A Tour and a Taste
While staying in the Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, area, we took advantage of a rainy day and visited a couple of Nova Scotia wineries. We did purchase a bottle of red from one, and got a fabulous tour of the other, Bear River Vineyards. Bear River Vineyards is located close to where the first wine grapes were planted in Nova Scotia in 1611 by the French Apothecary Louis Herbert. The barn in which the winery is located was first used as a dairy barn. It’s built on a slope, which, coincidentally, makes the creation of wine easier and more efficient.
The first thing we noticed when we stepped inside the old barn was that it was several stories tall. As it turns out, the tasting room is the base of a 2 ½ story barn that rises above it. The owners’ residence is on the other side of the wall we’re looking at. There are another 1 ½ floors below us. As we were finishing our tasting, one of the owners, Darren, came by and offered us a tour. Of course, we said yes!
Wine Creation Begins Here
Ironically, this is such a small winery, that the creation of the wine actually begins in the tasting room! In October, they will bring the grapes into the tasting room and set up the machine that peels the grapes. They are then sent down to the tank where they will sit while they ferment (see the small circle in the lower right area of the image). Part of the efficiency of the barn being on a slope, is that this process is done without machinery, using gravity to get the grapes to the lower portion of the barn/winery.
Private Tasting Room
Altho not a part of the processing for creating wine, our first stop was the private tasting room, which was on a slightly lower level than the tasting room. The “bar” shown on the left of the image is a repurposed piano. The artful decoration on the bar is actually the inner workings of the piano, with a bit of color added. And, yes, if you strum your fingers against the wires, they will make a piano like sound! The actual tasting table (on the right in the image) is a safe door into which wood has been inserted. It, too, is a repurposed item. Originally, the folks that created it meant it to be a kitchen island, so if you look closely, you can see a lower shelf built into the legs of the table. Also, check out the hinges of the safe door on the top of the table! Beyond the table is the area where the wines available for tasting and purchasing are stored – the shelves are rather bare, because they haven’t yet started the bottling of the wine for this season. That will begin next week.
New Use for Marbles
Larger wineries have barrels of varying sizes. However, the smaller wineries (and this winery claims to be the smallest in Nova Scotia) must be more creative. In this case, you can see that they are using what I think of as water bottles that might be used in the water dispensers that you might see in office buildings. When wine is being aged, the winemakers do not want any air in the barrels. In larger barrels, the lids can be adjusted down to lie right on top of the wine. For bottles like this, tho, marbles work well to take up space so that no air is in that bottle. What makes marbles such a creative solution is that they are very easy to clean and are not porous. Clever!
Growing New Wine Vines
Here’s the greenhouse where Darren nurtures his new wine vines. He takes cuttings from his own vines, cuts the vines into 5”-6” cuttings, puts root stimulator on one end, and plants them. He said it is rather tedious, but when you’re a small winery, you have to be somewhat a jack of all trades! His wife, Su, was formerly a pharmacist. She is now taking classes to be able to do the scientific end of creating new varieties of wines from their grapes.
Bottling, Corking and Labeling
This was the next to the last stop on the tour. Several folks work on this last bit of the process. In this area, which is on a lower level that the room in which all the aging barrels were kept, the wine is funneled from the barrels (again using gravity) into the machine on the right in this image (thru the window behind it). The first person makes sure the wine bottles are appropriately filled, using the first machine. The filled bottles are then turned over to the 2nd person who uses the tall machine in the middle of the image to cork the bottle. Then, the filled and corked bottle manually moves onto the first stop on the table. Each bottle is laid onto the equipment that almost looks like a knife rack laying on its side, and then pushed up into the metal portion on the top of the equipment. That adheres the foil onto the top of the bottle, covering the cork. Finally, using the final piece of equipment, the labels are manually attached to the bottles. Darren said that when this part of the process is done, the team can prepare approximately 1,000 bottles of wine per day. They have a small vineyard, so that the total annual production is only about 4,000, so the bottling portion will take a week or less, depending on the different varieties they will be bottling.
View of the Vineyard
After a long day of wine processing, tasting or selling, it’s nice to be able sit back and enjoy a view of the vineyard. The vines we’re looking out on are not full for a couple of reasons. First, it is early in the season. However, this area had what was a deadly frost just a few weeks ago. Most of the vines were so damaged by the frost, it is anticipated that the vines will bear only 25% - 50% of their normal grape crop for this season’s harvest in October. To offset some of the variances of growing grapes, Darren and Su, his wife, also rent out rooms here for those who wish to get away from it all!