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Wine industry blossoming in Nova Scotia

Blossoming in Nova Scotia


October 3, 2008
By Dan Woolley

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Delegates at the Third Atlantic
Canadian Wine Symposium saw for themselves how fast the Nova Scotia
vineyard is growing and changing.

Delegates at the Third Atlantic Canadian Wine Symposium saw for themselves how fast the Nova Scotia vineyard is growing and changing.

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Pete Luckett began planting wine grapes in 2005 and plans to add another 20 acres and possibly a winery by 2011. In 2007, he planted more red varieties, including Lucie Kuhlmann, Marechal Foch and Triomphe d’Alsace. He is now thinking about planting a white hybrid, L’Acadie.

The symposium’s bus tour focused on the eastern Annapolis Valley, taking them to numerous wineries, including Dr. Jonathan Murray’s Muir Murray Estate Winery near Wolfville. In 2005, Dr. Murray planted his first vines. He now has 13 acres planted next to an old farm building that is being remodelled into a winery and cellars. Dr. Murray also has another 10 acres of vines planted on 50 acres he owns in the nearby Gaspereau Valley. With 23,000 seedlings currently growing in greenhouses, he plans ultimately to have 200 acres of vines in production.

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Muir Murray Estate Winery’s focus is on hybrid varieties, with Foch, Baco Noir, Seyval and L’Acadie planted in the cooler Wolfville vineyard, and vinifera varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Pinot Grigio, planted in the milder microclimate of the Gaspereau vineyard.

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In 2005, Dr. Jonathan Murray planted his first vines near Wolfville, N.S. He now has 13 acres planted next to an old farm building that is being remodelled into a winery and cellars, Muir Murray Estate Winery.

Dr. Murray estimates that within five years, his winery will be the largest in Atlantic Canada, producing 50,000 cases (600,000 bottles) of wine annually.

What will it cost? “I don’t know, but my wife does,” said Dr. Murray. “But you can quote me, a project this size will cost in the millions.”


A retired surgeon from Bermuda, Dr. Murray says he started the winery and vineyard project when he became bored with retirement.

“It is no longer a hobby,” he said. “It is a business. This will not be just a farm winery.”

Wayne MacDonald, a pioneering veteran of the Nova Scotia winery industry, is helping Dr. Murray develop the estate winery. This is MacDonald’s fifth vineyard and second winery project in the province.

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Bruce Ewert owns L’Acadie Vineyards, Nova Scotia’s first organic vineyard. The operation, which has extensive plantings of L’Acadie and a smaller plot of Leon Millot, opened in the fall of 2007.

The tour moved on to visit the Gaspereau Valley, including Benjamin Bridge vineyard, an organic vineyard currently in development but slated to open in 2009. Co-owned by Gerry McConnell, chairman of the symposium’s organizing committee, the operation’s main product line will be champagne-style wines, which will start appearing in 2010 and 2011. The operation’s first vines were planted in 2000.

The vineyard contains the first successful Nova Scotia planting of 16 acres of Semillon Blanc. Benjamin Bridge also grows Chardonnay, Vidal and Pinot Noir varieties.

Nearby, Hans Christian Jost’s Gaspereau Vineyards has 13 grape varieties on 35 acres. The vineyard’s winemaker, Gina Haverstock, received a total of seven medals – including five gold – for her wines at the 2008 All Canadian Wine Championships.

On the other side of the Gaspereau Valley is Nova Scotia’s first organic vineyard, L’Acadie Vineyards. Owner Bruce Ewert has extensive plantings of L’Acadie and a smaller plot of Leon Millot, all on 30 acres. He chose those varieties for their pH and acidity.

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Pete Luckett, the owner of Pete’s Frootique, has planted some table grapes on his acreage and is obtaining sugars and maturity equal to what grape growers on south facing slopes in the Gaspereau Valley of Nova Scotia are achieving.

Ewert, who has previous wine making experience in Australia, California and British Columbia (chief winemaker at B.C.’s Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards and Summerhill Pyramid Winery), opened his new winery in the fall of 2007. Since then, the winery’s L’Acadie Star has won a double gold, Alchemy – a special blend made with dried grapes – has won a gold, while the Leon Millot took a silver medal at the All Canadian Wine Championships.



Ewert developed his vineyard on a north-facing slope and says his three biggest vineyard management issues are “weeds, weeds, weeds.”

As a result, the rows between the vines are harrowed and Courtney tall fescue is planted as a ground cover. The fescue doesn’t compete with the vines for nutrients and doesn’t spread to become a weed itself. Ewert also applies manure and compost once a year with a bit of kelp applied pre-planting to help boost soil potassium. He plans to start a spraying program with compost tea for nutrient management and mildew control. Drip tape has also been installed along his vine rows as drought insurance.

A few kilometres away, Pete Luckett, the owner of Pete’s Frootique, has 10 acres of vines growing on and old farm he purchased about eight years ago. He began planting wine grapes in 2005 and plans to add another 20 acres and possibly a winery by 2011.

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Wayne MacDonald, a pioneering veteran of the Nova Scotia winery industry, is helping to develop Muir Murray Estate Winery. It is MacDonald’s fifth vineyard and second winery project in the province.


Because of his north-facing slop, Luckett chose the vigorous, winter-hardy hybrid Leon Millot as his first planting. In 2007, he planted more red varieties, including Lucie Kuhlmann, Marechal Foch and Triomphe d’Alsace. He is now thinking about planting a white hybrid, L’Acadie.

Luckett has also planted some table grapes on his acreage and is obtaining sugars and maturity equal to what grape growers on south facing slopes in the Gaspereau are achieving.


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