After years of driving by the signs, I finally had the opportunity (or, rather, took the time) to visit Jost Vineyards in Malagash, Nova Scotia. Located within spitting distance of the Northumberland Strait, Jost is a popular stop for summer tourists wandering the back roads of Nova Scotia. On this gorgeous sunny day in November, its popularity was evident as the parking lot was full, the driveway was lined with cars and the lines to purchase wine were not for the faint of heart.
The Christmas Open House is an annual event which celebrates Christmas, wine and local artisans. Craft tables, brimming with photography, gorgeous hand knit treasures and delicious baked goods, called for attention in a bright and airy room off the main courtyard.
Cheese samples (and purchasing opportunities!) were offered by Knoydart Farm – which is also organic – and included “normal” cheddar but also intriguing flavours that included chili, cranberry, dill and chives.
Sausages and hot dogs were available for purchase but I subsisted primarily on cheese samples, baked goods… and wine. Of course.
I have mentioned before that I am strongly against the phenomenon of Cellared in Canada wines. I believe it is nothing more than a disservice to the Canadian wine industry. I didn’t realize – as we don’t get Jost in Ontario – that Jost was also part of the Cellared in Canada problem. Their selection of wines to sample showed which were exclusively Nova Scotian and I found that listing to be lower than I would have liked.
I primarily sampled white wines, for two reasons. One, I didn’t have a lot of time and two, I find that I prefer white wines from cool climate areas. I blame it on a few too many green pepper flavoured wines. I took tasting notes on everything sampled but will only include a few here. I find that I’m reluctant to share my notes, or my honest opinions of wine, because I, myself, am quite suspicious of the wine reviews and tasting notes I find in strange corners of the Internet.
I started with the Prost Sparkling ($17.99), a fairly dry wine with a good acidity balanced by a hint of residual sugar and notes of lemon, apple and grapefruit. The finish was surprisingly long and citrusy. The grape variety used is L’Acadie Blanc, a complex hybrid known for its ability to withstand the cold and fairly common throughout Nova Scotian wineries.
I tried the 2012 Tidal Bay, a blend of Ortega, L’Acadie Blanc and Muscat. I found this to be an extremely shy wine with light notes of apple, peach, pear and a a bit of honey. The acidity was surprisingly low, the finish was short and fruity and since I had to struggle to find the character of this wine, I found myself fairly disappointed. Tidal Bay was designed as the “signature wine” of Nova Scotia and most Nova Scotian wineries produce a Tidal Bay – the wine has to follow a set of standards (including a maximum alcohol percentage of 11%) but wineries are free to blend and experiment within the constraints of the appellation. Tidal Bay wines are often my second favourite selection from Nova Scotia wineries (sparkling wine is number one!) so I was quite honestly expecting more.
The 2012 Coastal Vineyards was an interesting blend of L’Acadie and Ortega. The grapes are not estate grown – rather, they are selected from 5 different growers throughout Nova Scotia. I was told that they would be selecting the best 5 growers for this wine on an annual basis and profiling them at http://www.jostgrows.ca. I tasted apples, peaches, honeydew melons, apricots and mineral notes on this balanced wine.
An interesting comparison was tasting through the three marechal foch’s on offer. I found two to be slightly green but thoroughly enjoyed the Côte St. George Marechal Foch, made of grapes grown from the Antigonish area. It was slightly peppery with cherry notes – well balanced, with smooth tannins.
I am often described as a wine snob by my family – which is usually why I avoid attending wine events in their presence – because I ask relevant, wine-nerdy questions. If a representative from a winery tells me something is unoaked or “lightly oaked” – and then it tastes like I ate a barrel – I naturally want an explanation. I was happy to see that those manning the tasting bar at Jost, even facing such a large crowd, were able to answer my questions and often anticipated what I would want to know. They knew their products. I was really impressed by the information that was disseminated and by their eagerness to share the wines they were representing. There was zero pressure to purchase, no tasting fees were charged and there were no attempts to hurry me along. I think that a quiet afternoon at Jost would be perfect for a beginning wine student who wants a chance to sample and discuss some wines without pressure or stress.
It was a busy afternoon but I left Jost with a few bottles of wine (the 2012 Coastal Vineyards white and the 2012 Côte St. George Marechal Foch), a notebook of tasting notes, a head full of information and a better handle on the largest winery in Nova Scotia.