Two hours north of Halifax, due south of Charlottetown, P.E.I. (across the Northumberland Strait) lies the two-storey, welcoming headquarters of Jost Vineyards. On the northern shores of Nova Scotia, Jost Vineyards has been making award-winning wines built on a 300-year winemaking heritage.
Beginning of the journey
Jost Vineyards’ story begins when Hans Wilhelm Jost moved his family from the Rhine region of Germany to Nova Scotia in the early 1970s, bringing with his a 300-year family tradition of winemaking. Hans Wilhelm did just what he had planned to do, buying a 700-acre farm, selling beef and hogs, grains, straw and corn.
“No grapes,” says Hans Christian Jost, son of Hans Wilhelm, recollecting the early days. “My dad was trained as a wine maker but he wanted to farm. My family had been making wine in Germany since 1640, but we moved here to do everything except grow grapes.”
Jost Vineyards’ story took an important turn the day Dr. Donald Craig, a prominent research scientist with Agricultural Canada, met Hans Wilhelm. Craig was involved with research, and couldn’t pass on working with the highly-trained, experienced wine-making farmer. Eventually, Hans Wilhelm agreed to work with Craig, and was gifted five vines for his troubles.
Evidently, Hans Wilhelm couldn’t ignore that wine making was in his blood, and it wasn’t long before those five vines turned to 400.
“The grapes were used for wines that were mostly for home consumption—we will never have to go to the liquor centre again, we thought. In 1981, we had planted 4,000 vines. The realization that we could not drink it all ourselves was the first step towards being a winery.”
In November 1983, Jost Vineyards was officially born when the Josts’ received a license to turn the garage of the family house into a winery, followed by the construction of the operations that summer. Hans Wilhelm lived to see the winery’s opening and his son take its helm.
Through the years, Jost Vineyards have grown in both size and accolades. As a leader in Canada’s east coast, and fastest growing, wine region, Jost Vineyards has won over 200 national and international medals and awards, notably winning the 1999 All-Canadian Wine of the Year award, the first winner outside of Ontario and B.C. from 594 entries.
Jost Vineyards has also been served to Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., John Major, even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth herself, who enjoyed three varieties of Jost Vineyards wines, but not all in one sitting, Hans Christian notes.
Today, Jost Vineyards grows its own grapes on 95 acres and purchases from other growers, contributing to the growth of this burgeoning vine region.
The Nova Scotia industry has really developed in the last few years in a big way,” Hans Christian says. “There are 5,000 to 6,000 acres in total, and around 150 and 160 wineries open to the public, whereas 10 years ago there were only three.
“We are most proud of the quality of wine that we make and the quality of wine our competitors make.”
Producing over 60,000 cases of wine annually, sold mostly in Atlantic Canada, although expansion to other Canadian markets is eminent, Jost Vineyards enjoys success most companies can only dream of. Since the 1980s, the vineyard has grown every year, and welcomes 40,000 tourists every year.
Good things are growing in Nova Scotia. From Marechal Foch, Baco Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, to Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc and fruit and specialty wines, Jost Vineyards is making exceptional quality wines a mainstay of the east coast.