As the days warm up and we start to plan our summer road trips, one of our favourites is to head to the Annapolis Valley for the amazing views of the Minas Basin from Nova Scotia’s vineyards. With six distinct wine growing regions in the province and a unique terroir that has been shaped over the centuries, our wine region has been maturing over the past 25 years. In the Annapolis Valley, you’ll find 11 wineries, offering up award winning wines you don’t want to miss.
Pairs well with seafood and seacoasts
Nova Scotia’s signature appellation, the Tidal Bay, is only a few years old (launched in 2012), but this style of wine is making a name for itself as a summer favourite. Clear and crisp, this blend of grapes differs at each winery – one may have more Lucy, while another may up the percentage of Muscat – but because of the standards set by Winery Association of Nova Scotia, you can count on each wine to meet your expectations of a Tidal Bay (or it doesn’t carry the name).
With 10 Tidal Bays to choose from, we find it hard to choose only one as a favourite. We recommend taking a sip of each on your tour to decide which one is your number one Tidal Bay.
The grapes that you find in the crisp Tidal Bay are the very same that make some of Nova Scotia’s strongest offerings: bright, crisp, and aromatic whites. The white hybrids that have really taken off in Nova Scotia are L’Acadie Blanc, Sevyal Blanc, Vidal and New York Muscat.
Avondale Sky, which is in a church that was floated down the St. Croix River from Walton, offers up award winning wines like Bliss which is crafted from Geisenheim grown on the Avon Peninsula. The 2013 Bliss has notes of green apple, pear, starfruit, and lime, with a clean and crisp palate and a long citrus finish. It’ll pair perfectly with grilled seafood or Asian cuisine.
While none of us are wishing away the wonderful Valley summer days, we are thankful for those cold nights in late November and early December – and the vineyards that are out picking frozen grapes in the dark (usually Vidal, Ortega and New York Muscat) – when temperatures are hitting between -8 and -10 Celsius, because they make for amazing, full bodied desert wines. Domaine de Grand Pré hosted the 2014 Icewine Festival, which featured their own offerings like the 2012 Vidal Icewine, with notes of apricots, lemon, blood orange and marmalade, along with wines from Avondale Sky Winery, Blomidon Estate Winery, L’Acadie Vineyards, Luckett Vineyards and St. Famille Wines.
While Nova Scotia’s strengths do lie in whites and ice wines, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try our reds. Our growing season doesn’t allow for the same kind of grapes that make for robust and jammy reds of warmer climates, however we’ve discovered many grapes that produce a well-rounded, full-bodied and dry red with low tannins. You’ll find they are earthy and smokey with a berry fruit characteristic, perfect for pairing with red meat and hearty Nova Sctoia stews. Watch for the names Lucie Kuhlman, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch and Leon Millot as you tour the wineries.
The Blomidon Estate Winery’s Baco Noir is a medium bodied red with aromas of black cherry and blueberry layered over smoky, vanilla notes and a velvety finish. All of it perfect for a summer BBQ of steak or grilled salmon.
Whether you’re celebrating a big event or just a Friday evening with good friends, Nova Scotia’s sparkling wines pair perfectly with a toast to summer. The Nova 7 from Benjamin Bridge, along with their other sparkling offerings have been making waves across Canada for years. Using the Méthode Classique of the Champagne region, head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, along with Peter Gamble and Raphaël Brisbois, have an understanding of what works well with Nova Scotia’s terroir and they’ve crafted a light, sparkling wine that is not to be missed. The 2013 Nova 7 you’ll find this summer is an orchid pink colour with bursts of jasmine, white rose and passion fruit, brightened by notes of fresh lime and grapefruit zest. This crisp wine is a must-try – and it’s available to fans of the wine in Ontario and PEI.
A new comer on the sparkling scene comes from outside of the Valley. The toast of the Northumberland Shore, Jost, has introduced the Selkie this year to rave reviews. This frizzante, which is an Italian style sparkling is light and best served well chilled – great in the summer as an aperitif or with a light salad or seafood.
Of course, a road trip for wine means you need a DD. Lucky for us, a few tours make that easy – allowing everyone in the group to sample the wines as you’re shuttled from one beautiful winery to the next. The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus is a popular hop-off/hop-on option on weekends, letting you plan your day out on your own schedule so you can spend a little extra time at your favourite vineyard.
Tours like Grape Escapes offer daily tours from May to November, or you can build your own tour. Building your own tour is perfect when heading out with a group of friends or on a unique bachelorette party. Go North Tours has added Uncork Nova Scotia tours to their offerings, with guided wine tours from Halifax and Wolfville from May to November.
Taste of the Valley
While you’re touring the wineries, make sure you schedule in some time to try the tastes of Nova Scotia at one of the vineyard restaurants. Luckett’s Vineyard has extended their patio, allowing even more guests to take in the stunning views of Blomidon from the top of Grand Pré Road as they dine and sip on Pete Luckett’s signature Phone Box red or white. Domaine de Grand Pré’s Le Caveau with Chef Jason Lynch is an excellent choice for an intimate dinner after a day of exploring the Annapolis Valley.
No matter how you schedule your Annapolis Valley road trip, you’re sure to discover the next big thing in our wine country.