East coast swing 2015: Time, tides and wine

Oysters and Double Duck Fries at Le Caveau Restaurant, Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards

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.”

Courtyard of Le Caveau at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Courtyard of Le Caveau at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

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.

Le Caveau's Beef Two Ways, grilled AAA hanger steak, beef shank galette, seasonal vegetables, barley

Le Caveau’s Beef Two Ways, grilled AAA hanger steak, beef shank galette, seasonal vegetables, barley

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.

Le Caveau's Charcuterie Plate, house-made and locally sourced, served with chutney, shallot compote and spiced bread

Le Caveau’s Charcuterie Plate, house-made and locally sourced, served with chutney, shallot compote and spiced bread

Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards

“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.

Godello and Hanspeter Stutz at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Godello and Hanspeter Stutz at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Domaine de Grand Pré Riesling Vintner’s Reserve 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014 and Riesling Reserve 2013

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014 and Riesling Reserve 2013

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Seyval Blanc 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $17, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Baco Noir 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $18, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Castel Vintner’s Reserve 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

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

The reds of Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

The reds of Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Domaine de Grand Pré Cabernet Foch 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Foch Vintner’s Reserve 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Tom Tom NV, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

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

Domaine de Grand Pré Riesling Icewine 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $54.50, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards

“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.

Godello and Bruce Ewart of L'Acadie Vineyards

Godello and Bruce Ewart of L’Acadie Vineyards

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.

Glacial till stones of L'Acadie Vineyards

Glacial till stones of L’Acadie Vineyards

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.

Sparkling wines of L'Acadie Vineyards, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Sparkling wines of L’Acadie Vineyards, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

L’Acadie Vineyards Prestige Brut Estate 2009, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $45, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Vintage Cuvée 2012, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $26, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Cuvée Rosé 2011, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $26, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Rosé 2014, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Estate L’Acadie 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Passito 2012, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $23, WineAlign)

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

L’Acadie Vineyards Alchemy 2010, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $43, WineAlign)

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

Benjamin Bridge

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.

Tasting at Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Tasting at Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2008, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (381533, $49.95, WineAlign)

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

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013 and 2014

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013 and 2014

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22, WineAlign)

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

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22, WineAlign)

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

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

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

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

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

Lightfoot & Wolfville

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.

Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013 with a glass of soon to be released Rosé

Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013 with a glass of soon to be released Rosé

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 sneak peak at Lightfoot and Wolfville's Tidal Bay

A sneak peak at Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Tidal Bay

Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, Approx. $21-22, WineAlign)

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

Lightfoot & Wolfville Rosé 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, Approx. $18-20, WineAlign)

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

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40, WineAlign)

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

I see the light. Innaugaural releases of Lightfoot and Wolfville's Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013

I see the light. Innaugaural releases of Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40, WineAlign)

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!

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Consider the Gaspereau Valley

Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

No one gets us like we get ourselves. Not so long ago that statement still held more water than the combined towers in all of Canada’s small towns. Here’s another grandiloquent statement. Exceptional wine is made in British Columbia and in Ontario. The proverbial and parochial Canadian wine thinker is privy to that erudite credence, as are many global wine experts, but what of Nova Scotia? If you didn’t already know, Benjamin Bridge and more specifically, Peter Gamble have launched the revolution.

Related: The tides that bind: East Coast swing

Just past the mid-point of my July 2014 east coast swing there happened a planned yet improvisational reconnaissance with Gamble, Canada’s flying winemaker and A-team consultant. Gamble’s work with Stratus, Southbrook and Ravine Vineyards in Niagara, his partnership with Ann Sperling in B.C. and at Versado in Argentina are well documented. His work with Benjamin Bridge Vineyards is already the stuff of Canadian wine lore. What he will touch in his new appointment at Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards will make Nova Scotia history.

Godello, Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Proprietor Gerry McConnell

Godello, Consulting Benjamin Bridge Winemaker Peter Gamble and Proprietor Gerry McConnell/Godello, Benjamin Bridge Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Proprietor Gerry McConnell

I noted that “it is there, in the heart of the Gaspereau Valley, that the essence of Nova Scotia’s wine industry walks out from beneath the fog to reveal itself in an elongated moment of clarity.” I tasted with Gamble, Benjamin Bridge winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and proprietor Gerry McConnell at the Gaspereau Valley winery. The next day I toured the vineyards of Lightfoot & Wolfville with Peter, along with owners Mike and Jocelyn Lightfoot, as well as winemaker Josh Horton. We also tasted through barrels. Other visits and tastings were done at Gaspereau and Luckett Vineyards. After the visit with Lightfoot, I was duly impressed.

