Foot bridge to grand L’Acadie
as seen on WineAlign
Time, tides and wine. In a place like the Bay of Fundy, the three intertwine with nearly inexplicable lightness of being. The traveler covets these things in wistful retrospection. East coast movement, water and the new frontier for viniculture. “Each day the tides carried us to promulgate layovers, to begin flowing again each seriate day, at the hour of its reversal.”
Related – The tides that bind: East Coast swing
The wineries of the Annapolis Valley are few and yet not very far between. It feels as though you could tread, sans automobile, to Lightfoot & Wolfville, over Benjamin Bridge, back to Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards and up the hill to L’Acadie Vineyards. Foot bridge to grand L’Acadie. All in a day’s walk.
While the exercise of a vinous walking tour would seem to fitly tread the boards of Nova Scotia’s watery ways, even more so for stations achieved by bicycle, a car makes possible the desire to learn more in less time. The roads in Nova Scotia wine country lay out as an inferential and navigable labyrinth, in the Gaspereau Valley and along the shores of the Minas Basin, from Wolfville to Grand-Pré of King’s County. There, unbeknownst to who knows how many zonked global winos, the wines of Nova Scotia not so much hide as crouch. They are a real, new deal, fervidly expensive to those who don’t yet understand them, free to those who do. They are poised to join the ranks along with Canada’s best.
Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley
Peter Gamble has reached out a major hand to three essential facets for Nova Scotia’s wine renaissance. His consultancy has raised the profile and the bar for Sparkling wine from Benjamin Bridge Vineyards. He has been instrumental in the creation of the provincial appellative blend Tidal Bay, a regionally defining and commercially essential white wine. Ontario has fallen behind in not seeking out to create the same. Gamble’s work with the vinifera producing wines of Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards is the single most important revolution to happen in the Canadian wine industry in 20 years. I wrote this last summer. “What he will touch in his new appointment at Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards will make Nova Scotia history.”
Over the course of two days in late July I foraged through a second annual investigation into the Wines of Nova Scotia. It began with a tasting through the Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards portfolio led by Hanspeter Stutz. The estate’s Vintner’s Reserve Riesling 2013 was recently awarded one of three Awards for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines at the recent Lieutenant Governor’s Vice-Regal Wine Awards. The other two winners were Blomidon Estate Winery Cuvée L’Acadie 2010 and Avondale Sky Winery Martock 2012. Blomidon and Avondale Sky are two estates at the top of my WONS bucket list I have yet to visit.
Post anything but haste tasting with HansPeter dinner then followed at the estate’s incomparable Le Caveau Restaurant, in the company of L & W’s Mike, Jocelyn and Rachel Lightfoot, with Chef Jason Lynch manning the stoves.
The following morning I sat down with Rachel and winemaker Josh Horton at Lightfoot, then travelled shotgun with Mike to taste at Bruce Ewart’s L’Acadie Vineyards. The estate’s Cuvée Rosé 2011 was awarded a Silver medal and the Vintage Cuvée 2012 a Bronze at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC15). We then paid a visit to Benjamin Bridge to peruse a Sparkling meets still appraisal with head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and vineyard manager Scott Savoy.
Smell the slate and taste the natatory saliva, like liquid shells from the grape that transmits nascent maritime theology. Consider this variety that accentuates the terroir and reaches beneath the mud, to imagined aquifers for deep-rooted flavour
L’Acadie the grape variety harbours one of the great acidity secrets on the planet. Sparkling wine is possessive of dramatic excellence in Nova Scotia. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are moments away from certain greatness.
“The wines of Nova Scotia could not be drunk in the 1990’s. None of them.” These are the words of a now very proud Hanspeter Stutz, who in 1993 purchased the estate and re-planted 30 acres. The doors opened in 2000. In can be argued that no one in Nova Scotia has accomplished more and furthered the credibility of hybrid-produced wines than Hanspeter and (winemaker-son) Jürg Stutz.
