New Brunswick’s Increasingly Exciting Wine and Food Scene

NOTE: The edited version of this column  was published in the Telegraph Journal on June 14th
The past few weeks have been very busy for me, and that is mostly due to the local wine and food scene.  When I moved here in late 1998 there was no commercial local wine made from New Brunswick grapes; now we have several wineries making good wine from grapes, and more are on the way soon.
In addition, there wasn’t much of a restaurant scene 15 years ago. That sure has changed.  We now have dozens of very good restaurants around the province, and several that I would proudly put up against pretty much any place in Canada. I went to one of those – Deja Bu in Caraquet – for a dinner and lunch two weeks ago as part of Festivin. More on that later.
A month ago I was in Windsor, Ontario judging the All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC), Canada’s oldest national wine competition. Next week I’ll be in Niagara judging the newest one: the National Wine Awards of Canada, via Wine Align, which essentially replaces the Canadian Wine Awards. And, as soon as I get back, I have to zoom to Halifax to judge the Atlantic Canada Wine Awards. New Brunswick wines factor into all of these competitions.
The results are out from the 2013 ACWC’s, and once again New Brunswick wineries brought home some hardware. You can see all the results here: www.canadianwinetrail.com/cwt.
The biggest winner from New Brunswick was Gillis of Belleisle winery, located in Springfield, about 13 km from Norton. Gillis’s wines have been made the past few years by Brock University (Ontario) trained winemaker Hyun Suk Lee, who is more commonly known as Leeko. Originally from Seoul, Korea, Leeko has made major strides at Gillis, producing good wines from estate grapes and other fruit, including apples, as well as purchased fruit from other areas, including red and white grapes from former winery owner Paul Boudreau’s vineyard in Memramcook.
Gillis won Silver medals for their 2012 Honey Rosé – grape wine with honey added, and Apple Crisp – apple wine flavoured with cinnamon sticks, and a huge Double Gold for their 2011 Premium Red, a blend of 80% Foch from Memramcook and 20% Marquette grapes from the same site, but dried using the method made famous for Amarone wines in Veneto, Italy. They have 100 cases of it and it is priced at $24.75. The Apple Crisp will be released soon, but the Rosé is available now for $13.75.  They aso have some of their Silver Medal winning Premium Red from 2010, as well as their Cranberry Ceilidh, which won Gold last year in the off dry fruit wine category. It retails for $15.
These wines should be available at your local ANBL, but for now you can purchase them at their very nice little winery, or at the Kingston, Saint John, and Sussex farmer’s markets.
Other NB winners included Winegarden Estates with a big Double Gold for their 2012 Maple Dessert Wine and a Silver for their Rubina Blueberry wine, Bronze for Happy Knight for their Black Currant wine, and Silver for their 2012 Crème de Cassis, and Verger Belliveau Orchard, who snagged a bronze for their 2012 Beausejour.
Now, back to Caraquet. Two weeks ago I spent a couple of days at the annual Festivin in Caraquet, which is a can’t miss event for me.  This is one of the premiere wine and food events in Atlantic Canada, and their Gala Dinner, this year held on Thursday, May 30, is the crème de la crème. This very special event was held this year at Sommelier Robert Noel’s déjà BU! bar à vin et resto, a groundbreaking restaurant by the shore in Caraquet.  This year’s special guest was Sommelier Véronique Rivest, Best Sommelier in Canada for 2012, who recently returned from placing 1st in the Americas in Brazil and 2nd in the world in Tokyo. Rivest talked us through the wines she chose to pair with a multi-course meal that included oysters two ways, a seafood platter featuring house smoked scallop, lobster tempura and sea urchin rice, pork cheeks, kobe beef,  tenderloin on the bone with umami sauce, and a spectacular dessert. Perhaps it is needless to say that there were many fine wines served. The entire evening was a massive success.
dejabukitchen
Robert Noel and his team in the kitchen at déjà BU!
The next day, at a tasty burger lunch at déjà BU!  Rivest gave a demonstration on how to do a blind tasting of wine when put on the spot, which Is something I’ve done myself before, but never under the pressure of a major Sommelier competition. She did very well, practically nailing all four wines. Attendees were impressed.
verodejabu
Sommelier Véronique Rivest speaks from the kitchen at déjà BU!
That Friday night I attended the Festivin Grand Tasting, a typical wine show except that it has a super fun Caves a Vin that continues after the show closes. If you have never attended Festivin, put it on your schedule for next year. It helps if you are bilingual, but you’lll have a terrific time in any case.  www.Festivin.ca.
My work wasn’t done, though, as that Saturday morning I returned to help present Portuguese and Spanish wines at Rothesay’s The Shadow Lawn Inn’s Iberian wine and food dinner, which was very well received. I look forward to future events there, as the kitchen is one of the best on the province. www.shadowlawninn.com.
This busy wine and food schedule is a great indicator of where New Brunswick is heading, food and wine-wise. People have shown that they will support these types of events, and are ready, perhaps, for even bigger and better things. I know I am.
Cheers!
 
 

Wine of the Week:
2011 Gillis of Belleisle Premium Red, Springfield, New Brunswick, $24.75

A soft, round red with pleasant dark plum and spicy blackberry notes. Enjoy it on its own or with game meats or beef and lamb with an intense reduction. Go to  www.gillisofbelleisle.com for more information.
Events:

Picaroons’ Brewer’s Bash
On Saturday July 13th Fredericton will play host to a new sort of beer festival, with many Canadian breweries not currently sold here in New Brunswick. At last count, in addition to our local breweries there will be 8 from BC, 6 from Alberta, 2 from Saskatchewan, 2 from Manitoba, 14 from Ontario, 10 from Quebec, 8 from Nova Scotia, and 1 from each of PEI, Newfoundland and the Yukon! There will be live music, too, including one my favourite bands, The Skydiggers. Check www.brewersbash.picaroons.ca for more information.
Wine and Beer Tours
A local entrepreneur has started Uncorked Wine Tours, a Saint John area business that conducts local wine and beer tastings and tours. Great idea! Check them out at www.uncorkednb.com. They are running a River Cruise/New Brunswick craft beer tasting on July 20, 2013. Ahoy!
 
Wine Tastings
Keep watching my Facebook site for information about future tastings at happinez wine bar and classes via UNBSJ.
Cheers!
Craig

 

Craig Pinhey is a Sommelier and writer.  “Like” his Facebook site at www.facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad or follow him on Twitter as @frogspadca