Nova Scotia is home for Peter Gamble. When Gerry McConnell invited him to assess the potential for making wine in the Gaspereau Valley, Peter insisted, without equivocation, that the concepts of Vinifera and Sparkling be the driving equation. McConnell always wanted to make Sauvignon Blanc so the first idea was a given. But Sparkling wine? In Nova Scotia?

Peter Gamble had more than just a hunch. The Gaspereau’s cold, yet specific micro-climate was perfectly suited to ripening Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic varieties that make up traditional method, Champagne-styled Sparkling wine. The grapes in the Valley could be developed and harvested with the right level of brix (sugars) and acidity, as well as pH. Though still wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc were less obviously suited to the climate, setting their place in Nova Scotia’s wine future had begun.

Hans Christian Jost was the first to plant in the Gaspereau Valley, in 1992-1993. Gerry McConnell bought his (seventh generation Westcott family) farm land in 1999. “We know what we don’t know and we don’t pretend to know what we don’t know,” admits McConnell. It was Gamble (recommended to McConnell by Jost) who sparked the idea of bubbles in 2000.

“Our mission was sparkling wines, world class,” says McConnell. They hired the late, great Champenois expert, oenologist Raphaël Brisebois to consult after Peter went to England for some collaborative discussion with Tom Stevenson, the British writer who many regard as the world’s leading authority on Champagne. Then in 2008, Jean (Lebron) Benoit Deslauriers was drafted from California on Raphaël’s recommendation.

McConnell wanted to plant all 50 acres “but I talked him down,” jokes (not) Peter. It took nearly 10 years but in 2010 they began to release what they considered to be their first (2004) crop of world-class Sparkling, a Brut Reserve and Blanc de Noirs.

Benjamin Bridge Vineyard

Benjamin Bridge Vineyard

So what makes Benjamin Bridge tick out of a region that resides in relative global obscurity? Number one, the river that runs through the valley doesn’t freeze; it’s a tidal flow. That water keeps the lower part of the vineyard safe, like a warm winter blanket. It conveys the moderating effect of the Bay of Fundy. Two, the soils are extreme in granulation, in rocks and stones under clay. Three, there is great air flow, between, in and out of slopes. Four, the vineyards are south-facing, almost direct and in full advantage of the westerly sun. Last and just as important, “there is always a factor of luck.” Words to make wine by, from the ever thankful and pragmatic Peter Gamble.

The Benjamin Bridge pansophy adheres to low-yielding productivity. The average yearly production (excluding winter effect) is one to one and a half tons per acre. “We consider the fruit from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on this property to be Grand Cru,” insists Gamble. ” The climactic micro-reality is really important here,” adds Deslauriers, in reference to the BB style. “All great wines have the acidity to express a sense of their environment. We want to express the vineyard in the bottle.”

Related – Notes on previously tasted Benjamin Bridge Sparkling wines:

Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $25.95, WineAlign)

Nova 7 2012, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $25.95, Nova Scotia $24.99, WineAlign)

Nova 7 2011, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $25.95, Nova Scotia $24.99, WineAlign)

Brut Reserve Méthode Classique 2007, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $74.95, NSLC 1012526, $74.79, WineAlign)

Brut Reserve Méthode Classique 2005, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $74.95, NSLC 1012526, $74.79, WineAlign)

Benjamin Bridge

Here are notes on four new wines tasted.

