Photo by Aaron McKenzie Fraser
“It’s not just about selling [for me],” says Pete Luckett, founder and owner of both Nova Scotia-based ventures. “It’s about creating a magical experience.”
A greengrocer turned grape-grower, Luckett got his start—and best career advice—at age 16, while working at a fruit and vegetable stand in his hometown of Nottingham, England. His boss there taught him the importance of details, and of always trying to see the business through customers’ eyes. “If you can provide engagement, it gives you an edge up in business,” Luckett says.
Looking for adventure, Luckett moved to Canada in his mid-20s. He worked different jobs across the country for a few years before taking his last $300 to hitchhike to Saint John, N.B., and start up a food stand in 1982. The tiny stall eventually grew into today’s two thriving Halifax grocery stores.
“Word of mouth is still the best way to build a business, and always adding a personal touch,” Luckett says. “My team has taken on that spirit. The smallest details can be so powerful in someone’s life.”
In 2000, wanting to try out rural living, Luckett bought a 92-acre farm in Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. “The growing component intrigued me,” he says. “I didn’t know it was going to be grapes, [but] they fit the bill.”
Luckett Vineyards officially opened in 2011. It’s a beautiful property overlooking the Minas Basin, complete with a bistro, a storefront and a red British phone booth standing right in the centre of the vineyard. Visitors can use the booth to call toll-free anywhere in North America. “We made it part of our branding,” Luckett says. “It’s fun, one of those wild little moments that makes people smile.”
According to Luckett, Nova Scotia vineyards are producing some incredible wines these days, and he believes the area’s short growing season is both a challenge and an opportunity to stand out in the industry.
“The cold growing region produces incredibly crisp, fresh, aromatic white wine,” Luckett says. “I think we can actually embrace that acidity and turn it in our favour.” To that end, he and other local wineries have teamed up to develop Tidal Bay, the first wine appellation for Nova Scotia.
Luckett’s passion for wine—and for growing—has brought him all over the world. A self-professed travel junkie, he’s on the road at least two months of the year, often visiting other wine regions for inspiration. “Vineyards make my backbone quiver,” he says. “I just look at them and think, wow.”