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Liquid art 

Benjamin Bridge sparkling wine makes a big splash at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Benefit.

Benjamin Bridge, a new sparkling wine specialist in the flourishing Gaspereau Valley, produced the sellout Nova 7 sparkler wine.

They were also the Gold sponsor for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's annual benefit gala, Art Takes Flight, held November 2 at the Lord Nelson Hotel. While the fundraiser featured silent and live art auctions, actor Gordon Pinsent and music by the John Alphonse Big Band, the wine was my main draw.

Benjamin Bridge provided the wine for the evening, paired to a three-course dinner menu designed by Tahir Salamat, the Lord Nelson's executive chef.

A few lucky souls were treated to Benjamin Bridge's remarkable sauvignon blanc, poured in the sponsor's room before the event. The 2006 sauvignon blanc is rounder, more tropical than the 2005 I sampled at the vineyard last year. That was made in a Loire style---crisp, mineral-laden and lemon tinged---while 2006 follows a Kiwi-style. Both are excellent.

As far as I know, these are the only sauvignon blancs in the province, although they are not yet available commercially. Only 10 cases were made in '05, 20 in '06 and the '07 was marred by problems. I spoke to winemakers Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Peter Gamble about buying some. While there is realistically only enough for owners Gerry McConnell and Dara Gordon to share privately, Deslauriers (a young Montrealer with experience in California) said the 2008 harvest will give around 50 cases of wine. That growth bodes well for consumers.

Our meal's first course paired a 2006 Nova 7 with a brown sugarcane and beet salad with truffled honey goat cheese dressing. Nova 7 is lightly fizzy, off-dry with rose-petal, tropical melon and peach notes that come from Muscat and Perle of Csaba grapes. It is very much in the Italian Asti Piedmontese style. Although it is often difficult to match wine with salad, this off-dry white is your best bet, especially with Nova 7's underlying acidity.

A 2004 Foch accompanied the main: beef tenderloin glazed with tamarind and cracked black pepper, dauphinoise potato and sauteed seasonal vegetables. The beef was good, less exotic than tamarind might imply, and would go well with any decent red wine. The 2004 Foch has a dark-red colour and intense fruit, with some "old world" elements that evolved since I tasted it at the winery. It includes an earthiness and antique wood aromas which some might find challenging.

Benjamin Bridge's 2004 Borealis Vidal Icewine jarred with the "passionfruit and orange chiboust with nectarine carpaccio, pistachio emulsion and anise-seed croustillant" that finished the meal. I found the intensity of the icewine's acidity---a good thing---impossible to reconcile with the sweet dessert.

The Borealis, an excellent example of how good Nova Scotia icewine can be, was on sale as part of the fundraiser. Benjamin Bridge contributed $5 to the AGNS for every bottle and $100 for every case purchased.

Borealis is a beautiful drink. I'd even go so far as to call it liquid art.


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