Benjamin Bridge Wines from left to right: Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Brut Rosé Sparkling 2010, Brut Methode Classique 2009, Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2008

Benjamin Bridge Wines from left to right: Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Brut Rosé Sparkling 2010, Brut Methode Classique 2009, Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2008

Brut Methode Classique 2009, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (1018464, NSLC $44.99, 313106, B.C. $49.97, WineAlign)

Essentially, or at least philosophically a Blanc de Blancs, the blend is 57 per cent L’Acadie Blanc, 25 Chardonnay and 18 Seyval Blanc. The acidity is key and certainly elevated (12.8 g/L), keeping line tabs on the stone ground, clean fruit in gingered mousse. A defined elegance and accumulated synergy of site comes from a lower-slope perceived sweetness, down by the river. By no means piercing, there is a length here that lays down the foundation for the high-end, Vinifera-driven Sparkling wine program. The Brut ’09 conveys the growing environment, in freshness and in ripeness. A wine with such a refreshing upside.  Tasted July 2014

Brut Rosé Sparkling 2010, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (1015073, NSLC $44.99 WineAlign)

A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the 2010 Brut Rosé is possessive of intricate intensity and unparalleled elegance for the style and genre. It is the watershed bottle, anywhere in Canada. These bubbles are the confluence of early picked red berries, distinct platinum minerality and bitterless savoury edges. Whether or not the bitter principle is masked or eliminated by a feigned sweetness matters little. “You taste so bitter and so sweet, oh I could drink a case of you darling and I would still be on my feet.” This sets the new benchmark for Rosé sparkling out of Canadian soils. It’s so blush and melodic it’s blue. In fact, the treatment here is tender, slow and steady, sad even, also spare and beautiful.  Tasted July 2014

Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2008, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $74.95, WineAlign)

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.  Tasted at the winery, July 2014

Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (1019689, NSLC $27.79,  WineAlign)

The 2013 marks the inaugural release for a wine that is “the by-product of an unconditional labour of love in commitment.” Gerry McConnell always wanted to make Sauvignon Blanc, Peter Gamble fostered the dream and Jean-Benoit Deslauriers made it a reality. A de facto Sauvignon force is behind the wine, 13 years in the making. Fashioned from drastically low yields, the ’13 SB is concentrated in literally handfuls of berries. It’s a style that could almost be considered eccentric. It feigns lees effect, slow fermentation, years of barrel age and late harvest. It’s a magnetic, beast of intensity, goes sweet up the middle (7 g/L residual sugar) and finishes extremely dry. There were 206 cases made.  Tasted July 2014

Lightfoot and Wolfville

This apple farm turned organic and biodynamic winery will take everything anyone has ever thought about the Nova Scotia wine industry and turn it on its head. Hybrids and local varieties will continue to be a part of the stratagem. In the unpredictable climate of Nova Scotia’s wine growing regions that is a necessity but it’s what Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will do that will put the province on the map and the world’s stage.

Young Vines in Lightfoot and Wolfville's Oak Knoll Vineyard

Young vines in Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Oak Isle Knoll Vineyard

Up on a hill near Avonport with a view of and at the head of the Gaspereau Valley is “Le Corton,” the Oak Isle knoll. It is here that Lightfoot and Wolfville, with the expertise of Peter Gamble, are banking on the future success of Vinifera grapes. There is more vigor up here in these vines (as compared to Benjamin Bridge) and the varieties planted are dual in purpose. One hand can make a serious Chardonnay, the other a Sparkling. It’s a question of vintage and ripening. The plan is essential for making wine in Nova Scotia.

Owners Jocelyn and Mike Lightfoot in the cellar at Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards

Owners Jocelyn and Mike Lightfoot in the cellar at Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards

The winery will manage Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Chasselas and Scheurebe with New York Muscat and Vidal. I tasted through the 2013 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir resting in barrel, along with a most intriguing 2012 Late-Harvest Chasselas.

Lightfoot and Wolfville Winemaker Josh Horton with barrel samples of 2013 Chardonnay

Lightfoot and Wolfville Winemaker Josh Horton with barrel samples of 2013 Chardonnay

Pinot Noir 2013

This will be L &W’s first Pinot Noir, from 15 year-old vines in Canning, near Blomidon Estates and aged in three year-old (Stratus-used) barrels.  The fruit comes by way of a grower named Al McIntyre, who was convinced to reduce yields by dropping fruit, as he traditionally made Sparkling from more vigorous vines. The profile is both fresh fruity and gravelly, like Burgenland, or perhaps Baden. Bright, black cherry meets marly earth. The tannins are present and accounted for post-traditional two-year Burgundian élevage. This is Nova Scotia Pinot Noir and it is remarkably pure.  Tasted July 2014

