Lightfoot & Wolfville: exciting wines from Nova Scotia, Canada

Lightfoot & Wolfville have, in a short time, established themselves as one of Nova Scotia’s – and also Canada’s – leading wineries. The Lightfoot family have been farmers in Nova Scotia for eight generations, after settling in the Gaspereau Valley and Wolfville area. They started planting vines almost 15 years ago, and they farm biodynamically (and encourage the growers they work with to take the same approach). They were one of the first in the region to plant vinifera.

Peter Gamble (consultant), Rachel Lightfoot, Mike Lightfoot and Josh Horton

This small easterly region used to be mainly about cold-hardy, early ripening hybrids, but in recent years a band of producers have done well with vinifera, with Lightfoot & Wolfville among the leaders (Benjamin Bridge are another who’ve made this their focus). Located at 45° latitude, with soils formed and shaped by glacial movements, Nova Scotia is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and influenced by the warm Gulf Stream. No community is more than 60km from the open sea.

‘Fifteen years ago, everyone told us that it was too cold, and you can’t plant vinifera,’ says winemaker Josh Horton, who grew up in the region. ‘We didn’t listen, and we’ve helped change the way a bit.’ The growing degree days (GDDs) here are healthy enough at 1050-1100, but even then, in order to ripen vinifera reliably, yields have to be kept low.

In a big year Chardonnay will yield 2.75 tons/acre, and in a lighter on just 2. And the growing season starts very slowly: these pictures are from mid-June. Harvest is usually at the end of October. They finish flowering while Ontario’s vineyards are doing bunch closure.

They have 40 acres of vineyards, and contract another 40 acres from local growers. ‘It’s an exciting time to be part of the industry here,’ says Mike Lightfoot.

One of the influences on the climate here is the large tidal swings in the Bay of Fundy, up to 16m. These are the largest tidal shifts in the world, making for cooling summer breezes and a large unfrozen body of water in the winter, to moderate temperatures.

Ring (TR) and I tasted through the current and upcoming lineup of wines together in late 2021.


Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2014 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. TA 12 g/l, pH 2.94, dosage 4 g/l. This is a really beautiful fizz. It comes from a low-cropping block on the home estate. Wild ferment in four old barrels, partial malolactic,   then aged for four years on lees. Bright and citrussy with mandarin and grapefruit, and lovely sea-shell saltiness and a mineral streak. It has keen acidity, but it’s well integrated. Fruity and fine with lovely precision, and a crystalline finish. Superb. 94/100 (JG)

From a low cropping block on their home estate in Wolfville, this Chardonnay was native fermented in older French barrels before partial MLF and 4 years lees aging. After disgorgement with 4 g/L, this rested another year in bottle before release. Tight and nervy, this is positively vibrant with lemon pith and peel over green apple, atop a deeply pristine chalky base. This shimmers long on the saline finish. Such a deeply impressive wine now, and with years to come. TA 12, pH 2.94. 93/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Brut 2015 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. From home vineyard in the Annapolis Valley, 100% Chardonnay, mostly fermented in stainless steel. 45 months on lees, 12 g/l dosage. This has a pithy citrus fruit nose with a touch of apple. The palate is powerful, with volume added by the tension between the high acidity and the significant dosage, which brings a bit of sweetness to the finish. Stony, lemony and persistent. Lovely purity and volume here: a really focused fizz, but with nice balance. Has a subtle toastiness, too. 92/100 (JG)

This Chardonnay Brut comes off their Lightfoot Home Farm, and was mostly fermented in stainless steel (85%), with the remainder in neutral French oak barrique. Once in bottle, this aged for 45 months on lees prior to disgorgement in spring 2021 with a dosage of 12 g/L. Tight and nimble, with green apple, red apple, ruling a lees-bedded, creamy palate, lit with a shimmering stony salinity that lingers long on the palate. Quite accomplished, drinking smartly now and in years ahead. 93/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Brut 2016 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. From home vineyard in the Annapolis Valley, 100% Chardonnay, mostly fermented in stainless steel. This is bright and lively with some apple and pear, a lemony streak and some sweetness from the dosage. It’s really pure, quite approachable, and has a nice sour cherry note on the finish. Lovely fruity style. 91/100 (JG)

