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Jost Does It in Nova Scotia (November 20, 2003)

"It is the year 2020, Nova Scotia's twenty wineries have just returned from competitions in Europe in which they won an impressive twelve medals. The success of these competitions combined with strong energetic promotion has seen our wineries emerge to capture an impressive 25 per cent of the domestic market, up from a mere 6 per cent two decades ago. On a national scale, Nova Scotia's share of the domestic premium end has become disproportionately high relative to the volumes produced..."

Such is the rosy vision of a report developed by the Nova Scotia wine industry last year. If this call to action energizes the province's winery proprietors, like Hans Christian Jost, then it just might become a reality.

When I phoned Hans Christian earlier this year and told him I wanted to tour Nova Scotia's wineries, he offered to spend the day with me driving around to see his competitors' facilities. Such is the spirit of collegiality that drives Canada's smallest wine region – smallest, that is, in terms of production. Currently, there are thirty growers and less than three hundred acres under vine – not much more, in fact, than the fledgling Prince Edward County in Ontario.

At the time of writing, Nova Scotia has five wineries, the fewest of any grape-growing province in Canada, but it appears to be the proudest of them. Wherever you go you see the local wines prominently displayed on restaurant wine lists – from the Wine Spectator award-winning Blomidon Inn in Wolfville (where the greatest concentration of the province's vineyards is to be found) to the smallest B&B motel far removed from the grape-growing areas – such as the Marquis of Dufferin in Port Dufferin on the Eastern shore, who offer a range of Jost wines almost to the exclusion of the rest of the world's wine regions. And most of those involved in the industry, growers and winery proprietors alike, sport a front licence plate that reads "NS Wine."

Hans Christian Jost is gazing at the shell of a building he's having erected in the Gaspereau Valley. "I think I have the attainable goal of having the smallest winery in the province," he muses, "producing 2000 cases a year right here." Which is ironic because Hans Christian happens to own the largest winery in Nova Scotia – Jost Vineyards, a 50,000-case facility on the Malagash Peninsula, the most northerly vineyards in the province. Forty-five acres are planted there, dating back to 1978, when Hans Christian's late father Hans and his wife Erna, immigrants from the Rhine Valley, revived the family winemaking tradition. (Hans Christian tells me that you could fit the entire grape acreage of Ontario into the Malagash Peninsula where Jost is located, overlooking the Northumberland Strait, and there would still be lots of vineyard land available.)

But Malagash is a significant distance from where we are standing in the rain, watching the workmen put on the roof of his new winery, Gaspereau Valley Vineyards. Already he has thirty acres planted of L'Acadie (an indigenous white hybrid grape), Muscat, Lucy Kuhlman, Seyval, Vidal, Chardonnay, Ortega and a token quarter acre of Riesling. Most of Nova Scotia is planted to early-ripening hybrids, although efforts are now being made to find the best micro-climates for the more marketable vinifera varieties.

Apart from his own acreage in Malagash and the Gaspereau Valley, Hans Christian Jost has contracts with growers for a further 55 acres. His major grower is a waterfront engineer, John Warner, who farms a picture-perfect 38-acre vineyard established 13 years ago. The grapes for Jost's Vidal Icewine 1999 that won Best of Show at the 2000 All-Canadian Wine Competition came from this vineyard. Warner also makes Icewine from Ortega, Muscat and a Geisenheim clone.

Jost Vineyards, under its young, bearded winemaker Dave Beardsall, produces a bewildering 37 different wines, including fruit wines and a "Port." I did not taste them all, but a reasonable sampling gave me a good impression of the style of Nova Scotia wines in general. With their driving acidity, these are wines that pair beautifully with the abundant seafood of the region. Here are my notes on the Jost wines I enjoyed most.

Best Bets

Jost Eagle Tree Muscat 2001
A lovely Alsace-style Muscat, with an intense, aromatic nose of orange and carnation and a clean, lingering dry spicy flavour. (89)

Jost Leon Millot 2001
Deeply coloured, concentrated, fruity, ripe plum flavour with a velvety mouth feel. Medium-bodied and well balanced. (87)

Jost Reserve Marechal Foch 2001
Dense ruby colour; vanilla and blackberry nose with a roasted note; smoky, toasty oak with a full-bodied flavour of pencil lead, blackberry and spice. (88)

Jost De Chaunac 2001
Mature ruby colour; vanilla oak, cherry nose; medium-bodied, tart, cherry pie flavour. (86)

Visit my links section for links to Jost, other Nova Scotia wineries, and hundreds of wineries around the world.




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