Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nova Scotia Wines Are Humming And Magnificent Blomidon Inn

Arrival In Halifax
The flight to Nova Scotia was a very fine two hours. Greg Rist and I were met in Halifax by Pam Wamback of Tourism, Culture and Heritage for the Province. As refreshing as she was friendly Pam depicted the very best of what the Government had to offer and quickly wisked us away from the hustle of the airport towards the Malagash Peninsula where Jost Vineyards is located just outside of Tatamagouche.
Train Station Inn
We left our bags at the famous Train Station Inn where we were to spend the night and went off to begin our filming of the new series "Adventures In Wine Frontiers". While I was there in 2006, I couldn't get over the same exhilaration of seeing the magnificent scene of the blue waters of the Jost Vineyards lining their way towards Northumberland Strait; green meeting blue in the distance. There were some changes of course-----such as the recent plantings of L'Acadie Blanc situated in front as van made the left turn onto the property.In general, the vineyard and boutique was welcomingly familiar with the same ambiance that greeted me three years prior.
We took some shots in the vineyards as well as inside the boutique-----making fun with the staff and also doing some comical routines for the show. We then were taken by Pam to our resting place for the night at the Train Station Inn where we were met by James Le Fresne, the owner who single handily saved the Station from demolition some thirty odd years ago-----when he was only 17 years of age! He fought what others deemed to be a loosing battle with bureaucracy and took on not only the rail road company but the municipality as well. He won both battles---the last by becoming an elected official. An Act, known as the "Train Station Inn Building Act" was the culmination of the fight and secured Jimmy's as he likes to be called firmly placed in both Tatamagouche and history.
The Inn is an unusual assortment of Rail Road Cars which are restored to perfection into bedrooms. These historic vehicles ranging in age from 50 to 110 years are the epitome of historic Canadiana. One of them, the Alexandra Coach, was the coach that belonged to Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada and also of the tea fame!The night in the lovely restored 1911 Caboose was both comfortable and exciting. It came with all the comforts of home plus the thrill of being part of Canada's history.
Hans Christian Jost
The morning came quickly and we were introduced to Christine White of the Nova Scotia Wine Association. Christine proved to be a worthy person to take over the job that Pam so finely started. Her competence in taking over for Pam proved to become a true asset to the film team! There were several things to do on our agenda but the first was a return to Jost Vineyards and a meeting with the big man of Nova Scotia Wine----Hans Christian Jost.
Hans Christian's story begins when his father, Hans W. Jost decided to make wine out of his garage in the early 1970's. Demand increased such that he then bought land which resulted in prime vineyards being developed in not only Malagash but also in the Gaspereau Valley!
Hans is a tireless worker who eats and breathes wine. His commitment and dedication to the vines and wines of Nova Scotia is shown by his constant work to not only improve his wines but also those of other wineries in the province. He believes in the production and improvisation of vines and grape varieties that grow well in the climate and has done wonders with what many call Hybrid Grapes but what he just calls Grape Vines. "After all", he says, "Do we call apple varieties that people like "Hybrid Apples"? No! So Why should we call those grapes that work well here and produce excellent and above average wines Hybrids"---a term which I think is used in a derogatory way?!
Hans went on to inform me that in order to make the soil receptive to the vines and to bring more nutrients into it, he imported oyster shells and crab shells----some seven hundred tons of them. He spread them around his vineyard. The result can be seen in the healthy appearance of his grapes.
Hans informed me in another matter. He considers the Annapolis Valley a prime area for growing grapes. He attributes this to two major things. The Bay Of Fundy empties itself twice per day. This means that twice per day, the equivalent of all the water in all the rivers in the Globe is emptied from this basin twice per day. That is a great production of kinetic and heat producing energy. In addition there is the protective and insulative effect of the North Mountain on the vineyards. Then there is the Atlantic Ocean. This combination is just right for the vines of this area.