Imagine lime as a tide, ripening in extreme oscillating waves and layers like the highs and lows of Fundy’s Minas Basin. Only a dike could stop the citrus from rising and falling twice at normal sipping speed within the time it takes to assess through a glass. Lactic and piercing with a finish that pops, like no other Riesling in the world. Such a lingering finish. Healthy in correct perspective at 11 per cent alcohol. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted July 2015
Hanspeter’s favourite wine is this blend of L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Ortega, Muscat and Vidal Blanc. Using the maximum allowable 15 per cent Muscat Hanspeter explains the choice to “do fruity, with our strength and to a dry finish.” Muscat acts as the catalyst to achieve this end. At 11 per cent abv it is not overdone, remains in balance and leads the Tidal Bay armada. Defines terroir within a properly determined fragrant framework specific to the Nova Scotia appellative intention. Rocks no boats and expresses more character than a rhyme with bucket or most. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015
The DGP equivalent of Chasselas along the Lake Geneva shoreline, straightforward, 12 per cent alcohol juicy, pure white simplicity. For those who would pin this hybrid to “empty cold and bare,” open your mind and conceptualize Seyval to be fish friendly to a Swiss degree. Terrific lemon acidity and smoke on the water bitters put this in perfect mind of place, with good length. White flames to deep purple. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
A smoky, unambiguous tobacco kiln and blueberry Baco. Sour cherry, salumi and pepper infuse the vina da tavola feel and like Syrah goes as meaty as can be. Refreshing because it smacks of Baco Noir, not oak. Rad sour finish. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted July 2015
The crossroads varietal happening is on display here with Cinsault and a member of the native North American Vitis ruprestis family (by Pierre Castel). Four to five thousand bottles of peppery black run off convey a taste of pickled black raspberries, cut by major chalk and minor tannin. Juicy and ready for roast game. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015
Only made in top vintages (when Cabernet Sauvignon ripens) and in those years the Foch welcomes the bones and body, for ageability in accord with agreeability. Travels from Cassis to tar, chocolate to sour cherry. Chalk again, this time in grains of liquid sand and a pepper-laced finale. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015
Without the parenting role performed by Cabernet Sauvignon the Foch abandons the homestead and goes it alone. Kind of ironic considering the vinifera is the guest but old world pedigree and custom is hard to replicate. A mix of lead pencil, a curtailment of fruit and fermentation by attrition. A wild ride of savoire verte, tar and resilient verity. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
And I quote. “This blended red wine was created in honour of Tom Preston. Tom was probably the longest-serving field hand in the Nova Scotia wine industry. His career at Grand Pré placed him near the center of its remarkable growth; as witness, contributor and mentor to those who tend the vineyards today. Tom passed away in 2014 only two years after his retirement from the vineyards.” This 1300 bottle debut tribute consolidates 60 per cent Marquette from two vintages with Baco Noir and Cabernet Foch. The second encomium will go under another moniker. A blend that softens in simpatico, ripens with one another and pitches in together. There is cure in its depth with red plum on the road to palate. Quite the coat of veneer. All red fruit, incumbent acidity and red lactic citrus circulating throughout. To Tom. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015
From Warner Vineyards in Lakeville, Nova Scotia. Barrel fermented and aged in American oak for 10 months. Incredible acidity on top of pure fruit that indicates pear and white fleshed peach. The yield comes from an orchard’s northern clime stone groove with nary an apricot in mind. This wine, as with the table whites and reds, never takes itself too seriously. In the words of Hanspeter “just have fun and work on it. That’s a start.” Drink 2017-2025. Tasted July 2015
“Tirage and terroir,” asserts Bruce Ewart, a pile of vineyard rocks and stones separating he and I on the tasting counter between us. The rocks are quarried out of slopes in the Gaspereau Valley spilling down towards the Bay of Fundy, from vineyards built of glacial till in the soil mixed with clay and loam. “Mineral flavours from mineral soils,” adds Ewart. Then we taste.
L’Acadie is the signature grape of the L’AV command. When sourced from clay-loam it produces fruitier wines, from still to sparkling. The mineral increases from out of the glacial till. L’Acadie is certified organic and all of their wines are made with 100 per cent Nova Scotia grapes.
Bruce goes straight for the critical jugular and pulls out the best Sparklers in his portfolio. Make no mistake, no matter the hybrid content, the wines are cogent sticks of Nova Scotian dynamite with unprecedented levels of balance. They are as unheralded as any in North America. The only other house with less attention yet paid to its méthode traditionnelle programme that I have encountered is Sparkling Pointe on the North Fork of Long Island. Yet another example for a cool-climate region’s reason to make bubbles.
