Take a Nova Scotia Wine Tour
Nova Scotia has had a long and rich tradition of growing grapes for wine dating back to the 1600s. And some believe it is actually quite possible that Nova Scotia was one of the first areas to cultivate grapes in North America.
The wineries that exist today have differentiated themselves into several distinct regions around the province: The Annapolis Valley, Malagash Peninsula, LaHave River Valley, plus other regions that are now proving suitable for grape growing.
From the warm shores of the Northumberland Strait to the fertile Annapolis Valley, grape growers nurture more than 400 acres of vines and a growing number of thriving vineyard wineries are producing award-winning wines.
The earliest vines in Nova Scotia were planted in 1611 by Champlain’s hardy band of settlers. Today, Nova Scotia’s internationally successful varietals include Marechal Foch, DeChaunac, Baco Noir, Leon Millot, Seyval Blanc and L’Acadie Blanc.
With warmer weather and sunshine on the horizon come thoughts of vacations and weekend getaways. Why not take a wine tour visiting some of the many wineries around Nova Scotia? With great wines, beautiful scenery and warm, welcoming people you won’t go wrong.
1. The first thing you need to do is investigate the wineries in operation around the province and choose which ones you’d like to visit.
2. Figure out how many people would like to participate; suggested group sizes range from 2 to 25 people (too many people can make tasting very complicated and time consuming).
3. Once you decide on a route, and the number of people participating, contact a local transportation company to provide the transportation for your group. Many companies offer wine tour packages and will set the whole trip up for you, including appointments and fees at the wineries, although they may require a minimum number of people. Local companies like Nova Scotia Wines Tours, Go North Tours or the Winery Association of Nova Scotia can provide more information on this. Or choose a designated driver for the day, or a different one for each day of an extended weekend tour.
4. If the transport company doesn't set the trip up for you, the next step is to map out your route and make appointments at the wineries (appointments are almost always required for groups over 5 people). Plan on spending between one and two hours at each winery depending on the size of your group. Don't forget to allot time for post-tasting purchasing and picture taking.
5. If you’re making a weekend out of the tour, look for accommodations and book accordingly. Some wineries have accommodations on site, or have partnerships with adjacent inns and B&B’s, so ask the winery for recommendations.
6. When the day or weekend arrives, everyone should meet at a common pick up location so the driver only has to make one stop. Get on the bus or in the car, and enjoy the trip.
• Make sure your driver has a written itinerary prior to the trip so he/she knows exactly where to go and when to be there.
• Tipping 15-20% is customary for good service. Even if a tip is included in the price, you may want to give a little more at the end especially if the driver went above and beyond.
• Make sure to eat throughout the day and stay hydrated!
Here is a selection of Nova Scotia’s Wineries to consider for your route:
Blomidon Estate Winery
The winery, which is located on the edge of the Minas Basin, near Canning, offers award winning wines like L'Acadie Blanc and Baco Noir and a 100% Nova Scotia grown Chardonnay. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a stroll or picnic in the vineyard, or purchase items from the on-site wine shop.
35 acres of vineyards overlooking the beautiful Gaspereau Valley, just 3 km from Wolfville, are producing award-winning wines. Gaspereau Vineyards offers complimentary in-store sampling and informative guided tours daily at 12 noon, 2 pm and 4 pm during the peak season starting mid-May and running until mid-October.
Domaine de Grand Pré
Nova Scotia's first operating winery, Domaine de Grand Pré is located in Grand Pre, just outside of Wolfville. Its award-winning wines, cobblestone courtyards, beautiful gardens, restaurant, art gallery, and European pergola are rapidly becoming a wedding site favourite.
Located in Malagash, Nova Scotia, just 15 minutes off the Sunrise Trail, Jost boasts award-winning wines from numerous varieties of grapes grown on site. Daily tours occur at noon and 3 pm from June 15 through September. The winery store is open year round and complimentary wine sampling is available at the tasting bar. An on-site deli bar, licensed deck and U-barbecue are open during the summer months.
Nova Scotia's first certified organic vineyard and winery is located in Wolfville and specializes in traditional method sparkling wines. The geothermal winery and tasting bar overlooking the vineyard offers complimentary and specialty wine tastings. The wineshop is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm, May through October and weekends in November and December. Guests can also extend their visit at convenient vineyard-side cottages.
Lunenburg County Winery
Lunenburg County Winery is located in the beautiful South Shore of Nova Scotia and features tours where traditional country fruit wines are made from local berries, grapes and honey. Situated on a drumlin approximately 25 minutes inland from Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, and Bridgewater, the winery is located at Hackmatack Farm, a commercial highbush blueberry farm where visitors can taste wine, pick berries, picnic, or tour the winery and craft store.
Muir Murray Estate Winery
Nestled in the beautiful Annapolis Valley near the town of Wolfville is one of Nova Scotia’s newer Estate Wineries. Tours of the winery and its 22 acres of vineyards, along with wine tasting are available. The location also offers an excellent view of Cape Blomidon. The winery has recently introduced “Tasting Weekends” focused on the pairing of food and wine to enhance flavors, which are held on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 4 pm.
Sainte Famille Wines
30 acres of premium vineyards on the hilly land of an original Acadian settlement, Saint Famille Wines features premium wines, Nova Scotian crafts and gifts. The boutique winery is located in Falmouth, an area known for its French Acadian history, top quality grape growing, and panoramic views. Tours are available twice daily at 10 am and 2 pm from May 1st to October 31st, by appointment.
Petite Riviere Vineyards
Sitting atop a gravel drumlin in Crousetown, Petite Riviere Vineyards is beautifully situated inland in the LaHave River Valley. Taking a page from the French style of blending grapes, their wines are made from 100% Nova Scotia grown grapes to produce popular wines such as the Luci Kuhlman/Leon Millot blend labelled Côte de LaHave.
Benjamin Bridge Vineyards
Benjamin Bridge is an innovative sparkling wine house on the south facing slopes of the picturesque Gaspereau Valley, in Wolfville. While currently a working winery and not open to the public, construction of a larger winery is underway and private tastings by appointment are planned for early 2010.
Bear River Vineyards
The wines of Bear River Vineyards, located on Chute Road in Bear River, include Reisling, Baco Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are 100% estate grown and produced. Demonstrations and tours are welcomed between July 1 and September 31. Tours includes a visit to the cellar and a wine tasting in the wine shop. A variety of specialty tours are also available for vineyard and wine enthusiasts whose interests extend beyond a casual tour and tasting.
Annapolis Highland Vineyards
Annapolis Highland Vineyards in Bear River East is located just minutes from the historic town of Annapolis Royal. Tours of the vineyard and winery, as well as viticulture clinics in the spring are available. The winery also features a gift store and complimentary tasting bar.