Government of New Brunswick

By Corey Robichaud
Summer Student Intern
Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries

Sonia Carpenter and David Craw admit they are an unlikely pair. But 10 years ago, so was the idea of pairing a local New Brunswick wine with your meal. Now, New Brunswick’s growing cottage wine industry has wine drinkers taking notice.

Located in the village of Cambridge-Narrows, the couple were one of the first to successfully grow wine-grapes in a climate normally too cold for them to survive. Taking advantage of newer hybrid grapes designed for Atlantic Canada’s climate, the couple created Motts Landing Winery and Vineyard.

What started as a mutual interest in agriculture, soon developed into an interest in each other.

“You live in Cambridge Narrows, you don’t think of meeting anyone – you think everyone is baggage – they work and you work,” says Sonia Carpenter, an agriculture drainage and crop development expert with a background in environmental science.

She met her future husband and partner, David Craw, when he retired from a decades-long flying career that took him across the Arctic tundra as well as Asia. Though he was looking forward to retirement, he couldn’t rest yet -- his philosophy wouldn’t let him -- a man without a task was no man at all. He decided to begin an agricultural endeavour in hopes of rekindling interest in New Brunswick agriculture by supporting local growers.

“He liked the idea of rural living and making people interested in where we live, maybe they’ll stay there to work,” says Carpenter.

Carpenter said she heard about the Craw around the village and had received a number of phone messages from him asking her advice on constructing agricultural drainage. However, it was a chance meeting at the local convenience store and introduction by the clerk that finally brought the two together.

“And I said, you’ve been calling me for a long time now,” said Carpenter. “And he said with a chuckle, “Yes I have and you haven’t responded!”

Later that day, the two decided to take a tour of Craw’s property and began talking about how the field’s drainage system would need to be constructed if Craw wanted his crops to survive. Still, it would take years of trial and error, hard work, and numerous business trips to New Zealand where Carpenter earned her wine-making diploma at the Tairahiti Polytechnic Institute in Gisbourne, before they became full-fledged partners in wine.

Today, Mott’s Landing Winery and Vineyard has a loyal customer base who willingly travel to their on-site store to stock up on their local wines.

 Motts Landing wines are also sold at several farmer markets and a number of restaurants who promote the use of local products. The winery is also a popular agri-tourism destination, that is promoted by the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, where visitors can spend a day learning about the art of winemaking and New Brunswick’s agriculture sector. The winery is unique in that it is one of the few in the world that is approachable from international waters, something those sailing the Saint John River are well aware of.

Motts Landing has also recently become part of a pilot project by NB Liquor to allow select stores to sell wines. The Co-op in Sussex and Hanwell Village Market now stock their wine.

 “It’s nice that we can depend on each-other for decisions,” says Craw “We can make those decisions in the morning when we have our tea, that’s our routine!”

“We don’t always agree, “adds Carpenter. “…but it works!”