This Chardonnay Brut comes off their organically and biodynamically Lightfoot Home Farm, and was mostly fermented in stainless steel (85%), with the remainder in neutral French oak barrique. Once in bottle, this aged for 45 months on lees prior to disgorgement in spring 2021 with a dosage of approximately 12 g/L. Ripe red apple, pear ride a stony, expansive base, finishing with a lash of anise and a lingering shimmering finish. The ample dosage keeps this friendly, and ready for drinking now. Very smart. 91/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc de Noirs 2015 Nova Scotia, Canada
Bright and linear with taut, crisp lemon and cherry fruit. It’s bright and rounded with keen but well integrated acidity. Juicy and tart with some bright apple notes and an expanding lemony finish. There’s a bit of apple and tomato oxidative character that works quite well with the cherry notes, but it does lead this wine in a certain stylistic direction. 90/100 (JG)

This Blanc de Noirs blends 84% Pinot Meunier and 16% Pinot Noir from their Oak Island Vineyard. 89% of the base wine was fermented in stainless, with the remainder in older French oak. It was aged 11 months prior to secondary fermentation, where it rested for 42 months on lees. It was disgorged in March 2020 with 10 g/L. This opens with a puff of oxidation that permeates the bready, cherry brioche, raspberry on the creamy, high acid palate. The green apple acidity holds this easily aloft, streaming it to a lingering humming, saline finish. Unreleaesd (hence, the lack of label); 993 bottles produced. 90/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Small Lots Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2016 Nova Scotia, Canada
10% alcohol. Oak Island Vineyard. Wonderful nose of waxy lemons, pears and green apple. The palate is fresh, bright, complex and quite assertive with apples and lemons, a fine spicy thread, and amazing precision, with a chalky, mineral edge. This is distinctive and quite wonderful, with a very fine green hint on the finish, as well as high acidity. 92/100 (JG)

From their organic and biodynamic Oak Island Vineyard, this Chenin spent 19 months on lees, and was finished with a Brut dosage 12 g/L. This is deeply stony and amply perfumed with chenin’s honeysuckle and pear, lit from within by the site’s bony soils, and positively vibrato with the grape and region’s intense acidity. There’s an anise / lemon verbena note that plays against the intense perfume, making this mouth filling sparkler quite a distinct wine. Chenin fans need check this out. The high acid sparkler will also reward with time in cellar, as chenin does. 92/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfille Brut Rosé 2019 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. 100% Pinot Noir, organically farmed from a neighbour vineyard. 11 months ageing on lees. Dosage 4 g/litre. This is lean and focused with lovely red fruits, some green sappy notes and keen acidity. There’s also some glace cherry with a lovely fruit focus and a bright finish. Lovely purity. 91/100 (JG)

The organic Pinot Noir for this pink fizz comes from their Wolfville neighbours at Raven Hill Vineyard. It was 2/3 destemmed, with the remainder whole cluster, full MLF, before 11 months on lees prior to disgorgement with 4 g/L dosage. Pouring a medium-pale peach hue, this high acid fizz rings with raspberry, strawberry jam, peach yogurt, and mandarin. Acidity is high, but the fruit pushes back. The dosage keeps this friendly and ready for cracking now. 90/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Terroir Series Scheurebe 2020 Nova Scotia, Canada
11.5% alcohol. Less than 10 acres of Scheurebe planted in Canada. From the Oak Island Vineyard in Avonport. Highly floral and aromatic with some grapey notes. The palate is crisp, fresh and lively with pure grape and lemon fruit, and nice acidity, finishing with a hint of green apple and some sweetness. Very attractive and perfumed. 90/100 (JG)

From their Oak Island Vineyard in Avonport, this organic / biodynamic Scheurebe opens with ample perfumed white peach and starfruit, before transitioning into lime peel, mango, lush white melon, and a healthy dusting of white pepper across a slender palate, slicked with a fine layer of lees. Acidity is bright and lofted throughout. A pretty, charming, light-boded aromatic white. 89/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Wild Fermented Chardonnay 2018 Nova Scotia, Canada
11% alcohol. From the home vineyard, wild ferment in barrel, full malolactic, 18 months in barrel, 20% new. This is rich, toasty and nutty with some creamy notes. Countering this is some keen acidity with a distinctive marzipan character, finishing a little sour. Impressive, but in need of time for the components to integrate. 91/100 (JG)