Chardonnay 2013

From a sample out of a neutral barrel transferred halfway through the process into two year-old barrel. The old world autolytics are textbook and this Chardonnay has already added much of its weight. The reduction at this stage is at a nearly indiscernible level. If this does not intimate Chablis, it would be tough to imagine what does. Beautifully clean Chablis, with a wild yeast accent and tropical accessories. The tannins head straight for the back of the cheeks. This is Chardonnay from Nova Scotia? Yes, it is.  Tasted July 2014

Chardonnay 2013

From a sample out of a brand (medium toast) new barrel with Meursault the intended target. It certainly leans Côte de Beaune, with a lemon, honey and wet glade aromatic soup. The latter note comes across as something herbal without being earthy and sorry to use the M word but the minerality is definitely in here. Rich and glaring in grape, not wood tannins, the length is a testament to future endeavors.  Tasted July 2014

Chardonnay 2013

A blend of the two samples brings the ghosts of the farm’s apples together in the glass. Overall the fruit came in (early November) at 21.5 to 22.8 brix. The pH falls in at 3.18-3.2 and the total acidity 9-10 g/L.

Chasselas Late Harvest 2012

A sweet wine with stinking acidity and a dry finish. At 100 g/L, this has both sugar and acidity through the roof. “It wanted to be this,” notes Josh Horton. “We didn’t plan to go this route, but we did.” Unleashed and wild LH.

Gaspereau Vineyards

After a morning spent with the Lightfoots, Peter Gamble brought me to taste at Gaspereau Vineyards with Rebecca Griffin, Associate Winemaker & Vineyard Manager at the winery’s parent entity, Devonian Coast Wineries. Gaspereau winemaker Gina Haverstock, who I tasted with at Brock University’s Technical Sparkling Wine Symposium in May, was away on holiday. After being guided through Haverstock’s Rieslings, I can safely say that I will look forward to tasting future (and hopefully library vintages) with her on my next visit east.

The Rieslings of Gaspereau Vineyards - Front Label

The Rieslings of Gaspereau Vineyards – Front Labels

Griffin led us through renditions of Nova Scotia’s signature white Tidal Bay, an Icewine and five exceedingly promising Rieslings. The tightly wound and magnanimous acidity of the lot impressed not just for their food versatility but also their kinship with some of the greater Riesling producing regions of the world. Both Clare Valley and the Beamsville Bench came to mind, as well as the Okanagan Valley and Alsace. Here are notes on the wines tasted.

The Rieslings of Gaspereau Vineyards - Back Labels

The Rieslings of Gaspereau Vineyards – Back Labels

Riesling Black Dog 2010

The vintage gives rich fruit, tempered by a mineral and lime layering. Though very dry and somewhat angular with a clamp down bite, the warmth inherent and abundant flavours give it bounty.  Tasted July 2014

Riesling Black Dog 2011

Tighter even, full-on snare driven Riesling. Less luxuriant than the ’10, with more pierce, a zigzagging beat in angles and relentless drive that’s “gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Gets the lead out with a juicy burst of orange zest. This Black Dog is a howler and goes on for minutes on end.  Tasted July 2014

Riesling Warner’s Vineyard 2011

This single vineyard Riesling shows more brightness, in white fruit and an increase in mineral. Conversely it also displays a reductive funk. Wild, in ferment, with eyes that never lie and a timeless, earth-driven, low and slow layering.  Tasted July 2014

Riesling Estate 2011

Bottled in a 500 mL format because of drastically low quantities. Only 125 cases in the half litres were made. At first it’s fresh, bright orchard fruit with a minor key in funk. Moves into ginger, lime and the white heat of lit limestone, or more specifically, gypsum. Smells a bit like machine gun powder, leading to a plugged in “ignited fever and I can’t put out the flame.” Hot Riesling in a band of gypsies, with a rat tat tat sound and a nose for excitement.  Tasted July 2014

Riesling Tri0 2012

The Trio is assembled from Warner, Black Dog and Estate vineyards. Richer, warmer, rounder Riesling. The aromatics are more pronounced but also muddled together. Not as stark as compared to the others. Not so much sweeter as rounder, fuller and less piercing. Still, the Gaspereau Riesling funk persists.  Tasted July 2014

Good to go!

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