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Starry heights 

The Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival uncorks the province's surprisingly wide range of wines.

"The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation," said Benjamin Franklin, stating, "the universe is too full of stars." Franklin---who also once wrote a how-to guide to making wine in the 1743 edition of his Poor Richard's Almanac---would be impressed, then, by the discoveries that await starry-eyed wine connoisseurs this month at the Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival.

September and October are harvesting months for grapes in Nova Scotia, and to celebrate, the Winery Association of Nova Scotia has, for the fifth time, coordinated a province-wide festival celebrating local wine. "The grapes are at their finest---they're full, they're plump, they're ready for picking. And in some places you can smell the fermenting grapes as they make the wine," says Christine White of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia.

"Our grapes are very unique. Sometimes they aren't familiar names to people; L'Acadie Blanc is our signature grape and it doesn't grow anywhere else in the world." Along with the varietals that are unique to Nova Scotia, there are also more common varieties like Chardonnay, New York Muscat and Pinot Noir grown to make local reds, whites, fruit wines and ice wines.

There are 11 wineries in Nova Scotia, 12 if you include Benjamin Bridge, which is only a working winery at this point. By sometime next year it should be a fully operating winery, opening in earnest along with Luckett Vineyards and Rivers of Avondale.

In the valley, Domaine De Grand Pré, celebrating 10 years in the business this year, works with Kentville's Agriculture Canada Station to develop new varieties. It won five medals at the All Canadian Wine Awards this year. Using grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling and DeChaunac, Gasperau Vineyards and Blomidon Estate Winery make more familiar whites and reds along with some uniquely local varietals. It won a silver medal for its 2008 Reserve Marechal Foch this year. L'Acadie Vineyards specializes in traditional-method sparkling wines. It is the first certified organic winery in NS, and won two silvers and a bronze for its sparkling wine, cider and white wine.

Sainte-Famille Wines boasts the oldest vines in Nova Scotia in one of the warmest grape-growing sites, while Muir Murray Estate Winery is one of the newest estate wineries in the province. Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, the Pinocchio of wineries, is still waiting to be made a real boy, but made a splash this year with the release of its sparkling wine, Nova 7.

LaHave River Valley boasts two wineries. Lunenburg County Winery is located on a highbush bluberry farm, and specializes in fruit wines. Petite Riviere Vineyards makes blends, such as its Luci Kuhlman/Leon Millot blend, labelled Côte de LaHave.

Jost Vineyards is the only winery situated in the Malagash Peninsula. It's perhaps best known for its ice wines and Muscat, winning three medals including a gold for its 2009 Valley Roads L'Acadie Muscat.

Bear River Vineyards, a cottage winery that is reputedly the smallest in the province, is one of two Bear River Valley vineyards, notable for their environmentally friendly operations, which include solar- powered electrical systems and machinery and vehicles powered by biodiesel. Annapolis Highland Vineyards prides itself on creating varieties not available elsewhere. This year it won gold for its 2009 Pinot Gris and 2009 White Wedding dessert wine, along with two other medals.

Festival events take place at those wineries, along with other restaurants and locations, from September 16-October 17. From gourmet dinners to grape stomps, the next month is so wine-soaked be careful not to find yourself seeing stars.

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