Harvest Review: Nova Scotia rises to the occasion
Photo source: Jost Vineyards Facebook page
2020 is a year for the history books. The international community is focussed on the pandemic and other global issues, making it very easy to overlook what’s happening in our very own backyard. In our Harvest Review series, Quench writers talk to winemakers across the country to find out how they’re handling this year’s unique challenges. Last week, Jacob Greenwood took a look at Ontario’s vineyards, and discovered 2020 is proving to be an amazing vintage. This week, Alexa Nadeau shares what’s happening in Nova Scotia, where harvest workers are in high demand, and customers are in short supply.
The pandemic has brought a significant amount of stress to most of us. Even so, we should remember to take some time to stop and smell the rosé, while appreciating the hard work of our Nova Scotian harvesters. This year, they face the many new challenges that come along with such a drastic shift in society, such as finding workers and acquiring enough business to stay afloat. They have risen to the occasion and succeeded even with the odds against them, and this is something to celebrate.
Avon River Valley
This region is at the centre of Nova Scotia, earning its name from the Avon River located there. Some of the most notable wineries located in this region are the Bent Ridge Winery, St Famille Winery and Johnston Vineyards.
When I spoke with Glenn Dodge, the owner of Bent Ridge Winery, he gave me some first-hand insight as to what the situation currently is in Nova Scotia. “We’ve had issues finding staff,” he said, “it’s been hard to find people to harvest; CERB definitely hurt this”. Unfortunately, people who would usually take up the seasonal harvest job can’t anymore due to the eligibility requirements – they can’t work while on CERB.
This doesn’t mean it’s all bad. “Because we’re located in the valley, it’s very warm and sunny and we have lots of space outside”, Glenn added. Thankfully, the benefit of outdoor space has allowed them to have a good crowd of people at their combination restaurant, winery and brewery.
The Annapolis Valley
This region runs along the western side of the province, near the Bay of Fundy. Its soils are very fertile, making it the perfect place for wineries to set up shop! Some of the region’s fan-favourite wineries include the Avondale Sky Winery, Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards, and Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, which grow L’Acadie Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling, among others.
The Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards website shows a clear-cut example of how the pandemic has affected local wineries. They have moved to appointment-based wine tastings as well as reduced seating capacity in their restaurant. While these changes are necessary for ensuring the safety of the public, the unfortunate reality is that the reduced capacity inevitably means less revenue for local business owners.
Located on the northern end of Nova Scotia, The Malagash Peninsula is home to a respectable array of wineries, with Jost Vineyards being the most notable. Jost Vineyards has actually won Gold Medals at international wine competitions for their Leon Millot and Cayuga grapes, meaning this winery should be first on your to-visit list!
The province has done an outstanding job handling the spread of the pandemic, but there are still obstacles. On the Jost Vineyards Instagram account, their employees are proudly displayed working hard amidst the current situation. Jost Vineyards began offering discounted wine shipments at the beginning of the crisis to incentivize Nova Scotians and surrounding provinces to buy local and ensure the success of family-run businesses like theirs.
The Gaspereau Valley wine region sits along the Gaspereau River. It encompasses multiple small communities, but the highlight of this sun-kissed region are its wineries, like Gaspereau Vineyards and L’Acadie Vineyards, to name but a few of these.
On top of dealing with the harsh weather from Hurricane Teddy, it’s been difficult for these wineries to find workers. Like at Bent Ridge Winery, locals are benefitting from CERB payments, meaning vineyards struggle to find workers. Gaspereau Vineyards (among others) have been using social media to try and attract willing people for the ongoing harvest season. Harvesters are the backbone of the wine-growing process, and so some businesses are struggling to get their grapes in before the frost.
This region has outstanding coastal views as well as some delicious wines. You can experience both at vineyards like Lunenberg County Winery and Petite Rivère Vineyards. Grapes that do well in this warmer region are the Seyval Blanc, Cayuga White and Muscat.
Each winery has their own COVID protocols, and Petite Rivière Vineyards outlines theirs in great detail on their website. As with the Annapolis Valley region, vineyards here are finding it difficult to get enough guests each day to make money while still following social distancing regulations. The restrictions regarding each winery’s maximum capacity definitely puts a strain on these business owners.