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Monday, August 18, 2008

Nova Scotia wines: L'Acadie, Benjamin Bridge, Port Bistro and The Tempest, July 11, 2008

The Time and Date:  Friday, July 11, 2008  11AM to 8 PM
The Event: a day in Nova Scotia with Chef Michael Howell from The
Tempest, including visits to Gaspereau Valley's L'Acadie Vineyards and
Benjamin Bridge, and for food, to Port Bistro in Port Williams and The
Tempest in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
The Venue: two wineries and two restos.
The Target Audience: me
The Availability/Catalogue: only one wine from Benjamin Bridge, the
Nova 7 was released the day I arrived in Nova Scotia. L'Acadie has
plenty of wine, but currently you'll have to go to Nova Scotia to get
The Quote:
The Wines: Bruce Ewert is the owner of L'Acadie Vineyards; he's been
here since 2004. Before that, he was a sparkling winemaker in BC,
notably with Pyramid and Steve Cipes. He makes five different styles
using the l'acadie hybrid. One of the styles is sparkling. He uses the
traditional method of riddling, and has crafted L'Acadie Brut 2005
which has aged in the bottle for three years ($37.28). Fine bubbles,
yeasty complexity. His plans call for more sparklers, such as an
affordable Charmat Method version. He also makes an organic cider 2007
under cork, $18.07, which has a strong component of apple peel (Golden
Russet, Northern Spy, Cox Orange Pippin, and Rhode Island Greening).
Currently he makes 2,000 cases, but has capacity for 5,000. Ten per
cent of his space is devoted to organic cider. His vineyard holdings
were certified organic in 2007, and his newer wines are now organic.
Some grapes are brought in, but eventually he hopes to be 100% organic.
Peter Gamble, who seems to start more winemaking operations than Vincor
has wineries, made the first batches at Benjamin Bridge, the new high-
flying winery in the Gaspereau owned by Gerry McConnell and Dara
Gordon. It sits on a 60-acre property once called Benjamin Bridge. The
profile of the area is definitely Champagne-like, so they went at it
that way, using organic grapes. And the services of Champagne expert
Raphael Brisbois. Indeed, the 2003 Brut I tasted was spectacular, made
from Chardonnay, L'acadie, Vidal, Pinot noir, and Seyval Blanc. The
2002, equally good with more time in the bottle, came from 70%
chardonnay. Definitely in the RD style. They won't be released until
2011 and 2012, to coincide with the opening of their new winery. 10,000
cases seem to be the capacity, and $15 million is going into the
operation. Both sparklers will probably retail at $60 plus. The current
full-time winemaker is Montreal-born Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. The only
wine available right now (exclusively through the NS liquor stores) is
Nova 7, a vintaged version of Asti spumante, selling for about $22.75.
Both wineries have aggressively priced their wines.
**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Benjamin Bridge Brut MC 2002
-Benjamin Bridge Brut MC 2003
-Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2006 – Loire style, extractive
mouthfeel, about $35.
-L'Acadie Star 2007 – very good component, high viscosity, big fat
wine, longer finish, $19.20.
-L'Acadie Brut Traditional Style Sparkling Wine 2005 - $37.28
***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Benjamin Bridge Marechal Foch 2004 – Ann Sperling's recipe, good oak.
-Benjamin Bridge Marechal Foch Reserve 2005 – more fruit and less oak.
-L'Acadie Organic 2007 - $21.46, very minerally.
-L'Acadie Alchemy 2006 – Amarone-styled wine, full bodies, 16 months in
oak. $42.93.
-L'Acadie Eclipse 2006 – Ripasso-style red, using the grapes from
Alchemy. $27.11.
*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2007 – will next year be Nova 8? Just peachy.
-L'Acadie 2007 - $16.94, 11.4% ABV, peach side.

The Food: we had lunch at Port Bistro, which is billed as a gastropub.
Howell is the menu consultant. He aims for good value food for people
in the area who know his values but do not an expensive night out. It
was one of the few places around that offered fried local clams with
bellies (most are just imported necks), only $12.95 a generous serving.
There was a crab dip with artichokes, crab and cream cheese. The
microbrewery that operates in the resto is Sea Level Brewing. They
offer a tasting sampler, as all such microbreweries should (but often
don't), of 2.5 ounce servings. There was a Moondance organic lager
(naturally cloudy), a Rojo Mojo Red Ale, an IPA style, a Porter style,
and a light brew for summer. The décor is more in the line of a resto
and not a pub. Good food, good wine. At dinner, we went to The Tempest
for the tasting menu. My wife had a lobster risotto and bay scallops
with gonads, and a crab-stuffed haddock crusted with a potato basket
and fried. Local wines were served by the glass. My tasting menu, which
seemed to go on forever, comprised small servings of pickled cipolini
with goat cheese and red pepper, smoked salmon and oka cheese, cod
cheeks on greens, BBQ shrimp and mango sauce with ketaifa, passion
fruit sorbet, morels in a cream sauce, halibut on a bed of new
potatoes, grassfed beef, and house smoked applewood pork and polenta. I
settled for a small strawberry and rhubarb sorbet for dessert.
The Downside: I had no room for more dessert and I was also desperate
for a trou Normand back in my room.
The Upside: great wines and great foods all day.
The Contact Person:
The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90 for the wines; the chef is my

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