It was a humid weekend in Halifax and we had dreams of a decadent, locally-sourced meal on a patio, washed down with chilled wine and with the sun beaming down all around us. So we rented a car for the day, turned up the tunes, and made our way up into the Valley.
We had been to Luckett Vineyards (@LuckettVineyard), or “Pete’s” to the locals, a few times before. Luckett is one of the new kids on the block in the Nova Scotia wine scene, a gorgeous vineyard on the side of a gently-sloping hill in the Gaspereau Valley outside Wolfville. It’s blessed with dramatic views of the lush, tree-hugged valley, vine-laden fields, and in the distance, the stunning stretch of Cape Blomidon reaching out like a curved, muscular arm into the bay. Pete Luckett, owner and chief storyteller, is a self-made man, having made his fortune through a series of upscale, Nova Scotia grocery stores that make the most of local produce and which excel in customer service.
It was Pete’s low-key, self-deprecating humour that drew us back to the vineyard once again. Arriving in the stylish, cavernous tasting room, decked out with immaculately-branded giant oak barrels, and meticulously arranged rows of Pete’s reds and whites, we were greeted at the wine bar by Pete himself. He immediately offered us a complimentary glass of Ortega, a sweet and unassuming glass of goodness that took the edge off the heat. The tasting bar itself was like something out of the TV show Cheers, but more upscale: a place you can sidle up to for a dependable glass of something cool, and a few words of honest conversation. While Pete told us about his daughters, and his story of immigrating to Canada from England as a young man, we tasted five wines (available in generous portions, for $7) and tried chunks of sourdough bread dipped into Pete’s own olive oil.
Standout wines included the Ortega, the vineyard’s signature Phone Box Red (a robust, fruity blend of four varietals) and the Juliet, a cherry-flavoured desert wine that tasted like grandma’s old-fashioned cherry pie siphoned into a glass.
We had come for the meal, so we soon made our way out to the Crush Pad Bistro with the million-dollar patio view. The crowd was a mix of young couples, city retirees, and well-heeled American tourists, and the scene had the laid-back, high-quality vibe of the best winery restaurants in the Okanagan and Europe. We started off with the flat bread, topped with chorizo, tomato, and peppers. It was baked to perfection and the veggies were fresh-picked and succulent. We also tried the veggie sandwich, a more ambitious concoction of pepper spread, grilled asparagus, mushroom, and artichoke on sourdough. Finally, we had the Tidal Bay sandwich, a delicious mix of local seafood and greens. The food was presented simply, with a focus on local ingredients, and the price point (mains: $10-$12) was a real turn-on.
After the meal, we made our way down to the nearest vineyard to make a few complimentary calls from Pete’s iconic red English phone box. The phone box features prominently in the winery’s branding and marketing. After letting friends and family across North America how impressed I’d been with Pete’s welcome hospitality and delicious food and drink, we picked up a few bottles for the road, called it an afternoon, and made our way back to the city with stomachs and senses full.
Trevor Corkum is a Canadian-based writer and adventurer who has travelled to over seventy countries. He is nominated for the 2012 Journey Prize, celebrating the best new fiction writing in Canada. Follow him on Twitter at @trevcorkum.
Gustavo Espinola is an Argentinian-Canadian lifestyle and travel photographer whose most recent work appeared in The Globe and Mail. See more of his work at www.focaljourney.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter at @focaljourney.
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Season: Daily May – October