BAIE VERTE, N.B. - Winegarden Estates is quickly developing a reputation as the little winery that can compete with the best.
Located just across the New Brunswick border in Baie Verte, N.B., the company recently received national accolades when three of its wines were winners of the 38th All Canadian Wine Championships, the premiere competition for Canadian wines.
“This year we sent in our blueberry wine, our cranberry berry, our 25th anniversary sparking wine and our Victor McLaughlin wine,” winery president and CEO Elke Muessle said. “The blueberry won silver and the cranberry wine the sparkling wine and our house blend wine, the Victor McLaughlin, each won bronze as well.”
Muessle said Winegarden Estates has frequently entered the competition that has been running since 1981. While it’s a definitely a feature in the cap for her business, it’s positive for New Brunswick wines because the competition features wines from some of Canada’s top wineries and vineyards in large wine-producing areas such as Ontario and British Columbia.
“Our blueberry and cranberry wines have been successful in past competitions because they’re very good and they’re very New Brunswick,” she said. “It’s great to get the recognition. Competition is nice, but we are judged every day by our customers and wine-tastings. Consumers are telling us every day what they think, so we know.”
In a competition, though, there are many wines competing against each other and someone independent decides which wines they like the most. Winning the medals shows where the company stands.
The family, originally from Germany, has been in the area for 35 years, but Winegarden Estates is 27 years old. While companies like Jost Vineyards started in Nova Scotia with wine, Winegarden Estates actually got its start with spirits.
Winegarden Estates sits on 300 acres of tranquil farmland, including six acres of cultivated vineyards. It produces a wide variety of grapes and fruit wines, fruit liqueurs, European-style eau-due-vie, brandy and bitters.
Its fruit is sourced from New Brunswick producers.
The business upholds a 150-year-old family tradition that traces its distilling roots to the Black Forest region of Germany and the innovations of great-grandfather Johann Zielgler Sr.
“We started with brandy and then the wine started in 1997 with the fruit wines,” she said. “It’s nice to receive the recognition because it shows how far we’ve come, but we were especially pleased to get the recognition for our house blend because competing with Ontario and B.C. in the red wines is not easy.”
The sparkling wine was a product Winegarden Estates put together to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2016. It entered the competition not knowing how it would be received, and was pleased that it was awarded bronze.
While the business is sort of off the beaten path, on the road between Tidnish Bridge in Nova Scotia and Port Elgin, N.B., Muessle said it must be doing something right because traffic is quite heavy during the summer months.
“We must be doing something right,” she said. “Our benefit is we are on the road to Nova Scotia and just off the road going to Prince Edward Island. We have the busy season, but there’s also the time of the year when the tourists aren’t here, but we distribute through other means such as farmers markets.”
Muessle likes Winegarden Estates’ future as a cottage winery. She doesn’t plan on expanding, although the family does plan on continuing to improve the product and production. They use traditional methods of growing grapes and fruits, working without chemicals and in very small batches.
“We want to make sure our products are top of the line and healthy,” she said.
Winegarden Estates is also community-minded with frequent concerts featuring Larry Ogden and Pic n’ Grin, which holds fundraisers for various organizations such as the music program at the Port Elgin school.