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The Up-And-Comer

Want to experience Canada's most exciting, emerging region? Go east, young wine lover

Written by Jessica Emin

  • Secluded Surprises: Harvest's helping hands
  • The production facility at Benjamin Bridge
  • Soaking it in at Cape Split
  • Fresh fare at Noggins Farm
  • Coastal Treasures: Seaside solitude
  • Blomidon Estate Winery's vineyard
  • The patio at Le Caveau Restaurant
  • Fort Anne Historic Site
  • Pete Luckett, owner of Luckett Vineyards
  • Cozy & Quaint: The view from the top at Blomidon Inn |
  • A quiet stroll amongst the vines

 

Not having to pay for curbside parking is a sure sign you're in a good place. In Nova Scotia, everyone seems to be a farmer or a farmer's child. It is a place where the corner stores have wood floors and the attendant opens the ATM in front of you when it won't work to see if the bills are sticking together. That's country trust.

People work hard. The surroundings are lush. Things move slowly.

Winemaking in Nova Scotia is finally starting to get deserved recognition in Canada and elsewhere. The industry is small, but that's the draw. It's a place that's on the upswing and is full of experimentation and potential.

Like British Columbia and Ontario, wineries and vineyards are sprinkled all over the province, but the thick of them are found where the growing season is the longest and warmest: in the Annapolis Valley. Wolfville is the centre of Nova Scotia's wine region, even if that centre only boasts a few streets. It's central to most of the wine industry in the fruitrich, coastal valley.

Nova Scotia offers what large wine regions can't, says Heather Rankin, a sommelier and owner of Halifax wine bar Obladee. The region is less expensive, has a signature style derived from special growing conditions and offers up genuine Maritime hospitality, Rankin explains. She says that in the last few years there has been a shift in understanding which grapes grow best and which wines really express the terroir of the province.

Rankin says that trying the traditional method sparkling wines while visiting is a must. "They're on par with Champagne."

So, go explore before the others do. See the foundation of something great. Get to say, "I told you so."

Not unlike the Okanagan, or Niagara, the Annapolis Valley has a climate all its own. Drive 30 minutes and the temperature might drop significantly. It's like the gods intended for fruit, vine and vegetable to be grown between the two ridges that cradle its fertile soil. Few places in the Maritimes have as long of a growing season or have such warm lakes for swimming.

Nova Scotia's wine industry is small, but that's the draw. It's a place that's on the upswing and is full of experimentation and potential.

FOOD

In the Annapolis Valley, being "market fresh" or "seasonal" is not something that's trendy; it has just always been that way. Devon McConnell-Gordon, general manager and part-owner of Benjamin Bridge winery, says she thinks Nova Scotia is ahead of the pack as far as farmfocused food is concerned because the province never had to backtrack to live up to the green mantras of today.

The culinary scene in Halifax is booming with everything from fine dining to food trucks and that enthusiasm for timely, tasty and fresh food is flowing into rural areas.

Privet House has been open for less than a year in Wolfville. The cozy dinng room is a bit more modern in style and atmosphere than some of the other upscale dining options in the area. Chef and co-owner James Smye serves a grilled rack of lamb with mustard rub and Marechal Foch reduction that is fall-off-the-bone delicious. The care put into everything from the bread to the amuse-gueule is impressive. If there's enough room for dessert, walk next door to The Naked Crêpe Bistro for a sweet fix from classic butter and sugar to more innovative crêpes, such as cheesecake or whipped, fluffy chocolate mousse.

Le Caveau, a winery restaurant at Domaine de Grand-Pre, offers the lushest of meal settings. Their terrace is surrounded by the vineyard and large wooden trellises support the vines that drape and shelter the solid wood dining tables. In the middle of the vine-covered patio, a round table, big enough to fit all of the apostles, is the focal point. Locals are quick to suggest Le Caveau to tourists looking for a quintessential valley experience.

For one of the best patio views in Nova Scotia, and no shortage of seafood and beer, hit up the The Port Pub. The record tides of the Bay of Fundy can be observed from a barstool or Adirondack lining the edge of the elevated patio. At any given time, one is just a short drive from the ocean where the cool tidal breezes help regulate the warm temperatures of the valley. The seaside gastropub even serves its own house-made beer, Sea Level.

For a breakfast experience that doesn't adhere to any diet, visit the Tin Pan Bakery. The shed-sized joint is just five minutes outside Wolfville and you'll leave as charmed as you are full. Thickcut homemade bread, an array of jams and hearty, smoky ham are well worth absorb yesterday's wine.

WINE

You can do it all here. There aren't a hundred wineries. There are less than 20, so make the rounds. While most of the vineyards in Nova Scotia are clustered in or near Wolfville, some very quaint and lovely sites are just an hour away. Jost and Bear River vineyards are two of the farthest from the winery epicentre, but they are worth the scenic drive.

The wines that shine in Nova Scotia are the aromatic whites and sparklings.

L'Acadie Vineyard is a pioneer of traditional method sparkling wine production in the province. Winemaker Bruce Ewert and his family settled into the Gaspereau Valley in 2004 and founded l'Acadie to begin their sparkling wine program. Ewert had many years of experience as a winemaker and specialized Cozy & Quaint: The view from the top at Blomidon Inn | A quiet stroll amongst the vines in sparkling wines. The quality and price of their bubbly will make you want to go home with a case. To the surprise of some, l'Acadie also produces appassimento style red wines from Leon Millot and Luci Kuhlmann.

Luckett Vineyards, owned by Nova Scotia's specialty grocery owner Peter Luckett, has one of the best views of the valley farmland. A concrete pad that looks over the pastoral landscape extends from their tasting room, surrounded by small fruit trees and is used as a dining and sipping area for tourists. A single English-style red phone booth, just like the red phone booth on Luckett's wine labels, stands in the middle of the vineyard directly in front of the winery building. The phone booth is fully functional and visitors are invited to call a loved one free of charge if they feel inspired to do so.

Benjamin Bridge winery is special in many ways. They set the bar high for traditional method sparkling wine in the province, in Canada and, perhaps, the world, according to some of the critics. They've also got some of the industry's top players working for them. Jean- Benoit Deslauriers makes the wine and Peter J. Gamble is their consultant. General Manager Devon McConnell-Gordon says that the idea behind beginning the vineyard was to make world-class wine. "We've been given carte blanche to make the best wine we can," she says.

Unfortunately, you can't just swing by because they don't yet have open visiting hours for the public. If you want to taste through some of their sparkling and still wines or get a tour, contact them first or you're out of luck. When you do make it, you'll be impressed by the modern, clean lines of their facility and their property which slopes down to the edge of the Gaspereau River.

SLEEP

The Blomidon Inn is a huge and imposing historic home with lovely rooms, a fine dining restaurant, jazz nights every Friday and detached apartments on the back of the property. The garden and grounds are like a Canadian A Midsummer Night's Dream, if it had a hidden gift shop.

Roselawn Lodging offers fully equipped cottages, which are cute, accessible and very central. They're directly on the main artery in Wolfville and close to all the best attractions and scenery. Plus, there's an outdoor pool for kids and grown-up kids alike.



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