Over two short decades, Benjamin Bridge has distinguished itself as Canada's premier sparkling wine house. In 1999, it all started as a labour of love with Nova Scotian entrepreneurs Gerry McConnell and the late Dara Gordon.
Gerry and Dara met as lawyers who held similar values in their respective areas of practice: including the rights of workers, gender equality and improving the Nova Scotia economy.
As life partners, they shared a commitment to rural living and a vision for the sustainable and responsible growth of their community by producing the highest-quality wines from grapes farmed organically along the Bay of Fundy.
Inspired by the early grape growers and winemakers in the region, Gerry and Dara invested in years of research to discover whether region-defining wines could be produced in the Gaspereau Valley.
With expertise from Canada and the world’s top oenologists, led by its chief innovator and head winemaker, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, Benjamin Bridge has been unwavering in the singular pursuit of reflecting its precise set of growing conditions as transparently as possible.
Gerry and Dara’s twin daughters Ashley & Devon McConnell-Gordon now lead the small family-like team. As stewards of lands located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nations, the team has carefully and meticulously grown Benjamin Bridge from a micro-boutique project into a dedicated sparkling wine house.
For over 20 years, they’ve pursued excellence along these beautiful, south-facing slopes, and believe Gerry and Dara's ethos of sustainability, community, and quality is embodied in each and every bottle.
In the endless search and evolution of defining what the word terroir means to Benjamin Bridge, two fundamental forces’ overarching impact intersect in the Gaspereau Valley: water and the sun.
Like some of the greatest wine regions in the world, the Gaspereau Valley has a truly exemplary maritime climate. Its coastal terroir is shaped by its proximity to the Bay of Fundy, a vast expanse of seawater home to the highest tides in the world. The Fundy tides average a vertical shift of 14 to 16 metres, twice a day.
As the tides complete one cycle, 160 billion tonnes of seawater have shifted, more than all of the world’s freshwater river flow combined. This tidal energy ushers in cool breezes and moisture to the vineyards in the summer and creates a never-frozen body of water that provides moderation and humidity in the winter.
From May to October, an average of 400 mm of rain falls with another 800 mm of precipitation from November to April, mostly as snow. The warmest weather in the Gaspereau arrives in June, July, and August with average daytime highs reaching between 24°C and 27°C. As autumn arrives, average daily temperatures drop to between 16°C and 22°C and the nighttime lows about 10°C colder than that.
At 45°N latitude and 64°W longitude, the Gaspereau Valley spans approximately 12 kilometres within the more expansive Annapolis Valley, eastern Canada’s most famous fruit-growing region.
The Gaspereau River runs from east to west within the Valley, spilling into the Bay. The upper Gaspereau Valley is narrow and somewhat sheltered, and is tilted westward, significantly capturing more sun. Ambient daily temperatures during the growing season are heightened by this positioning, creating a collecting point for optimal heat absorption benefiting the Benjamin Bridge vineyards.
These moderated temperatures allow for the development of delicate aromatics and the retention of natural acidity in the grapes, so vital to the creation of top-flight sparkling wines made in the classic style.
The prolonged growing season permits an extended ripening process that enables the grapes to achieve full phenological maturity, critical to the texture and complexity of these sparkling wines.
The surrounding tidal activity promotes an unspoiled freshness while protecting against premature ripeness well into October and even November. As a result, sparkling parameters are met nearly three months after other regions in the northern hemisphere. The result is a highly prized combination of freshness and richness.
A NOTE FROM BENJAMIN BRIDGE HEAD WINEMAKER, JEAN-BENOIT DESLAURIERS
In wine, not all mechanisms and dynamics related to the powerful expression of an ecosystem are perfectly understood. However, we know two things for sure.
First, in striving for the embodiment of the unmistakable “stamp” of a growing area, nothing matters more than protecting the unique properties of the ecosystem. Second, we are firm believers in the storied correlation between regenerative farming and low-intervention winemaking practices and the emergence of transcendent wines.
There is a simplicity to the rule of non-action in winemaking, relegating the role of the winemaker to the transparent facilitator of natural processes that are almost always self-regulated.
As the wines carve their own path with the twists and turns of the more unpredictable wild fermentations, confidence is key in staying the course of the natural outcome, and it is paramount not to rush to the conclusion that corrective interventions are necessary at the slightest opportunity.
A wild-fermented wine deserves every opportunity to complete its natural cycle by its own merit, and the promise of a wine intimately connected to its creating ecosystem is worth the risk.
On the crush pad and in the cellar, our winemaking practices have always aimed at expressing the specifics of each micro-site through organic hand-harvesting in small baskets. In that spirit, no yeast or nutrients are added to the must for the primary fermentation.
On top of the wild fermentations, no chaptalisation takes place, even in the event of low sugar content. In other words, the wines are made from the fruit in its original and natural state without any manipulations or standardization.
Since 2015, malolactic fermentations have become more frequent, while older and cooler vintages display a youthful brightness preserved with the absence of malolactic fermentations.
Storage and fermentation vessels for the base wines include stainless steel, neutral 225L French Oak barrels, 600L Demi-Muids, and more recently 1900L concrete eggs.
So, what if a win-win beyond our wildest dreams existed in a very straightforward principle? It is our very own effort to reinforce our ecological resilience that supports the highest possible quality.
In a way, our goal is to have our cake and eat it too, as we are not substituting our quality aspirations for sustainability, but rather relying on sustainability to unlock unprecedented quality heights only achievable when our hearts and values are aligned, and the best interest of the biosphere comes first.