Winemaker: Mike Mainguy
Winery: Luckett Vineyards
What is your favourite grape/wine that we grow in Nova Scotia? I love the Nova Scotia L’Acadie story, and how it is generally loved by both winemakers (it can be shaped into many different styles in the cellar), and by growers (it can be strong as an Ox, and is well suited for our local terroir). I have also been fascinated with Triomphe D’Alsace lately, and have been loving it’s fruit forward, sometimes candied nature.
What is one piece of “wine etiquette” that you would like to share that people may be interested in or surprised by? If you are visiting a winery tasting bar, and you spill your drink, you have to smooch the Winemaker… true story (I swear).
What is your favourite time of year with regards to winemaking and why? The weeks leading up to harvest. It is stressful, exciting and dangerous all at the same time. Anything can quickly go wrong, and everything can go amazingly right. It is the time of year we all look back to and remember why we do what we do. It is also my wife’s favorite time of year as she has to see very little of me… just kidding, she must miss me immensely… right?
What is the best thing about being a winemaker? It’s not the hours! Seriously, it is an exciting and rewarding balance of nature, science and artistry. I really enjoy working with a living entity that changes and evolves so much, yet so subtly in its varied lifetime. I also get to wear rubber pants on a daily basis, with very little in the way of scorn or condemnation… how many of you can say that?
What is the most you have ever spent on a bottle of wine? I’ve spent between $150 and $200 on wines from Burgundy and Barolo, but that was before I had small children and was more footloose and fancy-free. These days most of my expendable income goes toward diapers and animal crackers (the latter being more for me than my kids). Seriously, for me price is not everything or certainly is not the benchmark of quality. I have had more enjoyment from wines I splurged 1 or 2 euros on in Spain than I have with some of the bigger players that I have dished out the bucks for.
What is your most memorable glass of wine and why? A glass of 1975 Petrus, served at a friend’s engagement party by his father, who had purchased the bottle the year his son was born. I remember it not only because it was jaw droppingly delicious and conceptually mind-blowing, but also because one of the lucky guests asked if she could mix hers with ginger ale. The look of heartache on my friends father’s face was as priceless as was the bottle.
Where have you studied winemaking? Studied at Brock University (CCOVI) and Niagara College (Winery and Viticulture), worked in Niagara, Beamsville, and Lake Erie North Shore before coming out to Nova Scotia where I was hired to cover Gina Haverstock’s 2010/2011 maternity leave at Gaspereau Vineyards. I instantly fell in love with the region and have not looked back since.
Why do you choose to live/work in Nova Scotia? It is an amazing time for the industry here right now. The quality of the work in the vineyards and cellars is attractive, as is the support of the local populous. I like being involved with a tight group of professionals trying to better the industry as a whole, the sum of all parts so to speak. There is only one way to go and it is up.
Aside from your own wines, what is another Nova Scotia wine that is in your personal wine cellar? I tried collecting everyone’s Tidal Bay wines from 2010, but they didn’t seem to last long. A good problem I suppose.
In five years, what will people be saying about our NS wine industry? 5 years is such a small amount of time for a region… but I imagine people will be saying what we are hearing a lot of right now; that our fresh, aromatic whites are consistently divine, how we are doing wonderful things with unique red grape varietals that other regions have foolishly abandoned, and how our Sparkling wines are at a level of quality on par or even exceeding some of the best producers in the world (I’m looking at you Champagne!)
What is the perfect pairing? I love our Ortega with Indian food, especially if it has a little spice to it. Great mix of fragrance, sweetness, acidity, and spice. Much like myself.
What is a piece of advice you have for home winemakers? Invest in good fruit or juice, it will make a difference. Also, trust both your taste buds and your hydrometer, both need to be listened to. One more thing, don’t add black pepper or pineapples to your fermenting wines… it’s cheating.
If you could only drink one Nova Scotia wine for the rest of your life, what would it be? That is like choosing which one of my children I like the best! The grey area safe answer would be Tidal Bay, that way I would get the best of both worlds by having a self stylistically pleasing aromatic white, but would also be able to have different samples from the many wineries that produce their own versions. A cop out? You betcha!
Do you have a favourite wine-related joke or pun that you would like to share? Most harvest jokes are quite blue (lots of innuendo about hose placements and ball valves), but seeing as I like to keep it classy, I have always liked this little gem: “How do you have a million dollar winery….. Start with ten million.” Zing!
How did you know you wanted to be a winemaker? When I was a teenager (sorry RCMP, statute of limitations!) my brother and I used to make beer and wine. After a few unsuccessful attempts we seemed to figure out the basics, and began producing very drinkable product. What started as a ‘technically illegal’ hobby quickly became a lifelong passion. The moral of this story is that sometimes crime pays.
As a winemaker, what is one “tool” that you can’t live without? It sounds silly, but a measured bucket is one of the most valuable tools I have. It is a relatively accurate measure of liquids and solids, a vessel for bench trials and tests, a container for mixing and blending… and sometimes simply a step for reaching things or a seat for lunch. I could also add a fantastic winery and vineyard staff, but they might object to being called tools.
Why do you, or why is it important to support local? It’s good to be a functional part of the community you live in… sometimes it’s as simple as that.