From their Home Farm Vineyard in Wolfville, this chardonnay is from 3 Dijon clones, and was native fermented in mostly neutral French barriques, with 18 months’ aging on lees prior to bottling. Creamy and round, with a haunting floral note, this Chardonnay feels much more expansive in the mouth than its 11% would imply. Creamy lemon, baked red apple, almond paste, flax is seasoned with toast, flax, downy lees, nutmeg, sharpened with green apple acidity, and finishing with with a lingering saline rinse. A complete, smart, welcoming chardy for enjoying now and over the next couple of years. 91/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Terroir Series Gamay Noir 2020 Nova Scotia, Canada
11% alcohol. From their Oak Island vineyard in Avonport, certified biodynamic. Vivid cherry red colour with a slight cloudiness. Fresh, tangy and beautifully juicy with crunchy raspberry fruit and a lovely sweetness to the fruit. It’s crisp and very pure, with amazing drinkability. So supple and bright with some strawberry notes, but fresh raspberries dominating. Light and quite beautiful, with hardly any tannin. Very distinctive. 92/100 (JG)

#GoGamayGo! This pale hued Gamay shows there is little that the small and mighty Lightfoot and Wolfville can’t do. From a tiny organic / biodynamic Gamay plot off their Oak Island Vineyard, this was 30% destemmed and 70% whole cluster, native fermented and quickly barrelled down into 60% stainless and 40% French barrique where they sat for 3 months prior to blending and bottling, sans filtration. Light and skippy on the slight palate, with salted strawberry, cherry, white pepper, and an astringent rinse on the tart, lifted finish. Tannins are feather fine, and acidity is easily lofted. A joyous charmer, and one to watch. 91/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Wild Fermented Pinot Noir 2018 Nova Scotia, Canada
12% alcohol. From low yielding vines on a south-facing slope on their Oak Island vineyard in Avonport, certified biodynamic. Wild ferment then 18 months is used French oak. There’s a hint of lift on the nose, with sweet cherries and plums. The palate is fruit-driven with cherries and raspberries supported by a touch of cedar spice and some sweet, complex, spicy acidity. It’s a tiny bit volatile, but there’s nice fruit and a sour cherry finish with high acidity. 89/100 (JG)

This small lot Pinot Noir comes off low yielding vines on the south facing slopes of their organic and biodynamic estate Oak Island Vineyard. This was native fermented, with 18 months’ rest in neutral French barrqiues. There’s a sizeable rinse of VA here that washes through the wine, sharpening the tart cherry, tart raspberry ruling the medium- palate, dusted with pink peppercorn. Acidity is cranberry tart, as is the finish. 88/100 (TR)

Lightfoot & Wolfville Terroir Series Kekfrankos 2020 Nova Scotia, Canada
This is quite distinctive. It’s deeply coloured with an appley edge to the sweet black cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is vivid and intense with sweet black cherries, some blackberries and a hint of green, as well as some appley notes. There’s vivid fruitiness here, as well as a touch of oxidative character. Intriguing, sappy, quite direct, but also with some softness as well. Who’d have thought you could have grown Kekfrankos (aka Blaufrankisch) in Nova Scotia? 90/100 (JG)

What the what?! Yup, Kékfrankos, from Nova Scotia. Aka Blaufrankisch, or Lemburger. Off their organic and biodynamically certified Oak Island Vineyard, this destemmed Kék was native fermented and aged 8 months in older French barriques. Pouring a deep, dusky purple hue, this lighter, earthy, wild red is full of thorns, dusky plum, red and black currant, and wild blackberry, on a crunchy palate ringed with downy tannins. There’s an astringent balsamic rinse on the peppery, saline finish. Best with a chill. Certainly rustic, yet, inspiring to plant this classic and beloved Hungarian grape on the eastern reaches of Canada. We shall see… 88/100 (TR)

Lightfoot and Wolfville Farmhouse Cider 2019 Nova Scotia, Canada
Long before they ever began producing wine, the Lightfoot Family has had a long-standing tradition of artisan, small lot cider making over their 8 generations of farming in the Annapolis Valley. This traditional method cider follows a recipe handed down from generation to generation. The 2018 was officially the first time they shared their annual cider with those outside the family. Juice from feral, uncultivated apple trees scattered throughout the tree line at their Oak Island Vineyard in Avonport and Home Farm in Wolfville was blended with local apple juice sourced from friends just down the road from Stirling Fruit Farms, and includes a mix of Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Cortland, Jonah Gold, McIntosh, and a 10% tip of Flemish Beauty pear juice. This aged one year on lees, and was bottled May 2020, without disgorgement. Bone dry, this skips along the palate with perfume pear blossoms, tart crab apple, lime pith, and earthy lees to a lightly nutmeg dusted finish. Acidity is highly strung taut, and the body is slight, at 7%. Quite authentic, and of place. 89/100 (TR)

See also: the wines of Benjamin Bridge, Nova Scotia

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