason, it’s predominantly the white wines that are gaining favour, with the reds trailing shortly thereafter. The province’s wines are also relatively inexpensive due to the still-growing market—so it’s a good time to start building your domestic collection!
We visited three wineries while there: Jost, Gaspereau, and Luckett.
Jost Winery is both the largest and the longest running winery in Nova Scotia. When we arrived, we were initially confused by the sheer amount of animal noises we heard; we quickly realized that fake animal calls are one of their pest control tactics, a fact we found both hilarious and impressive. We visited the tasting room, and emerged big fans of the Maple dessert wine.
Chilled, it’s great on its own, but we also discovered it sweetens earl grey tea quite nicely (for when you are feeling particularly lush, or need a little something stronger in your morning cup).
Gaspereau Vineyard was the first winery to open up in the Gaspereau Valley, near Wolfville, NS. They won Atlantic Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2011, and recently ranked among the top 25 wineries in Canada, a huge accomplishment.
Their beautiful tasting room and shop opens right onto the vineyard, and sells a wide variety of boutique Nova Scotia products. Our favourites here were the Lucy Kuhlmann and the L’Acadie Blanc, a cold-hardy hybrid vine developed in Canada, and Nova Scotia’s signature grape.
Luckett Vineyards is Nova Scotia’s newest winery (also in the Gaspereau Valley) and the brainchild of one of the east coast’s sharpest entrepreneurs, Pete Luckett. Originally from England, Pete started doing business in Canada in 1979 with a successful produce stall at the Saint John City Market. In 1992, he sought new business ventures in Nova Scotia and started ‘Pete’s Frootique,’ a brand now basically synonymous with the Nova Scotia food scene. Pete’s Frootique is a boutique independent grocery store dedicated to selling local produce (including some of Pete’s own!), specialty foods, and ethnic cuisines.
Pete’s most recent venture is Luckett Vineyards, which he believes to be his true calling.
Luckett Vineyards is certainly distinctive. There is a British style phone booth in the middle of the vineyard where visitors are encouraged to make a free call anywhere in North America while perusing the vines. There is a tasting bar, and an open-air bistro pairing food with each of their wines. We happened to visit just after they had pressed some Ortega grapes, so we were fortunate enough to try the variety in its pre-fermentation stage. Post-fermentation, Luckett Ortega was my overall favourite Nova Scotia wine.
If you want to learn more about the wines from this region, pay a visit to the folks at Bishop’s Cellar in Halifax. They are knowledgeable, and they’ll be honest when it comes to navigating the many wines. Here is a list of just some of Nova Scotia’s best wines to get you started, as recommended by our own taste buds, and those of the immensely helpful staff at Bishop’s:
Jost – Maple Wine
Luckett – Phonebox White, Phonebox Red, Ortega
Benjamin Bridge - Nova 7 (Nova Scotia's best-seller), Tidal Bay
Avondale Sky – Tidal Bay
Blomidon – Tidal Bay
Gaspereau – L’Acadie Blanc, Lucy Kuhlmann, Muskat (praised by Kathy Jollimore as the best white in NS)
Petite Riviere Vineyards - Sable 2010 & Rissers Breeze 2012 (recommended by Karen Toews)
Most can be found at Bishop’s Cellar, but I suggest taking a drive through the countryside this summer, and picking up a few fermented mementos.