To complement "Catch of the Day", our East Coast food feature in the July 2014 issue (available on Eastern newsstands June 2nd and Western June 9th), I want to delve more into the wine and cheese being produced by the Atlantic provinces. This, by no means, is a definitive round up. For the sake of brevity and user friendliness, I'm sticking with the stuff that has some national availability. For more info on East Coast wines, visit Wines of Canada, and for cheeses, check out the Canadian Cheese Directory.
The inclement weather and short growing seasoning make farming grapes a real challenge in Atlantic Canada. There are, however, a few terrific wineries along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
Benjamin Bridge in the Gaspereau Valley (see photo above) is one of them, a sparkling specialist with a devout following. Their entry-level Nova 7, a fizzy, pink Moscato-style wine, has brilliant sweet-sour tension that is terrific with piquant cheeses or with spicy food. Their new 2009 Brut, which was aged three years on the lees, is a tight, tangy sparkler that would go well with oysters or gooey, washed-rind cheeses like brie. Finally, their Brut Reserve — I have tasted both the 2005 and 2007 — is aged for five years on the lees, and is a magnificent bottle of bub that can go toe-to-toe with French champagne in the same price range. It should be cellared and saved for an august occasion.
I've also had the pleasure of trying a few wines from Gaspereau Vineyards in the Gaspereau Valley. Their L'Acadie Blanc, made from an all-Canadian grape of the same name, is a crispy, dry, citrusy white that has the lean charm of Petit Chablis. It's a knockout with shellfish.
Now you may be surprised to learn that Newfoundland produces wine, as the Rock is not exactly known for sunshine. While the province does not grow grapes for vinification, there is a bounty of wild fruit on the island, and Rodrigues Winery transforms it into award-winning elixirs. Their blueberry wine is more off dry than sweet with a good zing of acidity. Served well chilled, it would be terrific as an aperitif with goat cheese, or for dessert with any of Atlantic Canada's myriad of berry desserts. It also happens to be kosher.
Atlantic Canada is definitely more suited to cheese making than vinous agriculture, and a rapidly grown range of artisan wheels and wedges are making headway in market dominated by Ontario and Quebec.
P.E.I.'s Cow's Creamery may be more known for its chain of ice cream parlours, but among turophiles, it is the maestro of cheddar. Their Scottish-style Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar won a first prize at the 2013 Canadian Cheese Gran Prix, the Oscars of the dairy world.
From New Brunswick, look out for La Bergerie aux 4 Vents at your local cheesemonger. Their Gaie Bleu is a buttery raw cow's milk blue, and Le Sieur de Deplessis is an earthy, nutty tomme-style wheel made from raw sheep's milk.
Finally, from Nova Scotia, I am quite enamoured with the cheeses from That Dutchman's Farm. Their goudas are excellent (see photo above), and their unique Dragon's Breath Blue lives up to its name.
The next time you're putting together a wine and cheese party, don't forget about Canada's East Coast.
(For more East Coast inspiration, tour a pretty P.E.I. waterfront cottage.)