The coastal calm of Charlottetown sinks in. My wife and I forget time or place. We have touristed its top sites: from Province House, to the olive oil chain, to Gahan’s very respectable microbrewery, to the Dirt Shirt company.
Now we walk endless meandering beachfronts, suburbs, and, well, potato farm after potato farm.
Prince Edward Island’s sun and lapping waters lull us into passivity. Why not stay past three days?
But no! For the next ten months we are travelers. The traveler never settles. Someone with serious mother issues once wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read but a page”. We must seek out the new or die as redundant shells trapped by our own myopia.
That, and our train transfer expires tomorrow.
So we pack and roll to Halifax, Nova Scotia: our last stay in North America, before Europe opens her arms and bottles to us.
Thirsty, we go to Nova Scotia’s state owned wine store: the NSLC (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation).
Located in hipster central on Quinpool Road, this NSLC has a massive selection of local wine.
First, a bit of context.
Shock and awe, even these coastal Canadians found mesoclimates worth growing grapes in. Well, a few…
You might notice a few trends above. Firstly, there ain’t much. This peninsula is painfully northern for grapes. Secondly, coasts are king. That ocean moderates seasonal extremes by absorbing cold and heat. Thirdly, valleys matter. Too much ocean action, and a storm has eaten your vines, or frost, or Titanic zombies.
New Scotland has flirted with grape growing for centuries. But it only committed to the winemaking relationship in 1978. So who then, um, birthed this cold climate, grape baby? Surprise! Germans!
Freezer burned in traditions of northerly riesling production (Christenhof in the Rhine to be exact), Hans and Erna Jost discovered that grapes would grow along the valleys of the Malagash Peninsula.
There is no fog. Which means no frost for half the year. 45 degrees of northern latitude matches Oregon’s Willamette Italy’s Piedmont, France’s northern Rhône. All of which, if southward sited, get enough light. Hills fend off clouds, making this Atlantic Canada’s sunniest spot. The Northumberland Strait holds the warmest waters north of the Carolinas, which warms everything.
It sounds almost idyllically bearable. Nonetheless, you can’t grow merlot, or for that matter anything recognizable. The most common varieties are Marechal Foch, L’Acadie Blanc, Muscat, Leon Millot, Geisenheim, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Mischurnitz and Severnyi. Try saying them five time fast.
Back to our pair.
Jost’s Valley Roads 2011 white features L’Acadie Blanc, Nova Scotia’s own hybrid, backed by a bit of Muscat. Don’t let Muscat lead you astray, this is not fizzy candy. This is still, nearly dry, table white. Loads of acidity slice off any notice of residual sugar. Grapefruit and other things citrus cut dance lines through the bit of round, ripe tropical fruit and lychee at center stage. The body is medium. Overall easy. But the finish hangs around for no one. However, this cheap thing is perfect for light, fresh fare: fish, goat cheese, salads, Thai coconut soup.
Next, their cheap 2010 Valley Roads red. Annoyingly, this is rather decent as well. Inky purple. Mixed berry fruits and a bit of spice stand out clearly with no oak intervention. The climate-gifted acidity is obvious but refreshing. Not bad for Millot/Marechal Foch blend. Grilled meats, cheddar, mushrooms, or burgers would work here.
Spurred on by Jost’s decent-ness, we splurge $20 for their 2007 Baco Noir.
Here you pay for French oak barrels and a year of patience. The color has gained a lovely garnet color. The glass breaths mature, toasted vanilla oak and tart black cherry aromas. The body and flavors stand out, with charred cigar, tomato, tart blackberry, black cherry zinging. The finish is lengthy, something blueberry.
The only fault is volatile acidity: that prickly, vinegar-like quality (which means bacteria found a bit of oxygen and turned some alcohol into acetic acid). I tolerate and even enjoy a touch of rustic V.A. It is honestly fine here. Rich food with thick sauce and low acid would tamp it down and make a great pair.
Not a bad start Nova Scotia. But we’re not done with you yet. Next post we head to Halifax for its breweries.
Explore Nova Scotia