Photo: kaladan

This post is part of Matador’s partnership with Canada, where journalists show how to explore Canada like a local.

DUE IN LARGE PART to provincial liquor laws that have their roots in Prohibition-era politics, New Brunswick’s wine industry is very, very small. The New Brunswick Grape Growers Association (which charges an annual membership fee of $50, or, as they put it on their website, “the cost of three bottles of wine”) has fewer than 25 members; there are only 8 NBGGA-affiliated wineries selling to the public.

While still a fledgling industry, the small number of producers makes it easy to comprehensively sample the region’s wines. On my recent trip to New Brunswick, I was hosted for a tasting at Magnetic Hill Winery, a small craft outfit located on a working farm overlooking the Chocolate River in Moncton. There are a bunch of things that make this place unique, and within moments of setting foot in the converted farmhouse, Zach Everett (son of owners Janet and Jeff Everett) began reeling them off in the eager tone of a kid at show-and-tell:

Zach at Magnetic Hill Winery. Photo: author.

“Just like our ancestors did, we use locally grown ingredients. With the changing weather we lost our grape crops so we went with what always grows here. You know how they say you should have five servings of fruit and vegetables every day? Well this is our version of a V8! Every glass of our wine has a quarter of a pound of fruit…”

The tasting area is located just off the converted garage where, through a glass door, I could see gangs of excited bees divebombing the giant steel wine casks. The room smelled like a root cellar, like loam and the breaking down of sugars.

“Fruit wines have more vitamins and minerals than grape wines, and they contain no histamines. They’re also low in tannin, so you’re less likely to get headaches.” And with that, Zach began the tasting. Magnetic Hill’s award-winning wine list includes:

  • Bay of Fundy Blue (a dry red made from local blueberries)
  • Illusions (a dry white made from rhubarb)
  • 3 off-dry choices all made from berries (Evangeline, Mystique, and Evangeline Blanc)
  • plus 2 semi-sweet and two sweet dessert wines (Bay of Fundy Blue, Chocolate River Strawberry, Chocolate River Raspberry, and Chocolate River Blueberry)

My recommendations: Bay of Fundy Blue (dry), Mystique, and Illusions. Those who enjoy dessert wines will want to try the Chocolate River Raspberry.

In addition to free tastings, Magnetic Hill Winery also hosts picnics on the patio, wine and cheese parties, and special events, and they run a two-room bed & breakfast for overnight guests.

    Get there
    860 Front Mountain Road
    From Moncton city centre, drive north until you cross the Trans-Canada Highway (exit 450). Turn right on Front Mountain Road.
Other wineries near Moncton

1. With over 5 acres dedicated to growing grapes, La Cave â Vin Boudreau Vineyards are located approximately 15km south of Moncton and neighbouring Dieppe in an area called Memramcook. Owners Paul and Rose-Marie Boudreau have been producing wines since 2000, and they currently sell 5 varieties: Frontenac, Seyval, Vidal Dessert Wine, Marechal Foch, and a Baco Noir.

    Get there
    110 Rue Principale
    From Moncton city centre, drive east into Dieppe and take Highway 106 south. Exit onto 925, which is also called Rue Principale.

2. Verger Belliveau Orchard offers ciders, and apple and other fruit wines. They’ve earned accolades at the All Canadian Wine Championships several years in a row, with their pear and cherry wines taking the gold in their respective categories in 2012.

    Get there
    1209 Rue Principale
    From Moncton city centre, drive east into Dieppe and take Highway 106 south. Exit onto 925, which is also called Rue Principale, and drive out past La Cave â Vin Boudreau Vineyards.

3. The northernmost winery on our list, Richibucto River Wine Estate is near the town of Rexton just south of the Richibucto River. Founder Alan Hudson has 20 acres dedicated to growing cold-climate grapes, and the resulting wines earned him high marks at the Canadian Wine Awards, particularly for his 2010 vintages. This winery offers an educational tour of the vineyards and facilities for $6/person, which includes a tasting of up to 5 wines.

    Get there
    940 Route 495
    Take highway 115 north (switch to the 134 just after Saint-Antoine for the scenic seaside drive). Get on the 495 and follow the signs to Rexton.
Wineries near Fredericton

View New Brunswick Wineries in a larger map

1. Motts Landing Vineyard is run by owner David Craw and his partner Sonia Carpenter, and offers 8 varieties of grape wines plus their signature “cranpagne,” a sparkling blend of cranberry and white grape wine. Just this year they opened a store on the premises.

    Get there
    3506 Lower Cambridge Road
    Take the Trans-Canada Highway west from Moncton, exiting to connect with the 112.

2. As you might guess from the name, Applemanfarms specializes in apple wines and ciders, which they market under the name Gagetown Cider Company and Winery. Located just outside of Gagetown and across the river from Motts Landing, they do tastings on-site and at their stall at the Westmoreland Street Farmers Market in Moncton on Saturday mornings.

    Get there
    16 Fox Road
    Take the Trans-Canada Highway west from Moncton, and exit at 102. Head south and turn left at Fox Road.

3. Gillis of Belleisle Winery grows Baco Noir and Cayuga grapes, and has also begun producing seasonal fruit wines. This winery accepts individuals and groups for tours every Saturday and Sunday from May to December. They also welcome picnickers in the pergola area, the courtyard, and the apple orchard.

    Get there
    Route 850
    From Moncton take Highway 2 west, turning onto Highway 1 just before Petitcodiac. Take the exit at Norton.

4. Dunhams Run Estate Winery sits on 22 acres and puts on property tours and tastings. They’ve got 3 wines — Honey Rosé, Frontenac Reserve, and Sabrevois Reserve — with several more in the works.

    Get there
    35 Gorhams Bluff Road
    From Moncton take highway 2 west, turning onto highway 1 just before Petitcodiac. Take the exit at Hampton.