White noise | Food | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

White noise

The release of Blomidon Estate Winery’s buzzworthy new Chardonnay has Craig Pinhey thinking about great whites, and the potential for local premium wine to soar.

White noise
Thank winemaker Simon Rafuse, and good weather, for Blomidon’s new chardonnay.

Nova Scotia wine has gained status recently. Our fine sparkling wines and the Tidal Bay appellation white blends have piqued interest countrywide and Gaspereau's rieslings have impressed writers across Canada. Add to this the recent move towards opening the border to interprovinical shipping, and the industry has the potential to grow to levels never seen before.

The launch of the 2010 chardonnay from Blomidon Estate has certainly contributed to this buzz. Blomidon's winemaker, Simon Rafuse, led a recent tasting in Halifax, where guests sampled some excellent new bubblies—the 2011 Crémant and a 2010 Cuvée L'Acadie—and five vintages of its chardonnay: 2005 through 2008 and the just-released 2010. 

While Rafuse didn't make the older wines, he definitely gets the credit for the 2010. Well, he and the wonderful weather that year. Rafuse, vineyard manager Travis McFarlane and the winery's owners (who took over in 2007) are handling its chardonnay—which comes from the province's oldest chardonnay vineyards, planted in 1996—much differently than the previous owners.

Rafuse will only make a still 100 percent chardonnay in very good years. In other years it ends up in blends or sparkling wine like it did in 2011 and again in 2012, which was looking like a banner year until September rains and cool weather forced some hard decisions. 

Blomidon Estate's vineyards, located on the shores of the Minas Basin near Canning, have approximately four acres of chardonnay grapes. It's a good site—the temperature is moderated by the tides and sea breezes. The wind keeps vines dry, helping prevent disease, the soils drain well and south-facing slopes give excellent sun exposure. There's also newly planted chardonnay at Blomidon's Woodside Vineyard, located eight kilometres away on the lower slopes of the North Mountain.

Tasting the 2010 alongside the older wines was quite a revelation. Although some of the others were quite decent, including the American oak aged 2005, the crisply acidic, chablis-like 2007 and the somewhat richer 2008, the 2010 is markedly better. It is very much similar to quality Burgundy, with well-integrated oak, good body, elegance and length, but still with fresh lemony acidity. And priced at $35, it sets a new benchmark for dry Nova Scotia dinner white wines.

The big questions are whether there is a strong enough market for premium white wine locally and via interprovincial sales and, if there is, how frequently will the weather allow a wine as good as the 2010? Blomidon only made 66 cases—around 700 bottles—of it, which will no doubt sell with the help of local restaurants. The winery has continued to plant more chardonnay, and others might well follow suit, so it will be interesting to see what comes next. If they can make a dry table wine three or four out of every 10 years, and sell sparkling wine the others, things could be promising, but if the climate doesn't cooperate, or the market doesn't develop for bubbly, then we could see a glut of premium priced sparkling wine.

Although there are risks, this 2010 is so good that there is reason to believe chardonnay can become the latest signature wine for Nova Scotia.

TASTING NOTES: Blomidon Estate 2010 Chardonnay
Blended from wines barrel fermented and aged in a mix of new and low use French oak, the 2010 is pale gold, with an attractive nose of mineral, cotton candy, lemon and subtly spicy French oak. It is blessed with firm acidity and relatively full body, considering its low alcohol (11.7 percent), and has excellent length. A great wine for roast chicken stuffed with citrus fruit, or rich fish like halibut.

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