The wine industry in Nova Scotia is blossoming, with around 18 wineries at last count. Vineyards are scattered between the Northumberland Strait, all the way to the bottom of the Annapolis Valley and across to the South Shore. Alongside escaping into nature, JR and I also love a spot of wine tasting (I even wrote a book about it). As you can imagine, we were pleasantly surprised to find so many boutique wineries to visit while on our two-month-long road trip around Nova Scotia. A number of Nova Scotia wineries especially stood out for their uniqueness. Here are our favourites!
Wine Touring in Wolfville
Just an hour’s drive away from Halifax is the small university town of Wolfville. Located on the edge of the Minas Basin, Wolfville is also the gateway to the abundant Annapolis Valley. Beautiful heritage buildings provide a somewhat genteel backdrop to a surprisingly hip town. Wolfville and the surrounding area host the greatest number of Nova Scotia wineries so it is no surprise that most of my top picks are located in this region!
A number of wine touring companies operate in and around Wolfville, providing an alternative to driving. One of these is the Magic Winery Bus. Their excursions, however, offer a twist on traditional wine touring. Vintage double-decker buses transport guests around on a hop-on-hop-off trip around five wineries. Each winery offers a friendly welcome, tour and tasting. Guests can choose to stay one hour or more at their chosen wineries, catching the bus when it next stops on its continuous route. Quite simply, it’s the most fun and interesting way to tour Wolfville’s vineyards.
Lightfoot and Wolfville
Lightfoot and Wolfville has the newest winery building in town and is also the most aesthetically impressive. The grand entrance says it all – tall glass doors set into a barn facade, leading into a breezy space with impossibly high ceilings, polished floors, exposed timber beams and imposing stone fireplace. The luxurious feel continues into the large tasting room, where ornate glass sculptures dangle from the lofty ceiling. Outside, a large patio looks out onto the vines with a glimpse of the Bay of Fundy just beyond. The on-site restaurant serves a locally sourced, seasonal and organic menu. Wood-fired oven pizzas are offered alongside Nova Scotia seafood classics.
For those looking to visit an elegant yet still approachable Nova Scotia winery, Lightfoot and Wolfville is a great pick. Fans of European varietals will also love this winery for their focus on classics such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. The buttery oaked Chardonnay was the highlight of our Wolfville wine tour.
Where else in the world would you find a telephone in the middle of a vineyard? I certainly haven’t seen one! Moreover, the British telephone box at Luckett Vineyards actually works (domestic calls are free to guests) unlike many I have tried back home. Of course, the vineyard telephone isn’t the only thing that makes Lucketts unique. Located on higher ground to the south of Wolfville, there are sweeping views over the vineyard and surrounding farmland. The panoramas are best seen from the Crush Pad Bistro with lunch and a glass or two of wine!
Luckett Vineyards currently has a wine list of over 15 wines. Two are intriguingly called ‘Buried Red’ and ‘Buried White.’ These limited edition wines (200 cases only) were left to mature for 28 months underground in oak barrels. As well as more traditional wine styles, there is also icewine to try.
And why the telephone box, you may ask? Luckett’s owner, Pete, is originally from Nottingham, UK.
Summer opening hours: Daily 10am-5pm
L’Acadie Vineyards is the only certified organic Nova Scotia winery, with no herbicides, insecticides or pesticides used in the vineyard. No preservatives are added to the wine either. At L’Acadie, it’s all about promoting healthy soil and making the most of the good air and soil drainage of the ridged Gaspereau Valley in which the vineyard sits. Llamas and sheep actually graze the vineyards in summer. The winery building is also environmentally friendly, running on geothermal heat and made from sustainable materials.
Organic farming isn’t the only way that this winery sticks to age-old traditions. L’Acadie was the first Nova Scotia winery to release traditional method sparkling wine. What this means in practice is that all of the bubbles in L’Acadie’s sparkling wine are produced completely naturally within the bottle. This is the same method used to make Champagne. Indeed, L’Acadie has previously won sparkling wine awards in France. As a fan of bubbles, I loved L’Acadie’s tasting flight of sparkling wine.
Wine Touring in Bear River
Tucked away just beyond the main highway on the other side of the Annapolis Valley, the small community of Bear River is a hidden gem. The first vines in Nova Scotia (and probably in all of Canada) were planted here back in 1611 by Louis Hebert. When visiting, it is easy to understand why. The sheltered valley hills slope gently into the river (actually a tidal estuary), creating a warm microclimate unlike any other in the local area.
Bear River Vineyards
There are two wineries in Bear River open to visit, but the standout for uniqueness and beauty is most certainly Bear River Vineyards. It all starts with the 1883 barn that hosts both the airy tasting room (those high ceilings!) and wine production and bottling facility. This four and a half storey building is set into a slope, something that perfectly lends itself to gravity fed winemaking. A tour is an absolute must alongside a tasting to really take in the beauty of this cleverly renovated building. Contact Bear River Vineyards in advance for tour availability.
It’s not just the interior of this Nova Scotia winery that is so impressive. A stroll around the side of the barn reveals picture-perfect views of the lush surrounding valley and four acres of vines rolling down to the river. Take a seat and soak up the scenery, perhaps with a bottle purchased at the winery. There’s quite a range to choose from, including a fresh yet dry Riesling and surprisingly rich (and slightly peppery) Baco-Fach. If you really can’t tear yourself away, stay for the night! Bear River has a cosy guest suite (with the comfiest bed!) overlooking the vineyard, one of the very few winery accommodations in Nova Scotia.
Summer opening hours: Daily, 11am-6pm
Big thanks go to the Magic Winery Bus, Bear River Vineyards and Tourism Nova Scotia for their help with researching wine touring in Nova Scotia
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