After much filming and discussing of wines. Hans allowed us to taste a "barrel sample" of his new Stainless Steel Fermented Marachal Foch---winner of double gold in the All Canadian Wine Awards. We also tasted some of his new Whisky Barrel Aged Ice Wine---truly a marvel.
Christine Introduces The Pork Shop and Sweet Shop
Christine and Pam are true gifts to the people of Nova Scotia. Their enthusiasm and congenialty make them invaluable to the associations they work for. Christine took us to two very different yet very entertaining (and delicious) spots while on the way to Wolfville which would be our destination for the next three days. The first was The Pork Shop in Denmark (Nova Scotia) which, of course made pork products. Manager, Dave Wall reflected the attitude that most of to you he people we met exhibited. He was friendly and very welcoming. We were hungry and wanted to buy some thing to eat. now Dave only sold the products and really did not sell any deli items but, like a rescuer in the midst of a storm, he made us some of the most delicious roast pork sandwiches this side of Heaven along with great coffee. After an interview and some filming for the Adventures program, we were on our way towards Wolfville but Christine was not yet finished. Our guide and associate had one more surprise left up her lovely sleeve and that was probably the sweetest of all.
"Do you like chocolate?" she said with a fiendish grin! Greg was the first to reply!
"CHOCOLATE! OF COURSE! I chocolate Mousse!" I said trying to keep up to the conversation.
Christine took us to the locally favourite and award winning chocolatier Sweet Spot Chocolate Shop where owner Nancey was waiting for us.
Nancy is probably one of the most pleasant persons that one could possibly hope to meet. With a set of sparkling eyes and a perpetual smile imprinted on her face, Nancy has one more thing to draw the endearment of others. It is a very distinct and mischievous pixyish laugh that promotes one to laugh also!
Nancy's parents had a Horticultural Centre which she inherited and ran for 12 years. After taking a course in making candy, she and her husband decided to make chocolate themselves. The result business has exceeded all expectations and she has won many awards for her business. Nancy has even won testimonials from many celebrities and politicians including: Regis Philbin and President Clinton. Her infectious giggle, though, is what one remembers. She still owes me a dance for when I return to taste more chocolate!
The Blomidon Inn
The Blomidon Inn is located in the very beautiful and historical Wolfville which is the gateway to the Annapolis Valley! This town dates back to the 17th Century and has many historical homes and artifacts (great cemetary) that reflect a colourful past. Along with a glorious past, comes a learning institution that is second to none. Acadia Century homes line the main street aptly named Main Street. Among these is the Blomidon Inn!
Built by 19th Centruy sea captain, Rufus Burgess, this 29 room house is open all year with the exception of Christmas. It has many highlights such as many gardens and ponds with lilies, jacuzzis, specialy decorated rooms and gourmet dining. Staying here three nights is going to be fun!
The house that Rufus built was named Perth House to honour his wife's Scottish homeland. He became very famous for his ship building and was responsible for some 23 ships including one of the largest, the Canada! After his death in 1905, the house became the property of another businessman William Henry Chase who himself had built a property in Wolfville for his family (now called the Historic Victoria Inn). The property was later sold to Horton W. Phinney, another businessman. Perth House went through several owners until it was aquired by Jim and Donna Laceby and their partner John Bragg in 1988. The house, now called the Blomidon House had fallen into major disrepair.
The Lacebys methodically restored the property to its former glory and now call it Blomidon Inn. Their sons Michael and Sean have taken over the operation. Sean works in the kitchen and is responsible for several publications as well as a very interesting cookbook while Michael oversees the day to day operations. Jim continues to help with marketing and promotion of the property while Donna takes care of the Gift Shop.
The Inn has now come full circle. It is the unique and class place that it was over one hundred years ago with the added feature of being one of Nova Scotia's top Inns. Its food is magnificent and the staff cannot possibly perform any better. Great service, imaginative food and subline rooms------what more could a traveller want?
Point of interest! The name Blomidon comes from the large rock projection in the Minas Basin. The name has resulted from the term "Blow Me Down" referring to the winds that occur when the tides come in and out!