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A most attractive winery!

Friday, June 29 2012

This post relates to Magnetic Hill Winery and B&B

Saltscapes, Canada’s east coast magazine
July/August 2012, Vol. 13 No 4

Magnetic Hill Winery, in Moncton, pulls in wine aficionados from all over
by Natalie MacLean

LOVERS OF GOOD wine are drawn to Moncton’s Magnetic Hill for more than just the optical illusion of cars rolling uphill without power, or the large, outdoor concert venue. Another big attraction is the delicious range of fruit wines at the Magnetic Hill Winery and B&B.

As you savour a glass or two on the winery’s patio atop Front Mountain, you can see a panoramic view of Moncton and its famed Magnetic Hill, one of Canada’s most visited natural tourist attractions.
“Farming has always been our passion,” says Janet Everett, who, with her husband, Jeff, started a strawberry and raspberry U-pick on some farmland they owned in 1987. They
called it Utopia U-Pick, but, contrary to the name, the work was hellish hard.
“Earning our annual income in just six weeks was getting more difficult,” she says. “Revenue fluctuated greatly from year to year, depending on the weather, but expenses kept increasing-even though our four children were helping us. We knew we had to diversify to survive.”

The couple decided to open a winery on their existing farm, but then learned that the property beside Magnetic Hill was for sale. Although its dilapidated historic farm home,
built at the time of Confederation, in1867, had been vacant for 20 years, the Everetts saw the potential for building the winery there because of the spectacular view and nearby tourist attractions. Given the renewed interest in local wines and foods, they were betting the farm on a fresh interest in fruit wines.

The winery opened in 2005, producing 5,500 bottles. Today, it makes 20,000 bottles and receives more than 7,500 visitors a year. However, the journey to success wasn’t an uphill coast. In addition to the thousands of back-breaking hours spent planting the vines, the couple worked to restore the farm house, taking care to preserve the historic home’s authentic blend of Victorian and Greek Revival architecture. “We took everything apart, down to the studs, put in electrical, plumbing and insulation insulation, then put everything back together using the original woodwork,” says Jeff. They also converted two of the four bedrooms into large private bathrooms for the winery’s bed and breakfast suites, and raised the building to create a wine cellar where guests now sample wines.

The next challenge was to actually make the wine. The vines for popular grapes such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet won’t survive the -25’C winters that are common in Moncton. Many vintners use hardier grapes bred at the University of Minnesota, such as Frontenac and Marquette, but only some 50 acres of vines are planted in the province. Other fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries, are more successful in this climate. Wet summers can also make the ripening of grapes difficult, so the Everetts blend Frontenac with wild blueberries for one of their red wines, called Mascaret-the French word for “tidal bore,” in honour of the phenomenon created when the incoming tide from the Bay of Fundy reverses the flow of fresh water from New Brunswick’s many out-flowing rivers. The resulting wine is well-structured: there is tannin and acidity from the grape, but the blueberry softens it and fleshes out the fruit flavours. A few months of oak aging creates a toasty, medium-bodied red.

“We love making traditional wines from the fruit of the land, like our ancestors did,” says Janet. “We also buy fruit from other farmers, but from no farther than an hour away so what’s in the glass is the true taste of New Brunswick.”

One misconception about berry-based wines is that they’re all cloyingly sweet. Magnetic Hill Winery’s offerings-14 wines-range from dry to off-dry to sweet, and pair well with many dishes, not just desserts. They’re also a good match with local cheeses from Sussex, about 45 minutes from Moncton, considered the dairy capital of New Brunswick. On the winery’s patio, you can nibble on locally made herbed havarti, gouda-style smoked cheese as well as those flecked with onion, garlic, paprika or caraway, all matched with different wines.

The company produces a dry white wine called Illusion, a reference to Magnetic Hill, which visitors often mistake for a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, it’s made from rhubarb, and it pairs beautifully with seafood. “Sommeliers from across Canada visit us and buy the wine because they can’t wait to fool their friends when they get home,” says Janet.

The Bay of Fundy Blue, a blueberry wine, works well with pork tenderloin with blueberry sauce, smoky grilled ham or maple-glazed salmon.

The Evangeline Blanc is a strawberry-rhubarb blend named for the mournful young woman in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, “Evangeline.”

The Chocolate River dessert wines, named after the Petitcodiac River (said to look like hot chocolate in summer and a chocolate milkshake in winter), are made to be paired with dark chocolate.

The Chocolate River Spiced Fruit, a spiced pear and apple wine, tastes like liquid apple pie, and was named the 2011 Dessert Wine of the Year at the Atlantic Canada Wine Awards. (Pour me another slice, please, over creamy vanilla ice cream.)

The Chocolate River Raspberry is the essence of raspberry in a glass. Pair it with raspberry and cream cheese topping on moist chocolate brownies, dark chocolate marble cheesecake and cocoa-covered chocolate truffles.

This past spring, Magnetic Hill Winery released its first brandy-style maple wine, aged in oak barrels that come from Cape Breton’s Glenora Distillery. The barrels, previously used to age 19-year-old single-malt whisky, impart a smoky, “scotchy” richness to the wine.

People are also interested in the health benefits of fruit wines, which some studies indicate have even more antioxidants than grape-based wines. Each 750 mL bottle is made from almost a pound of fruit, so perhaps an apple wine a day will keep the doctor away.

On Canada Day, winery visitors will have a spectacular view of the fireworks over Moncton’s twinkling lights; in August, before the Bruce Springsteen concert at Magnetic Hill, guests can enjoy a pre-concert party on the wrap-around porch.

Other nearby attractions include Magic Mountain, a water theme park, the Magnetic Hill Zoo and the Magnetic Hill Golf Club where, sadly, golfers cannot depend on magnetic properties to get a hole in one. However, the strongest pull here is still the wine, the view and the feeling of having discovered a small piece of paradise.

Natalie MacLean, author of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, offers mobile apps and wine pairings at nataliemaclean.com.

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