WINDSOR FORKS, N.S. - An Italian-inspired villa surrounded by grape vines, you’d swear you were in Tuscany. But then you see the Ski Martock slopes in the distance and you’re back in Hants County.
Still, the illusion works, especially as the gourmet pizza gets delicately tossed into the large wood fire oven.
For brothers Glenn and Steven Dodge, co-owners of Bent Ridge, their dream project is nearing reality.
“We’re very serious about our product, but that’s it, everything else is about coming in, relaxing and enjoying yourself,” Steven said. “You don’t have to feel like you need to know everything about wine or beer.”
Steven Dodge says, once opened, Bent Ridge Winery will be a triple threat, offering wine, craft beer and gourmet pizza - all made in house.
The wood fire oven is the centrepiece of the kitchen, situated behind the bar, and the brothers are planning to experiment with more food options down the road.
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“We wanted a place where people could come and sit back for a couple hours,” Steven said. “There’s nothing better than having a beer or glass of wine while watching your kids in the U-Pick.”
The winery is located within the Daniels U-Pick along Highway 14, which will remain operational at the same time.
The winery is expected to open its doors on July 1, 2018, with an official opening in September.
The Dodge brothers plan to hire approximately six full time staff, including a chef and a sommelier, as well as several part time and seasonal workers.
The patio is expected to be a year-round destination, courtesy a large brick fireplace and heat lamps for the colder months.
Being located near Ski Martock and Windsor - they’re hoping to draw in folks fresh from a ski trip, or stopping by on their way in.
“It could be minus five degrees over there, but step over here and it’ll feel like a balmy seven or eight degrees,” Steven said.
Connection to the land
This is the Dodge brother’s first foray into a winery and brewery business, however both have experience in the restaurant and tourism industry.
They’ve owned the 4.1-acre vineyard, which sits within the Daniel’s U-Pick apple orchard, for eight years. Now that the grapes have matured, the time is right to ramp up operations.
Both believe demand is ripe.
“We both knew we wanted to open the winery, but little did we know we also had to become farmers too,” Steven said with a laugh. “We knew how to run the business side better than how we knew how to produce grapes.”
Luckily, they’ve had a bit of guidance from Phil Daniels, who owns the U-Pick, their cousin.
The Daniels and the Dodges have been in the Avon and Annapolis Valley region for generations, Steven said, giving them a special connection to the area.
They’ve also put a lot of themselves into Bent Ridge, building almost everything by hand, right up to the tables and chairs. Although not even fully finished, the inside of the main structure already looks aged and refined, like a good wine.
The two brothers, who live in Halifax, say they’re happy to come back to their roots to launch this new business.
They have a few small investors involved as well, who were interested in getting their feet wet in the wine world, however, the Dodge brothers maintain majority control.
Wine and beer
Beer brewed at the Bent Nail Brewery will be made in a smaller, two-barrel system – something Steven calls a nano-brewery.
“We’ll probably have four or five varieties on tap, with some year-rounds,” Steven said. “Certainly an IPA, an English cream ale, we may go with a light Belgian beer. Then we’ll have some seasonal beers, probably a pumpkin ale at harvest time.”
Steven said he’s hoping to try new things and be a little creative with the seasonal and limited releases.
They’ll also have growlers and grunters for folks who want to take some of the brews home with them.
On the wine side - the on-site vineyard is entirely made up of Marquette red grapes, while they purchase white grapes from other Nova Scotia vineyards.
Glenn said they plan to have four different wines to start and they may try some blends as well.
“Two reds, a white and a rosé,” Glenn said. “The two reds will be a straightforward, late harvest Marquette… in the Italian style.”
To achieve that Italian taste, the grapes are dried upstairs in the main building after they’re picked. That brings the acidity, the flavour and the alcohol level up.
What’s in a name?
But why Bent Ridge? Well, looking out to the horizon, it becomes clear.
A bend in the hills, near Ski Martock, is the namesake for the landscape and the new winery.
Glenn Dodge said the land used to be owned by their ancestors, and they wanted to reflect that in the business.
The wine and beer glasses also have a bend in them, showing that they’re leaning into the name.
The Bent Nail Brewery, the name of the beer side of the operation goes back to when the two brothers were much younger.
“When Glenn and I were eight or 10 years old, our mother and father put a second story on their house after our sister was born,” Steven said. “My father being a very frugal man, would go around and collect all of the bent nails where the carpenters had bent them and didn’t bother picking them up.”
“A year or so later, he brought out hammers, two buckets full of bent nails and a cinder block and sat us on our driveway and we had to straighten them all out,” he said. “We used those nails, building a cottage on the Northumberland Straight, so our cottage is actually called Bent Nail.”
“As a tribute to our mother and father, who have since passed away, we wanted to call it the Bent Nail Brewery.”