The people behind the wine
In 2008, Jean-Benoit joined the Benjamin Bridge winemaking team in time to release his first Canadian wine, Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge. Since then he has crafted all of the winery’s classic method sparkling wines and its still wines, in consultation with Peter Gamble (the winery’s lead consultant) and the late Raphaël Brisbois (its sparkling wine specialist and former chef de cave of Piper-Heidseick).
Originally from Québec, Jean-Benoit began his winemaking apprenticeship at VOE (Vinedos Organicos Emiliana), a biodynamic vineyard/winery in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, which was created by one of Chile’s largest producers, Vina Santa Emilina, to produce exceptional wines. Having mostly worked in California, he made wine at Casa Barranca (2004-2008), the first certified organic winery in Santa Barbara County. In California, his winemaking efforts garnered accolades and standout reviews from Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer (90+).
Since 2008, Jean-Benoit’s winemaking has elevated Benjamin Bridge’s wine programs to new heights with consistent 90-95+ scores and unanimous high praise from the nation’s leading wine critics along with growing international recognition.
Lead Wine Consultant
Peter J. Gamble is a Canadian winemaking icon and an established international wine consultant. A resident of Ontario’s Niagara wine region, Peter was the founding executive director of Canada’s Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), a body responsible for defining and establishing Canadian winemaking standards and maintaining the integrity of provincially designated wine appellations.
Peter has been working with Benjamin Bridge since 2000 and consults to several other top-end boutique wineries, and fulfills proprietary and winemaking roles in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and in Mendoza, Argentina.
Peter has a broad and detailed knowledge of the world’s finest wines and is a highly sought-after international wine judge.
Sparkling Wine Consultant
Sparkling wine specialist Raphaël Brisbois hailed from Champagne, France, and lived in Napa Valley, California. Raphaël had more than three decades of expertise in winemaking.
He received a Masters in Viticulture and Enology from Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Agronomie in Montpellier. Former chef de cave of the legendary French Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck, Raphaël also ran the vineyards and winery operations for Champagne India in East Bombay before joining Iron Horse Vineyards in California, where he led their sparkling wine production. Raphaël began his own winemaking consultancy in 1995, and was a partner in Gary Raphaël Vintners LLC. He began consulting in Nova Scotia in 2002 and continued until late 2013 when he passed away.
When founder Gerry McConnell and his late wife Dara Gordon purchased the Gaspereau Valley property in 1999, it wasn’t a business proposition — it was a passion for the land and for seeing things grow.
Longtime lovers of fine food and wine, the couple were inspired by a recent tour of South African vineyards, and dreamed of creating world-class wines in their native Canada.
Gerry charged Peter J. Gamble with evaluating the potential of the vineyard, with a three-year timeline: if world-class wines couldn’t be produced, Benjamin Bridge would cease to exist. To Gerry’s great satisfaction, both the vines and the business would soon thrive.
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Gerry was called to the Bar of Nova Scotia in 1971. He was an associate and partner with the law firm Patterson Palmer from 1971 to 1987, and received his Queen’s Counsel designation in 1986.
In the 1980s, Gerry’s career evolved into mining. In the 1990s his firm’s interests took him to Africa. During his time there, Gerry was so struck by the beauty of the land and the spirit of the people that he (along with Dr. John Savage, the former premier of Nova Scotia) invested in social programs to improve schools, infrastructure, and medical programs in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and South Africa.
In 2003, Gerry received the Paul Harris Award from Rotary International in recognition of his company’s humanitarian contributions to health and education initiatives in Africa.
Gerry is director and CEO of Namibia Rare Earths Inc., a public Canadian company focused on development of rare earth opportunities in Namibia.
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dara was called to the bar in 1979 and received her Queen’s Counsel designation in 1998. She was a partner with the law firm McInnes Cooper and a member of its Board of Directors.
Dara’s legal practice focused on large resource-based and infrastructure projects, including work for the Government of Nova Scotia.
In 2008 Dara began managing the growing operations of Benjamin Bridge part-time, and oversaw the winery’s inaugural release, 2007 Nova 7. An active member of the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia and founding member of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, Dara was also involved in the development of Nova Scotia Wine Standards.
In late 2009 Dara passed away. Her contributions to the Nova Scotia legal community and her mentorship of women in law and business are remembered by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and McInnes Cooper through the annual event Women — Strength in Leadership: Remembering Dara Gordon QC.
Since early 2010, Gerry and Dara’s twin daughters Devon and Ashley McConnell-Gordon have run the daily operations of the winery. Devon, a graduate of the Dalhousie School of Architecture, is general manager, working closely with the vineyard manager and winemaker on all harvest and production matters as well as overseeing the Nova Scotia retail market. Ashley, a graduate of the Dalhousie School of Law, manages the financial aspects of the business as well as the winery’s growing export markets.