Following my overview of cool-climate Nova Scotia wine, here’s a look at a few of the wineries I visited.
Pete Luckett is known in the Maritimes as the owner of Pete’s Frootique and as a media personality. Since he specialized in produce, I guess it’s not so surprising he eventually turned to grapes. He opened his Gaspereau Valley winery in 2010, installing an iconic red phone booth (a nod to his British origins) in the middle of the vineyard. Visitors can apparently use it to call anywhere in North America.
Current winemaker Mike Mainguy graciously took us through a tasting of his favourite wines from their lineup. I say graciously because Mike had been bottling wine until midnight and had returned to the winery very early that morning, so he was running on little sleep (make no mistake–running a winery is an incredible amount of work!).
Since Mike joined the winery, Luckett has been narrowing their offerings to focus on fewer grapes. All the grapes are grown on site. We tried a creamy L’Acadie 2011, which had just a hint of the Hungarian oak where it spent 4 months. Lots of apple, pear, and citrus on the palate, and a bit of heat and spice. Mike said that he didn’t want to go overboard on the oak, and I think he succeeded. 2011 was a cool year, resulting in high acidity, which I think comes out well in this style of wine.
But my favourite was the Ortega 2011. This was my introduction to Ortega, a grape that’s popular in Germany and England. This one was floral and honeyed, with notes of peaches and apricot, yet a good acidity to keep things in balance.
Blomidon Estate Winery
Near Canning in the Annapolis Valley, Blomidon’s beautiful estate and winery was purchased by the current owners, the Ramey family, in 2007. They had they work cut out for them in restoring the winery’s reputation and quality. Judging by what I tasted, they have managed to do so, in less than five years.
We were greeted by winemaker Simon Rafuse, who was in the lab testing samples when we arrived. Before returning to his native Nova Scotia, Simon worked in Central Otago (New Zealand), Languedoc-Roussillon, and Alsace. His Alsace experience in particular showed in the Crémant 2010, Blomidon’s first release of a sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionelle style. The bubbles are softer than a typical sparkling wine and, combined with a hint of sweetness, a very fresh character, and relatively low alcohol (10%), make me think this would be a crowd pleaser. I enjoyed flavours of citrus, pear, and a hint of toast.
We were also the lucky tasters of Simon’s yet-to-be-released experiments with Chardonnay. Barrel-fermented in French oak, the 2010 Chardonnay is full of promise. Its lemon and lime, smoky, and spicy notes and fresh acidity are wrapped in a well-balanced, seductive package. Simon was careful to point out that they can’t make a wine like this every year: this wine was the result of a particularly warm vintage that yielded riper and more aromatic grapes than usual. In a cooler year, the Chardonnay would go into a sparkling wine.
I also enjoyed a 2011 Rosé made of Baco Noir, and the 2011 Tidal Bay, which was aromatic and floral, but a little cleaner and leaner than the other Tidal Bay wines I had tried so far.
I was excited when I heard that someone in Nova Scotia was doing Riesling, and in fact, Gaspereau is doing not just one, but three. Gaspereau is owned by the same family who owns the biggest winery in Nova Scotia, Jost. They opened this smaller winery in the Gaspereau Valley in 2004.
Winemaker Gina Haverstock was in the cellar filtering when we arrived, but came out to give us a tasting. Originally from Cape Breton, Gina worked in Austria, Burgundy, New Zealand, and Germany before returning to Nova Scotia. Her German training in particular was evident in the elegant Rieslings.
All three of their current Rieslings are made in an off-dry style. The Estate 2010 Riesling was fairly lean, with mineral and citrus notes and such high acid that it tasted dry. The other two are made with grapes bought from other vineyards. The Black Dogs 2010 Riesling was a bit richer than the others, with more of the residual sugar felt on the palate. The Warner 2011 Riesling had white pepper on the nose and was back to the leaner style, with lots of citrus on the palate.
I also enjoyed their Tidal Bay 2011, which was very refreshing with its juicy acidity, and the Lucie Kuhlmann 2008. It was my first time trying Lucie Kuhlmann, a red hybrid grape, and the taste was of fresh berries, earth, a bit of smoke, and spice in a smooth, light blend with high acidity.
Gaspereau had quite a diverse and impressive lineup, as did all the wineries we visited in Nova Scotia. It was interesting to see how each portfolio had its own personality, often informed by the background of the individual winemaker.