[The first guest post comes from one of the many great independent liquor boutiques in the city. They offer international, national, and regional wines, beers, and spirits right by the Halifax waterfront. Give a warm welcome to Hannah from Bishop’s Cellar and don’t forget to enter the contest this week to win some great items donated by the guests. Leave a comment here or tweet about your fave East Coast beverage using the hashtag #ECBC. Check out the full contest rules and prizes.]
By Hannah Stuart
When asked to contribute to this collection of guest posts I quickly realized the abundance of experiences I have had with wine over my brief 23 years. Fortunately, for me wine has always been prevalent in my life in some way, be it an agricultural crop tour, a cellar tour with a wine maker, stocking shelves in the store or simply opening the perfect bottle to accompany an evening’s meal.
I grew up on a small farm in the Gaspereau Valley where a small taste of the wine was always a part of the meal. Both of my parents appreciate growing their own food, revel in the act of cooking and consider wine an integral part of any dining table. My father often states what has now become the unofficial Bishop’s Cellar mantra, “Wine is food, wine is fun!” Those family dinners were my first introduction to wine and over the past few years I have developed my own love, taste and experiences with not only the wine but some of the amazing people behind it.
Right before Bishop’s opened over 6 years ago, the whole family took a trip to France in hopes of creating some relationships in the industry and finding some world-class wines to bring home. Perhaps my first and most prevalent memory in the wine industry was meeting Luc Bouchard of the prestigious Burgundian wine house, Bouchard Pere et Fils. Long ago, the Bouchard family owned the now chic town of Beaune where the walls of the original castle still stand and serve not only as a barrier to the downtown but also a safe resting place for Beaune’s centuries of liquid gold. Our host lead us down the winding stairwell, through many locked corridors until we arrived in a circular room formed by bricks of limestone where we tried many bottles including the 1982 Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus which Luc told us comes from some of the oldest vines still producing fruit in this region. As I was only seventeen at the time I was not so taken with the technicalities of wine but more excited that I was even allowed the opportunity to try. I can vividly remember my mother and father poised on either side of me like the angel and the devil, respectively, my mother encouraging me to spit and my father explaining that you don’t spit wine this good.
I cannot remember the taste of the wines that day along with many of the hundreds I’ve tried since but I can always remember the fun experience, the welcoming smiles, the beautiful food and the fabulous people behind each winery. Since that time I have made my love for wine my own embracing the opportunities that the industry allows. Fresh out of high-school, like many others I had not a clue of the direction I wanted to take in life but I figured travelling would be a good way to open my eyes and sort it out. Australia seemed a clever choice as it was hot, backpacker friendly and we had several friends scattered across the vast country. I found myself many times returning to Southeastern Australia, the home to many wine regions including some of my favourites, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
It was here that I was introduced to, worked for and sometimes even looked after many of the big-time winemakers. I helped out ‘Old man Dary’ as his grandkids call him at the McLaren Vale Sea and Vines festival where all seafood based dishes are paired with D’Arenburg wines. I’d stop in at Peter Dennis’ vineyard quite often on the way home as he would often be doing barrel samples and checking on quality. But it was the black sheep of the Aussie wine industry, Hugh Hamilton and his wife, Pamela, their son Jock and the dogs, Rodney and Jim (the namesake for the popular wine Jim Jim) took me in as part of the family and the business after only just meeting. While with them I picked grapes, packed boxes, threw Oyster and Wine Nights in the vineyard, and often made lunch for the workers, no matter the task at hand I loved everything that came from working on a winery.
Since returning to Halifax, Bishop’s has helped to continue to develop my taste in wine and keep busy in the many different aspects of the wine industry. I have met some very intriguing grape growers and winemakers here on our own soil, and each carries the enthusiasm you see across the globe in this industry. I guess it’s rather self explanatory though, how could you not be happy working with wine, food and fascinating people each day?
Hannah Stuart is a student at Mount Saint Vincent University currently completing a bachelor of public relations and Marketing as well as a student of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Hannah has been a part of Bishop’s Cellar from day one either in the retail store or behind the scenes. In her free time In her free time she can be found perusing social media, enjoying yoga, tasting wine or enjoying one of Halifax’s many gastronomic adventures. Bishop’s Cellar can be found on twitter (@BishopsCellar) and Facebook.