From the second harvest (following the 2008 vintage was from 2005 fruit) of the certified organic vineyard, a south facing Gaspereau Valley rocky plot blessed of ancient geology, like crushed pills of polar pottery and with perfect natural low vigour conditions. That first vintage of some 100 odd bottles still rests and will do so for likely up to seven or eight years. The 2009 is made in the traditional method and aged for five years on the lees. All estate fruit and that 60 months is needed to bring about harmony. Toasty, part cruller, part panettone and brut to the point of profundity (was six and is now 3 g/L of residual sugar). Bitters melt into length with alcohol set at 11.6 per cent. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted July 2015
A Cuvée cut with a bowie from grower’s fruit on clay-loam soils with less triage (24 months) than the other sparklers in the L’Acadie oeuvre. A fruit forward expression, persistent in biscuit baking but the result is more cookie than croissant. Reads like an eight line poem, the higher dosage (8 g/L) in drama of orchard fruit and lime zest. Hunky dory bubbles, “the key to the city, is in the sun that pins the branches to the sky, oh, oh, oh.” Drink 2015-2019. Tasted July 2015
Blends dramatically early-picked Marechal Foch (40 per cent) with less antecedent specific to bubbly-grown L’Acadie (60) grapes. The Foch brings can/rasp/strawberry to the system of sparkling reckoning, in subject meaning for the latter to chastise with acidity. Comes to light like a new sparkling day, an awakening of bubbles senses, with a balanced attack of fruit flavours ushered within the pressured caisson of L’Acadie’s mineral chamber. Salinity, brine, sapidity and red citrus roll on. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015
An early picked Marechal Foch, lithe 11.6 per cent alcohol, crushed berry beauty. Terrific aridity, aromatic allure and redundant in nix of residual sugar. Another nerdy, essential example of what can be done with Rosé in Nova Scotia. Cranberry and strawberry expressed through citrus with the always necessary mineral balance provided by L’Acadie, in every reason, for harmony. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015
Here the mineral and bone in till from the strong, outstretched arm of the sea lends sentient clarity, joined by the earth it bares. Smell the slate and taste the natatory saliva, like liquid shells from the grape that transmits nascent maritime theology. Consider this variety that accentuates the terroir and reaches beneath the mud, to imagined aquifers for deep rooted flavour. Think about vines that delve into the glacial recesses to divine subaqueous locution. As a hybrid L’Acadie may seem obtuse but as a Nova Scotian reality it may as well be Muscadet, or even Chablis. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015
A Ripasso-style red made from 30 per cent dried grapes. An intriguing approach for hybrids and cool climate viticulture. Marechal Foch and Leon Millot are aged in American oak. The discerning is of dried figs and prunes, foxy and slick. Characterful, like duck prosciutto and dried, sour cherry liquorice, spiked by fennel seed and dipped into a pool of savoury syrup. Very interesting. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
Here the Ripasso steps up to Appassimento. In 2009 the work was performed with 75 per cent Leon Millot and 25 Luci Kuhlmann aged for 24 months in American oak. The 100 per cent methodology in 2012 in the 500 mL bottle is all Foch and nothing but. Leads to a deeper brood, of rich, chocolate flavour melted and hardened over blackberry and a wild hit of sauvage. Intense red smouldering with tobacco and finishing in pulsating fashion, like currants on steroids. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015
Jean Benoit Deslauriers, along with viticulturalist Scott Savoy leads Mike Lightfoot and I through a transaction of Sparkling and still wines in the BB portfolio. Deslauriers offers a concise dissertation on phenolic maturity as a journey incarnate, out of the Gaspereau Valley’s long growing season, mitigated by the east west corridor. He talks on moisture vs heat and the dichotomy of swelling berries. “Its not California here” he says with a wry smile and I can tell he’s pleased with his winemaking lot in life. Here it’s real, tapping into hang time, phenolics and utterly eccentric levels of dry extract.
Even if it’s not the first Bridge record, a milestone moment is here in this the last wine with hybrid contents (within this particular BB program). Though it houses 10 per cent Chardonnay and 10 per cent Pinot Noir, the remainder (80) is Seyval Blanc, L’Acadie Blanc and Vidal. At this Brut level it’s so very bluesy and deceptive in consideration that it is a hybrid based wine, but at the sensory level, miles beyond and a whole other matter. The tempo is furious, the muscularity of tone like bebop in chorus. It has citrus fleshed, aromatically autolytic patisserie and caramelizing onion richness. It’s a searing, raging scintillant, still throbbing and thriving. There is so much grapefruit here in crazy intensity. Work with it and the toast, the brioche and the baking spices come out, come clean and linger. Drink 2015-2023. Tasted July 2015
Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2004, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $95.00, WineAlign)
The ’04 is hanging in beautifully, on a wire of impossible balance, at 11 years old not yet really transitioning. There is simply too much brightness for it to give up its youth. You have to strain your ears, nose and throat to assuage just a hint at oxygen, life affirming breaths and then a keener sense of toast and yeast. Still behold the grapefruit, a sign of remarkable adolescence, the hang time amplified and in mass hyperbole here, in this current appraisal, address and time. How can richness act and display with such alpha freshness? How can an aging body not shed baby weight, turn lanky, lean and awkward? How is it neither the bitter pill of juvenility or senility has been swallowed? That is not the case here in a Blanc de Blancs which still has five to seven years of very active life ahead. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted July 2015
Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $74.95, WineAlign)
From dry extracts that were off the charts, the ’08 comes to play with massive intensity. A unique Co2 effervescence, expansive instead of contracting. A wine of palate sensory driven speculation and assessment. Unrelenting mousse, exploding outwards, persisting straight through to the finish. Richness matches the foundation of freshness, with a full citrus fruit palate. Density from super low yields (a decadent tonne per acre, 1/6th of champagne) in another cool year, or in other words, “a vintage of opportunity.”
