With the heatwave still coming on strong in Nova Scotia, our need for summer sippers has never been stronger. Thankfully, this month’s TNT (Tuesday Night Tasting) was exactly that theme.
The venue for this round was Avondale Sky. This vineyard has a neat story to it. They repurposed an old church and made headlines when it came time to move it to its current resting spot. You read that correctly; they moved/relocated a whole church. What was once St Matthew’s Church in Walton was floated down the river and carried on trucks. Believe it or not, this was the second move for the historic building. The first move took place almost 150 years ago and utilised oxen to move it back from the waterfront it was built too close to. The whole process was a fair bit of excitement for rural Nova Scotia and was a fascinating feat of logistics for both generations/moves.
As one would expect, Summer Sippers involved a lot of whites (all of them to be specific).
It also involved a lot of Geisenheim and Seyval. Our hosts did the former two ways; their infamous “Bliss” and Benediction (a Pét-Nat twist on the Riesling and Chancellor hybrid). Benjamin Bridge also brought a Pét-Nat Geisenheim, but theirs was making using of the snazzy new concrete eggs (the latest trend in ageing vessels).
Gaspereau and Blomidon brought their versions of single varietal Seyval. I shamelessly downed a bottle of the latter on a local patio the other night. I’ve been a sucker for everyone’s Tidal Bays (enjoying a bottle of L&W’s as I type this) and last year’s go-to was Gaspereau’s Riesling. After the TNT and reaffirming my thoughts with the patio experience, I think that Blomidon’s Seyval Blanc has taken the crown this summer. I know I should keep those opinions out of the article, but Good Lord (can I say that, given the venue?) this one hit the mark for this writer.
Of course, not everyone brought something with those two grapes. Lightfoot & Wolfville brought their Flora (Siegerrebe, Ortega, and the “ever-so fun name to remember how to pronounce” Scheurebe), Petite Riviere poured their Three Churches (L’Acadie and a dash of Vidal), and my home vineyard/Luckett Vineyards shared our Phone Box White (Mostly Osceola Muscat, with some L’Acadie and Traminette thrown into the mix).
As I had mentioned, we’re in the middle of a heatwave, so most of these wines were settling in the “off-dry” spectrum. After roasting in the workplace, it was a very refreshing evening on the back patio of Avondale Sky Winery.
Road to recovery: An update on The Frostening™
Last month, we got slammed by a heavy frost. It was detrimental to the industry and, most importantly, our grapes. With the primary and secondary buds out (a hot May aided with that), our vines were hit at vulnerable stage.
We are now about six weeks post-frost and are now a little bit better emotionally. It doesn’t change the loss, but we’re at least getting used to the news.
Something that a lot of people seem to forget is that we can’t just abandon these vines. Our care for them has changed a bit, but we still need our farm crew out there looking after them. Even with a reduced yield, we still need these vines to provide for us in years to come and that just can’t happen if we were to leave them for the season because they won’t be a source of revenue.
The vines themselves look a little short for what they should be at this time of year. This bit of warm weather has certainly helped. As terrible as it was, at least our L’Acadie vines surrounding our iconic phone box (and foreground to one of the most beautiful landscapes) look alright. They still took a hit, but their recovery is better than some others and they still make for a priceless view.
A moment of self-reflection
This blog has a heavy emphasis on helping introduce people to the world wine and relaying the knowledge in a way that’s a lot more absorbable. As someone relatively new to the wine industry, I wanted to share what my first few experiences were like.
If I could give my former self any guidance/advice, it would be “give yourself some slack and don’t get discouraged”. One of the biggest points of failure is expecting that you’ll have the full-fledged ability of a sommelier right off the get-go. I tell others that you should imagine it as a muscle group and that the results of tasting what the winemaker intended is that moment you’ve been worked towards. You need to train it before you can really run the marathon. For some, that ability comes more naturally, and they don’t have to train as much. For others, you must work on it a bit. How do you train? Well, the line that gets the tour groups giddy is that training comes from trying wines. It doesn’t mean just throwing it back. Take a moment to appreciate the fermented grape juice and get a feel for it all. Swish it, smell it, swig it. My advice is to do that with the first few sips from whatever glass you pour and then carry on with polishing off the rest at whatever pace (no judgements held).
Prior to running the tasting bar, I was up in the office and had very little experience with tasting wine (I could make a snazzy invoice though). I took on the new role in Spring 2017 and (honestly) felt overwhelmed. I really didn’t know how I was going to absorb all this knowledge and then regurgitate it in a confident tone to our customers. However, I sucked it up and just tried my best. I would sample the wines and attempt to get an understanding of them/find some similarities between my experience and what the label said.
I can recall a late night last summer when I was enjoying a bottle of our 2015 Triumphe. I was taking a few sips, when I noticed a flavour that I hadn’t noticed before. I took another sip to reaffirm that I had tasted coffee. After that analysis, I grabbed the bottle to check the label and, sure enough, that was one of the “notes of” one was expected to pick up. Ecstatic that I had finally moved beyond just getting “large hints of wine-like flavours”, I called James to share the good news. He was about as thrilled as you’d expect someone to be when they get a call at 1am saying “Holy shit! I noticed the notes of coffee in the Triumphe”.
So, with that in mind, I say “give yourself a chance”. Don’t get too caught up with what you’re expected to get out of the bottle. Try to enjoy it and see what YOU pick up. All our palates are unique and we all experience it differently; I find this idea to be one of the coolest/most interesting aspects of it all. Eventually, you will start to see a change as you try more wines and take a minute to feel it. You may not get the full extent of what the experts say you should expect, but there’s something euphoric about the moment you finally get just one of those senses fired up and nail what they had hoped you’d get.
– D R E W