Who’s Who: Ian Kaye, The Ultimate Valley Winer!

By Mike Butler

Ian Kaye is heavily involved with Wine. Let me clarify… heavily involved as a JOB, not involved like I am, where I need a glass of Phone Box White just to go get the mail. Ian’s involvement is more hands on, nitty gritty, communing-with-the-vines kind of work that makes my job of buying the beautiful bottles of liquid gold so much easier! I have a great appreciation for high quality coffee (which is what I serve to Ian most mornings at TAN) and an even greater appreciation for amazing wine (which Ian so graciously handles), so I am pleased to introduce the ultimate Valley Winer: Ian Kaye!

Ian Kaye grew up in Yarmouth. He is the oldest of three boys and his parents both still live in the Yarmouth area. His dad was an engineer for MT&T (now Bell) and Ian followed in his footsteps, pursuing an education in electrical engineering and specializing in Broadcast and RF. That explains why he always seems so wired! In 2000 Ian moved to Truro. While working on a project for the radio stations there, he learned that Jost Winery was only a 45-minute drive away. We’ve all had wine call to us at some point in our lives right? Well the same story went for Ian as well. He would visit the winery once or twice a month and got to know Hans Christian Jost. Hans Christian gave Ian some vines to grow in his back yard, and he’s been hooked ever since. Ian says, “I loved the science and the knowledge/discipline required to successfully manage a vineyard… and even if you do everything right, Mother Nature is always the variable that can make or break a vintage. I also love being outside and working with my hands, getting dirty, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when seeing the neatness and order in the rows.”

In 2011, after 10 years of growing grapes as a hobby, Ian came home one day and Googled “Vineyard Job Nova Scotia”. Sometimes it’s just that simple, if you know what you want, and the first result was for Avondale Sky Winery. Ian applied and was there within a month. He wanted to see if he would still love viticulture if he did it all day every day. He did and he decided to stay. He states, “I threw myself into the work, learning as much as I could from other people in the industry and on my own via reading and research. I enrolled in the Grape Growing course at NSCC Kingstec, taught by my very knowledgeable, and good friend, Patrick Cantienne. By year two at Avondale I was the vineyard manager and continued there for two more years.” Well, that’s certainly nothing to WINE about!

With support and introductions from his friend Mike Lightfoot, Ian has since branched out on his own to manage and consult for vineyards/winegrowers here in Nova Scotia (nsvine.com), and he’s proud to represent Vinetech Canada (www.vinetech.ca) for Nova Scotian grapevine sales. Ian has the privilege of working with some great friends and people in the industry including the people at Lightfoot & Wolfville, Planter’s Ridge, Benjamin Bridge, Luckett Vineyards, Domaine de Grande Pre Winery, Gaspereau Winery, Blomidon Estate Winery, and more! There’s certainly no shortage of wineries here in the Valley to connect with and help.

Although some of us think that wine is everything, Ian does partake in other activities to help him from feeling bottled up with his work. He enjoys cycling, swimming, and surfing and despite the fact that he’s not very good at it (his words, not mine) he continues to try and enjoy food and wine pairings and he loves to cook. (Maybe I can get a meal or some wine out of this!) And, this was no surprise, Ian also likes wine and cider tasting with friends. So, in some ways, the job and the hobbies do mix but Ian keeps busy and is always striving for perfection in his work.

On what he loves about the area, Ian says, “When I was a kid we would spend time at the family cottage in Scots Bay and I always loved driving through the Valley from Yarmouth to get there. The fields of grains and vegetables, the neat rows in the apple orchards and vineyards, and the positive feeling I got from visiting Wolfville always motivated me to come back time and time again. The support for local products and agriculture here is fantastic, and I love being a part of this community.”

Being involved with the wine industry in the Valley means you’re pretty much guaranteed success and continuation in that field, as the industry is growing faster than the grapes. So, for Ian, it’s a safe bet he’ll age very well in the work he does. He says, “It is said that wine is made in the vineyard. You can’t make good wine with bad fruit… I want to grow this business to a point where I’m managing hundreds of acres of vineyards with a skilled crew and state-of-the-art mechanization to efficiently farm these vineyards in a way that increases the quality of the fruit and ultimately the growing wine industry here in Nova Scotia. For now that’s where my focus is, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.”

Well, thanks to you Ian, I’m having a lot of fun drinking up your work! Cheers to you, may you have GRAPE success and many return FLIGHTS!