From my earlier note of July 2014:
The 2008 Brut Reserve is composed of 61 per cent Chardonnay and 39 Pinot Noir. If any wine in the Benjamin Bridge continuum defines the legacy left behind by Raphaël Brisebois and passes the sparkling torch to Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, this ’08 is it. Here is the vintage that begins to emulate the grower’s Champagne of the motherland, in deeper learning, understanding and connection to the estate’s vineyards. At present this is such an infant, reductive and with a blowzy palate that suggests a fidgety, elemental state. The attack is in burgeoning mousse. After spitting, the wine persists, as if there remains a mouthful, causing the cheeks to expand. The citrus is weighty in texture and this ’08 goes deeper than the previous Brut reserves. Three years will be required to allow for a settling and 20 years lay further ahead for secondary, tertiary and quaternary development.
Last tasted, at the winery, July 2015
Derived from veritas, the Latin word for truth. If Tidal Bay is an appellative Nova Scotia blend that walks from the sea, Vēro is the Bridge’s worthy adversary that emerges from the land. This vintage is composed of 35 per cent Chardonnay, 10 Sauvignon Blanc, 15 Riesling, 20 Ortega and 20 Vidal. It appeals with an increase of ore and aridity, despite and in spite of 17 g/L of residual sugar. It is a formidable, linear, focused, 11 per cent alcohol straight shooter. Hybrids speak in foxy white linen and lace. A striking and popping white blend. Quite wild, really. 500 cases made. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
As in the forward ’14, this ’13 is again built on the foundation of freshness and the highest of aromatic components. Percentages are (60) Chardonnay, (30) L’Acadie and (10) Riesling, the latter of which is noticeable, adding petrol and terpene to the still beating, vibrant palate. Compounded by full flesh on viscous mouthfeel. Has a natural, nearly oxidative feel just beginning to happen so it behooves to ask if these are the wines that define idealism as adversary to the stylistic Tidal Bay way? Finishes with terrific bitters and a L’Acadie oyster shell coarseness. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted July 2015
A Nova Scotia first, this blush made from 100 per cent Cabernet Franc. The minerality comes straight from stone, sans flint, and the epigrammatic aromatic notion is saucissons and rillettes, not wild berry. Simulacrum to a Loire Valley format, like Chèvre on a log after a forest rainstorm. Stone age Breton on exhibit. Salinity and aridity in spite of its meagre 7 g/L RS. Bright, fresh and vivid tones are wrapped up in the enigma of very cool climate grown Cabernet Franc. Sea and brine entrammel the flavours. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
There is really no vintage in, vintage out agenda on a journey to categorical dryness for Nova 7, so it is thrown like caution to the Fundy wind and fermented at lower temperatures. The risk road taken preserves the Co2, which stays in the solution instead of leaving, thanks to the cool temperatures. Terpenes, phenols and esters remain. Low alcohol (8 per cent), elevated (80 g/L) RS, aromatics and effervescence are the amalgamated result. A unique wine out of an extreme environment, this is a plainly, nearly painfully mother humming cliffhanger from Benjamin Bridge. Beautifully waxy, of a pink aridity, brightness, fresh acidity with a dry finish, in as much as such a level of sweetness can allow. Will stay fresh, age and linger for five to seven years, easy. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted July 2015
Natural challenges, winter temperatures in the -20 range, late frosts, hurricanes. Welcome to growing grapes in Nova Scotia. And yet Lightfoot & Wolfville is producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Mike Lightfoot attributes vine survival to nutritional balance in the natural systems through organic and biodynamic viticulture.
The pioneering activities do not end there. L & W has also added 4.5 acres of rare and classic vinifera to their “Corton” Oak Island vineyard. Chenin Blanc, Scheurabe, Sauvignon Blanc, Kékfrankos just to name a few. “These grapes were chosen based on climate and soil chemistry,” with the future in mind, for sparkling, still, and sweet wines.
These are the wines I tasted (from bottle and tank/barrel samples) in July with winemakers Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot.
