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Striking gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships

I love reading the Awards list for the All Canadian Wine Championships  .It felt like old home week, when I could catch up on old friends and see how well they are doing and look for what wines to buy and wineries to visit.  As a former Maritimer, the success of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wineries was intoxicating.

Avondale Sky Winery

Avondale Sky Winery

Last year, I visited Avondale Sky for the first tine,  a picturesque new winery built in an historic church that they had rescued from demolition and floated across the bay on a barge to its new home on their vineyard. The winemaker is a very engaging young man, Ben Swetnam, and I liked everything I tasted. Obviously the people at the ACWC did too.  They won double gold in single white hybrids for their 2013 Bliss, gold for their hybrid white blend Cheverie 2012, bronze for their 2013 Tidal Bay. and bronze for their late harvest Martock 2013.

Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia’s Appellation wine, now in its third year, a delightful blend of Muscat, Seyval, l’Acadie, and Vidal. There is no formula for this wine but there are guidelines on the maximums of how much of each varietal, as well as a variety of other grapes can be used. It’s designed to be an affordable dependable wine that pairs well with Nova Scotia seafood and other dishes. Every winery makes it slightly differently and it has to be juried by a provincial wine board for quality before it can use the Tidal Bay name.

Sources tell me that Peter Gamble who consults for Benjamin Bridge winery was one of the instigators of this interesting marketing idea and wine tourists in Nova Scotia often ask for a tasting of Tidal Bay at every winery they visit to find the perfect one for them. Obviously the wineries are working hard to make this wine extra special. Other wineries that won medals for their Tidal Bay entries were Jost Vineyards who won gold in the Hybrid Blend category as well as Petite Riviere and Planters Ridge who both won bronze. Planters Ridge has only just opened this year so this medal is very special for them as a sign of great things to come. Congratulations to their winemaker Travis MacFarlane who previously worked with Bruce Ewart at l’Acadie Vineyard and Simon Rafuse at Blomidon Estates.

Tidal Bay

Some of my very favourite Nova Scotia wines did very well. Annapolis HIghland won double gold for their 2012 Castel a very lusty hybrid red that does well in Nova Scotia. I couldn’t get to Annapolis Highlands last year so  former owner, Karen Enright, visited me at the Atlantic Wine Institute at Acadia University and gave a private tasting to myself and Donna Sears of the Institute. I see the winery is has been sold and Tara Williamson and Thomas Friedrich are the new owners, but the 2012 Castel would be the final hurrah for Brendan Enright.

Gaspereau Vineyards won gold for their Luci Kuhlman rosé. I’ve waxed poetic about this wine in a previous blog  Gather Ye Rosés While Ye May.

 Sainte Famille ,one of Nova Scotia’s oldest wineries with a winemaking team of Suzanne Corkum and Tony Barkhouse, won silver for their 2012 Leon Millot, another strong red in Nova Scotia, and a bronze for their 2013 rosé.  L’Acadie Vineyard won bronze for their Estate L’Acadie, a 100% organic wine. Petite Riviere picked up a second medal in the hybrid red catagory for 2012 Kissing Brook. The new owners of Jost,  Gaspereau Vineyards and Muir Murray Estates, Carl and Donna Sparkes, have brought them together under the name  Devonian Coast wineries which won gold for their maple wine. It doesn’t say whether this was made at Jost or Gaspereau but I know that in previous years the maple wine at Gaspereau Vineyard was a frequent winner.

 New Brunswick Wines at the ACWC

 What totally amazed me  was the number of New Brunswick wineries who won medals. I have followed the path of the Winegarden Estate in Baie Verte since it was opened by Werner Rosswog over 25 years ago and was delighted to see they won a bronze for their soft fruit off dry cranberry wine. I’ve bought a number of their fruit liqueurs in the past.

New Brunswick does not have the lovely warm micro climate of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and its winters can be brutal, so wines  from hybrid grapes and  fruit as well as ciders  tend to dominate but they are obviously making their mark in this field. Here are some of the names to look for when you are driving through New Brunswick.

Richibucto River Wine Estate took gold in the single white hybrids for their 2013 l’Acadie Blanc, Silver for their 2013 Prairie Star and bronze for 2012 River Mist. In blended white hybrids they won silver for their 2013 Serenity.

Verger Belliveau Orchard from the Memramcook Valley won medals for their fruit wines and ciders. In the Tree Fruit Dry category, they took gold for Bleuet and Silver for Poire and in Fruit Dessert Wines category won bronze for their icewine. They won bronze in Sparkling Fruit Wine for their 2012 Beausejour and finally silver for their Pres d’en Haut Cider.

Magnetic Hill Winery won double gold for the Tree Fruit Dessert wine category with  2013 Chocolate River Spiced Fruit, silver in the soft fruit wine category for 2013 Mystique and bronze for its 2013 Reflections.

A new name for me was Happy Knight Winery in Hatfield Point NB who won gold for their fortified Creme de Cassis fruit wine.

It’s time to start lowering interprovincial boundaries, these wines are well worth trying outside of the Maritimes. Please comment below if you’ve tried any of these winning wines.


Several years ago I wrote two blogs for on the pioneer wineries Jost Vineyard, Winegarden Estate and Ste Famille Winery

Still at the Winery  The background story on Jost Vineyard and Winegarden Estate

Sainte Famille – Trailblazing NS Winery  Ste Famille’s fight to get wines into the Farmers’ Markets

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