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Grape Witches work their magic at The Ostrich Club 

The Toronto duo hosts Smuggler’s Cove, a night of natural wine, at the brand new Hydrostone bar

click to enlarge Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben explain "wine over loud disco music" - JENALLE LOS
  • Nicole Campbell and Krysta Oben explain "wine over loud disco music"
  • Jenalle Los

“A cool house party where there happens to be really good wine.”

We would expect nothing less from Grape Witches swooping into Halifax to pour some magical wines for those attending a party at the Hydrostone Market’s brand new restaurant, The Ostrich Club.

To say the least, this Smuggler’s Cove party will be a wine event that diverges from the norm. In a phone interview, Grape Witch Nicole Campbell emphasized things like creating “an inclusive, safe space for people who don’t normally go to wine events,” and “getting to open some of the most thrilling wines, and offering them for as cheap as we can afford.” Her willingness to name the two barriers for many people to the wine scene—pretention and cost—is refreshing.

Born and bred in Toronto, Campbell met Finland-born, Ontario-bred Krysta Oben 10 years ago (“What is time?” she pauses to muse in the midst of her story) in Ontario’s wine industry. Both Campbell—a wine buyer with Canadian wine distributor Lifford—and Oben—sommelier at Toronto wine bar Paris Paris—have formal wine training.

“But there was a disconnect between what we loved and what excited us most [about wine], and the kinds of events we were going to,” says Campbell.
From that disconnect emerged the Grape Witches, championing low-intervention and organic winemakers, “explaining wine over loud disco music” at parties and events across the country.

The Grape Witches make a habit of partnering with other women in wine—women like Nicole Raufeisen, Halifax sommelier and general manager of The Ostrich Club and Little Oak, restaurants that share owners with Agricola Street Brasserie.

“We connected over a mutual love of low-intervention wines and fun party times,” said Raufeisen of the Grape Witches. “As these wines are still relatively new to Halifax, we thought it would be a great opportunity to pour some great juice in a fun, new context.”

That new context is the much-anticipated The Ostrich Club, which, according to owner Rachel Knox, will be “a place to wander in for lunch, brunch and at the end of your day,” in keeping with the Hydrostone’s neighbourhood feel. The fresh, seasonal menu and focused beverage list (with lots of low-intervention wines, we are promised) strives for quality and

Even for those who can’t make it to The Ostrich Club on Sunday, the Grape Witches offer two simple spells that anyone can cast.

“A nice way to invoke summer magic is to put all red wine in the fridge,” suggests Campbell, “and notice the magic of levity and

Gasp, right? Not so fast. Spell number two?

“Don’t take your wine too seriously!” 

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February 13, 2020

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