2014 Charles Baker Vinemount Ridge Riesling

When it comes to Canadian wine some of the most delicious wines that I’ve had have been Riesling. The cool climates in Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Annapolis Valley are all well suited to producing delicious and racy Rieslings with that zesty lime, stone fruit and acid that we all adore.

When it comes to Niagara there’s some serious white wines being produced, I’ve had many of them. By far the two most memorable whites I’ve had were Riesling, this Charles Baker Vinemount Ridge being one of them, the other the Cave Springs CSV Riesling. They are both just awesome wines that deserve our attention. IMG_2931

The Picone Vineyard on the Vinemount Ridge consistently produces some of the best Riesling anywhere and the 2014 vintage was no exception. The season which started off cool and ended hot allowed for optimal ripeness and fruit purity but there’s still a very distinct acidity that balances out the touch of residual  sugar present in the wine.

The notes in this one walk the line between lime zest and ripe peaches. Floral citrus blossoms and geranium mixed with petrol and flinty minerality. The mouthfeel here is just fire, the fruit is pure and the finish is persistent. I mean I’ve had better Rieslings but I can count them on one hand. If you like Niagara and Riesling as much as I do you owe it to yourself to give the wines of Charles Baker a try.

Ever have a really nice Niagara Riesling? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,
Ben

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The Wines of Nova Scotia: A Reason to Celebrate

The climate in Nova Scotia is hardly conducive to growing grapes. Cold winters, snow, heavy rain, frost, fog, hail can all cause problems for even the most dedicated of grape-growers. Yet, in the microclimate that is the Annapolis Valley, grapes are growing, and even thriving. Wine isn’t new to the valley, with the initial owners of Grand Pre Winery opening its doors in 1979, since then more have followed with varying levels of success, in recent years though a boom has taken place. This is in large part due to a boom in the success of Nova Scotia sparkling wine, led by the likes of Benjamin Bridge which produces phenomenal sparkling wine from traditional Champagne varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinor Meunier. Another reason for growth has been the introduction of a regional style called Tidal Bay. This style produced by over half of the wineries in the region has helped people to understand what the region has to offer. The wines are by-and-large off-dry and floral with a refreshing acidity. Benjamin Bridge

Upon my arrival in the valley there was lots to taste and I wasn’t the only one eager to visit many of the top wineries. I was surprised to see so many tourists and local tasters frequenting the regions wineries at this point in late October, where a days temperature can regularly fall into the single digits. The first stop was Lightfoot and Wolfville, a winery I’ve been following for a few years now. I met with Rachel Lightfoot who poured us both a glass of 2013 Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut to drink while we walked through their vineyards discussing the wines and the wineries philosophy. We then checked out their barrel room, which doubles as a lovely entertaining area used for weddings and large events, including the Devour Food Film Festival, which is taking place just last week.

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After settling into the wineries pristine tasting room, across the hall from their retail space and tasting bar. I was intrigued to see how organic and biodynamic wine-growing techniques translated in bottle. Turns out they translate splendidly. One after another we tasted, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Vidal Ice wine, Scheurebe, Riesling and others. They were all fantastic, the Sauvignon Blanc zinging with grass, asparagus, citrus, stone fruit and white pepper. Followed by the Pinot Noir, which featured crunchy red berry fruits, confectionary spice, earthy character and an amazing structure for aging. Then dry Riesling comparable to many of its German counterparts. This is not what I expected when I visited the Valley but suffice it to say it was the energy of the still wine Vitis Vinifera (common European grapevine) that stood out to me. There was something charming and edgy, a feeling that a few select wineries were going against the grain and taking big risks. And oh boy when those risks pay off, such as they have at Lightfoot and Wolfville, the result is all around world class wineIMG_2780

A quick trip down the road to Benjamin Bridge offered a similar experience. After tasting through several sparkling wines that were outstanding, a Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc from their small lots series were poured. These were right up their with Lightfoot’s offerings, although unfortunately with less availability.

A trip to Grand Pre Winery and a Gaspereau Vineyards Riesling over lunch, followed by a Blomidon Cremant at supper also proved an interesting insight into what else the region has to offer, and where it’s going from here. Whether that be the zesty sparkling at Grand Pre that adds local haskap berries to its stellar sparkling (don’t knock it ‘til you try it), or the various producers testing the Vitis Vinifera waters and having success with the hardy Riesling grape, there’s much to offer, but also much potential for growth. From talking to the locals and tasting various wines during my time in Nova Scotia, it seems that both Lightfoot and Wolfville and Benjamin Bridge are at the cutting-edge of what the region is doing, but others are growing, expanding and finding their own niche.

Rachel Lightfoot
Rachel Lightfoot of Lightfoot and Wolfville

It’s an exciting time to be drinking the wines of Nova Scotia and being their neighbour next door, here in Newfoundland, we have more opportunities than most to taste and celebrate what’s going on here in Atlantic Canada. With various Benjamin Bridge wines being available across the province and three wines from Lightfoot and Wolfville appearing on the list for the NLC Wine Show happening November 15-17, the time is now to get acquainted and cozy up with some of the best wines the region has to offer. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re looking to try the wines I’ve mentioned check out their websites, which can be found at the links above. If you’re looking to plan a visit to the area check out the Wines of Nova Scotia website for more information on what the regions best wineries have to offer.

Ever have a wine from the region? Want to learn more? Get in touch with me I’d love to chat!

Cheers,
Ben