This post is part of our ongoing series, Canadian Wine — specifically, Canadian wineries and the remarkable wines they produce. Today, Meaghan Carey shares the story of Nova Scotia‘s Planters Ridge Winery, which reminds us that wine and life at any stage are all about discovery.
Very few people can say that a Saturday morning internet search changed their lives, but a web search on a snowy February morning was the beginning of a journey that would profoundly change the lives of John McLarty and Lisa Law.
McLarty and Law were recently retired and considering what the next chapter of their life story would be. Given their shared passion for food, wine and travel, the couple had been discussing the possibility of owning a vineyard. The idea had started to formulate during travels throughout Europe when they would visit vineyards and speak with wine makers. This experience invoked a passion for wine and working with the land.
Conducting a web search for “wineries for sale” in February 2010, McLarty fully expected wineries in British Columbia, Ontario and California to fill the search results. To his surprise he found a listing for a Nova Scotia vineyard.
Intrigued by the idea of crafting wine in Nova Scotia, McLarty and Law immediately began researching Nova Scotia and its burgeoning wine industry. The couple made several trips to Nova Scotia that spring, falling in love with the province as they traveled from Cape Breton to the Annapolis Valley touring several properties that were for sale.
When they visited a 7.5 acre farm in Port Williams, they instantly knew the land had great potential for growing grapes. The farm had a 150-year-old house and barn, with spectacular views of the Minas Basin and an abundance of history. McLarty and Law wasted no time in chasing their dream to be winemakers; they purchased the property and became proud Nova Scotians. The farm was tile drained in fall 2010 and the vineyard was planted in the spring of 2011.
The name Planters Ridge was chosen to celebrate the rich farming history of the land. The farm is part of an original land grant offered to the New England Planter families in 1760 by the Lieutenant Governor after the Acadian Expulsion. The land was still titled to the same New England family when McLarty and Law purchased the property in 2010.
McLarty and Law intended to preserve and respect the history of the land, which had farmed potatoes, apples and rhubarb for generations, through the cultivation of grapevines. They chose to focus on planting varietals suited to the Port Williams farmland, such as L’Acadie, Riesling and Marquette, considered the grandson of Pinot Noir. To facilitate growth and to protect the young vines, grow tubes were used the first year, which led to the vineyard developing the nickname the "blue tube vineyard.”
With Planters Ridge you find a modern adaptation of tradition.
The artisanal winery’s state-of-the-art equipment is inside the renovated 150-year-old post and beam barn. It’s mostly imported from Germany, including tanks with individually controlled temperature, and a destemming machine to prevent loss or bruising of fruit. There’s also a glass door-enclosed cellar surrounded by the original 150-year-old stone foundation wall, which provides the perfect environment for aging their red wines.
Planters Ridge Winery is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new, guided by a farmer scientist.
Planting a vineyard and setting up a winery from scratch is certainly not for the faint of heart. The combination of our life experiences, including science, engineering, manufacturing management, financial management and agricultural backgrounds have all been utilized in putting together Planters Ridge’s vineyard and winery operation.
The wine is crafted with a belief in the concept of vineyard enology — wine is made in the vineyard. McLarty considers himself a winegrower who’s there to guide the fruit and respect the work done in the vineyard throughout the season. However, they also take unique steps to protect their grapes, such as the grow tubes and covering the vines with nets closer to harvest to prevent birds from eating the grapes and give the fruit extra days to ripen.
Expressing the true character of the terroir is the ultimate goal for Planters Ridge wines. To facilitate this goal and to embrace the original flavour characteristics of the grapes, the wines are crafted using the process of cold fermentation. Temperature is a vital part of fermentation in winemaking. Fermentation occurs when yeast converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. During the fermentation process the temperature of the wine increases as sugars are metabolized. White wines, especially aromatic varieties such as Reisling and L’Acadie, benefit from the effects of lower temperature fermentations (below 15°C) to help retain their delicate aroma and flavour. For Planters Ridge wine, McLarty favours fermentation temperatures of 10 to 12°C. Cooler fermentations have been shown to improve the clarity of wine, which is evident in Planters Ridge L’Acadie wine.
As another year draws to a close, the story of Planters Ridge is a reminder that no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, life and wine are all about discovery. Planters Ridge is a young vineyard still in a stage of growing and unearthing its true potential. However, the life knowledge and experience of McLarty and Law are certainly nudging it in the right direction.
Planters Ridge wines are available directly from their website, and in select locations across Nova Scotia.
- Niagara's Pearl Morissette Wines
- Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards
- TH Wines by Tyler Harlton
- Norman Hardie Winery
- Benjamin Bridge Winery
Canadian Wine: Nova Scotia's Planters Ridge Winery was written by Meaghan Carey. Meaghan shares her musings on life as she attempts to cook good food for family and friends from her small kitchen, on her blog Un Assaggio of Food, Wine and Marriage. Raised in Cape Breton, Meaghan returns home as much as possible and loves to welcome friends to this picturesque corner of Canada each summer. Connect with Meaghan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.