A Muscat-less blend of Geisenheim, L’Acadie Blanc, Chardonnay and Chasselas with a directive to drive by aromatics if easy on the turns. A Tidal Bay borne on the architecture of spine, a step shy of sacra perfume. A white to pair with local necessity, a seafood marker, a buoy to the stock pot and the grill. Its release is imminent (the intention was between August 17th to 27th). Represents pure citrus distillate, in lemon and lime, with a median balancing action in 12 g/L of residual sugar, which really doesn’t show, no, not even close, though certainly the acidity balance helps (9 g/L of TA). Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015
Pinot-driven, of Noir and Pinot Meunier with tiny amounts of Geisenheim and Frontenac Rouge. Arid, rusty, simply and purposefuly pale red that emerges straight from the earth. Has a plasma sensation, with lemon and dry red earth. Natural feel. A cure of veal. More structured than even its makers are giving early credit for. A portal to the more ”serious” solo, mano a mano Pinot/Pinot to come. A hue and style originated and heading in the right direction. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
Welcome to the new Chardonnay ethos, an east coast compages for la belle nouvelle écosse, the new borderland for Canadian vinifera. The respite found in Lightfoot & Wolfville’s first release is like breathing for the first time. As I noted a year ago while tasting through (mostly older) barrel trials, I have unearthed a Canadian winery animated in the architectural rendering of Premier Cru Chablis. Full textured, creamy aromatics, layers of lace and luxe, popping acidity and with length stretched to service now and later. Approximately 135 cases made. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted July 2015
If de novo for Pinot Noir is to be found in Nova Scotia then count me in because the inaugural release from Lightfoot & Wolfville is the trailblazer for and from the extrinsic frontier. Tasting the painstakingly measured yet barely handled 2013 for the first time (from bottle) is like falling into a glass of Nova Scotia cherries. Somehow there is this simultaneous and virtual voyage abroad to imagine a comparison with Nuits-Saint-Georges, in its earth crusted, sanguine, welled up tension that begs questions and belies answers. A year yonder the taste from barrel and what can be said? Pinot Noir adjudicated, into a cortex of recognizable consciousness and thus into the natural Nova Scotia mystic. Ignore and forgive the dope of first returns, for no one could have imagined such ripeness and immediate gratification. Future releases will dial back in the name of structure. That said, in 2013 there is a red citrus, ferric debate that will send this to an exordium seven years down the road. Impossible inaugural release. Approximately 50 cases made. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted July 2015
Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling Blanc de Blancs 2012 (Sample)
Not yet disgorged with a plan for leaving them for five to seven years on the lees. From estate fruit (five year-old vines at the time) tanking in stainless, with no dosage. Full input charged citrus reminds of Brut Zero (i.e. Tarlant) in its classic, linear, straight pierce, dart to the heart. Needs lees texture for body which time will accord. Really classically styled.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling Blanc de Blancs 2012 (Second Sample)
Here the use of a small amount of oak. A slight bit of reductiveness (being employed as an idea going forward in defining a house style) shows up as smoke and flint. The triage leads to green apple and a different kind of citrus, with more body and warmth, partly in alcohol but more so elegance and a linger in this not so fleeting fizz.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay 2014 (Barrel sample)
Ripeness, of phenolic targets hit for the second year on a row. In 2014, marked a reduction experiment, from a brand new demi-barrel, seeking a covering up of the reductive qualities. An approach to amalgamate the best of both worlds.
Lightfoot & Wolfville Rosé 2014 (Tank Sample)
Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. An hour or two quick breaking of the skins on the press. Incredible aromatics, chewy, with a pepper kick, of an edge that will be smoothed over by a bit of residual in the finished wine. Just the right proper citrus ands a touch of animale. So special. Potential release is late September/Early October.
The recent releases of Lightfoot & Wolfville’s Tidal Bay and Rosé 2014 were met with much ado in the Halifax wine bars, just like the reception given the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay one month before. Naysayers (including some critics who have tasted these wines) want to burst the bubble, not because of truth but out of a closed mind set that will not allow for change, or evolution. The treatment in contempt of possibility is born of narrow, jaded vision. Despite the exceptional and opprobrious hurdles that climate places on vinifera and its attempted journey to phenolic ripeness, L & W, Benjamin Bridge, Domaine de Grand Pré and L’Acadie Vineyards are ripening grapes, beyond and along with winter-resistant hybrids. Advanced viticulture and winemaking prowess are primed for the new Nova Scotia millennium, on the new frontier. Pay a visit and see for yourself. Then get ready for a policy change of the mind.
Good to go!