New Face of Canadian Winemaking
Nova Scotia–raised Gina Haverstock caught the wine bug while working at the Jost Vineyards in Malagash, shortly after graduating with a BSc from the University of New Brunswick. Her experience at Jost was life-transforming: she abandoned plans to become a doctor and set her sights on winemaking instead, going on to complete the prestigious program in cool-climate oenology and viticulture at Brock University in Ontario. The energetic Haverstock also managed to earn a sommelier certification through the International Sommelier Guild. She then went on to work in vineyards and wineries of such far-flung places as Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, Rüdesheim in the Rheingau, the Wachau region of Austria, topping things off with a brief stint in Burgundy.
Last year, Haverstock returned to Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Vineyards as its winemaker, just in time to hit the ground running with the 2006 harvest. Her experience, particularly in Germany and Austria, reinforced her passionate belief in the potential for cool-climate winemaking in her native province. By then, she had also developed a particular love for Riesling, the great grape of Germany.
Fortunately, Gaspereau Vineyards has a small patch of Riesling planted in an ideal corner of the vineyard, which became Haverstock’s special project for the 2006 vintage. “I must admit,” she says, “Riesling is a grape very close to my heart; after spending two vintages in the Rheingau in Germany, how could one not fall in love with this variety? It is famous for drawing flavours from the soil, especially minerality — a characteristic that the Gaspereau 2006 Riesling is not lacking. The wine is known to carry acidity well, making it a great food wine and one to chose with local cuisine, especially seafood.”
She has every reason to be proud of her achievement with the 2006 vintage. The Riesling is indeed splendid. But Gaspereau’s other varieties have fared equally well. As she is quick to point out, however, “all this talk about Riesling is by no means intended to shadow the great varieties that have made an exquisite mark in the Nova Scotia wine world, nor is it meant to take away from the ones that are just finding their footing and are starting to get the appreciation they deserve.”
She singles out L’Acadie, the variety that has become Nova Scotia’s benchmark white grape, noting that it performs really well in the vineyard. “It is an interesting grape in that it can take to so many different winemaking and aging techniques (lees contact, cool fermented, oak-aged, méthode champenoise).” This, Haverstock says, “makes it versatile and allows it to wear the imprint of its winemaker’s style but, yet, it has enough personality to carry through the L’Acadie characteristics.” Lucie Kuhlmann, a variety similar to the more-commonly-seen Maréchal Foch, also has great potential in Nova Scotia apparently. “The variety is relatively early-ripening and shows amazing ripe-berry fruit characteristic combined with a nice tannin level. It seems to respond well to oak aging as well, making it a great grape to work with.”
Haverstock’s approach is to use her wide-ranging experience and adapt her influences and knowledge to what works best for Nova Scotia. “As in any line of work,” she says, “there is taking from what you know and there is adapting to the circumstances; a combination of these two things, in my opinion, makes for the best product.”
Since her return, she has been particularly impressed by the push toward pairing Nova Scotian wines with locally prepared and grown foods. She is brimming with confidence about Nova Scotia’s potential. “For a wine region that is still in its infancy, we should be proud of the accomplishments. We have an ever-increasing wealth of knowledge in the industry, strong boards and associations to promote and ensure only the highest quality wine growing in the province. I feel honoured to be a part of an industry with such a bright future.” With her talent, energy and infectiously bubbly personality, Gina Haverstock looks set to be an important player in the bright future she foresees.