September saw the first release of wine from Pete's Frootique founder Pete Luckett's Gaspereau Valley Vineyard. The 2008 Millot was made by Jürg Stutz at Domaine de Grand Pre, outside of Wolfville, but that is just a temporary arrangement---until Luckett's own winery is built.
Luckett's is a good example of what Nova Scotia has to offer in the dry table wine department. It has a pleasant berry fruit and savoury herbal nose with judicious use of oak, and a smooth palate, making it very drinkable. It's a good food wine. Which makes sense for a purveyor of dependably good produce.
"The farm started as a lifestyle adventure in 1999," explains Luckett. who talks of the "satisfying, non-profit life of an Annapolis Valley farmer." But initially the farm wasn't a winery venture. "I was growing everything from pumpkins, squash, radish, Saskatoons, beans, melons to blueberries, cherries and peaches and apples. The growing of all this stuff was a giant experiment, with some success and lots of failure too," he says.
Luckett started growing various grapes---Canadice, Coronation and Himrod---but was skeptical that he could achieve much; in Nova Scotia, most grapes are grown on south-facing slopes, while his farm sits on a north-facing slope. Still, by 2004 he realized his grapes had high sugar levels and sweetness, enough so that the land could support wine grapes.
He's been planting two new acres with grapes a year ever since, and now has 10 acres on the way to a planned 25.
"Was it a dream?" asks Luckett rhetorically. "In some ways, yes. The farm is evolving into a fabulous vineyard and winery that was meant to be. There is nothing more rewarding than growing grapes. Every time I look at the incredible symmetry of the rows and the natural beauty of the vines, it takes my breath away."
With many local wineries experimenting with international grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, Luckett decided instead to start conservative, with dependable winter hardy varieties including Leon Millot, Lucy Kuhlman, Triumphe d'Alsace, Marechal Foch and L'Acadie, his only white wine grape.
"As the site is developing," adds Luckett, "I'm selecting a couple of spots to plant something exciting in the vinifera varietals."
Although Grand Pre has made his first wines, Luckett expects his processing facility, which will be able to produce 5,000 to 8,000 cases per year, to be ready for the 2010 harvest. "The sales area and tasting bar will be ready for grand opening in the summer of 2011," he says. Meanwhile, the wine is available at the Grand Pre winery and his Bedford store, Cristall & Luckett.
I ask if the winery would be one of those "showpiece" vanity projects one encounters often in California, Ontario and BC. "The buildings will have a very natural look about them, using authentic materials," Luckett says, "I don't think the look will be 'grand,' but certainly very tasteful, as if it's been nestled into the hillside for a 100 years or more."
Sounds Grand to me.