Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three Maritime Provinces that include New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Its capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second smallest Canadian province, the first being Prince Edward Island. The population was 921,000 in 2011. The seaport town of Yarmouth is the home to a very large fishing fleet and a launching point for visiting French-speaking Acadian and the English-speaking communities. My Nova Star cruise ferry docked there in the early morning. After clearing customs Neil Mackenzie, from the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association, was there to greet me and arrange for my rental car. We were to spend a few hours together visiting the W.L. Laurence Sweeney Fisheries Museum, the Firefighters Museum of Nova Scotia as well as Yarmouth and Cape Forchu Light Stations. Lunch was at Shanty Café, a quite unusual eatery where everyone (except the GM) had barriers to employment, either mental or physical. One has a good feeling after a meal here, and the food was quite good. I was to return to Yarmouth for my last night before re boarding the Nova Star back to Portland.
It had been raining for the past three days as I started my 185-mile drive to Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley Wine Region. I decided to take the local Evangeline Trail, which ran parallel to the highway. The Acadian Shore is home to communities with roots that are over 400 years deep. The Musee Eglise Sainte-Marie is the largest wooden church in North America. How could I not make a brief stop at Smuggler’s Cove that was a prime location for the smuggling of liquor during prohibition in the 1920s? In Annapolis Royal I did spend an hour in the National Historic District and at Port-Royal National Historic Site to learn about the Acadie culture. There are over 135 registered heritage properties in Annapolis Royal. It was still raining so I did not visit the outdoor grounds. It was a straight run to my overnight home- Blomidon Inn in Wolfville.
There are 31 rooms in this very charming Victorian era inn with all the comforts of home including complimentary Internet & HDTV in every room. It was still raining so I did not venture into the acres of gardens surrounding the inn. I was lucky that Michael Laceby checked me in, carried my bag up to my room and acted as the captain/sommelier for my dinner. His family is the owners of the property. Everything ordered for dinner was from local Annapolis Valley products and fresh catches from the waters of Nova Scotia. With a superb wine list it was no surprise to learn that the number 1 wine critic in Canada Tony Aspler was staying at the inn & joined me for breakfast the next morning.
I took the suggestion from Tony Aspler about new wineries that I should visit. My first stop was at the not yet open Lightfoot & Wolfville. They plan to open a public retail space in 2016. Their focus is on the classic vinifera grape varieties including: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and other German-styled whites. My other stop was at Benjamin Bridge Winery, which was almost impossible to find since they did not have a sign and were open by appointment only. As luck had it the one person I asked was on her way to work there and showed me the way. They produce excellent sparkling wine, including my favorite Nova 7. I then went back into town to meet Susan Downey, the proprietor of Grape Escape Wine Tours. Since I was her only passenger we stopped at three wineries including: Luckett Vineyards, certainly the most modern winery I visited. Opened in 2011 Peter Luckett owns a chain of boutique grocery stores and he has spared no expense for this 9,000 case winery. L’Acadie is a 2,000 case organic winery opened in 2004. Owner Bruce Ewert moved from the Okanagan Valley of British1 Columbia. Gaspereau Vineyards is a 6,000 case winery with 35 acres planted in grapes and specializes in the Riesling varietal.
Tidal Bay is a new appellation (June 2011) wine. It highlights the characteristics given to Nova Scotia wines by the unique combination of climate and terroir in the province – and it pairs amazingly well with the local seafood. Among the wines being used to make the Tidal Bay blend are l’Acadie Blanc (most planted white grape varietal in the province), Seyval Blanc, Geisenheim 318 and Vidal Blanc, which must make up at least 51% of the blend singularly or in combination. There are a selection of other locally grown whites that can be added to the blend to increase the aromatics. Winemakers have the choice of choosing which of these wines to blend and the percentage of each so that it can be a unique wine to each winery. The wines must be less than 11% alcohol with high acid levels. Each winery must submit its wine to a five-person panel of wine experts to determine if it meets the standard to bear the Tidal Bay designation. There are presently 10 wineries authorized to produce a Tidal Bay wine.
I had a three-hour drive back to Yarmouth for my overnight stay at MacKinnon-Cann Inn. My last night in Nova Scotia I needed to stay close to the waterfront since my Nova Star cruise ferry left early in the morning. I also had to return my rental car. The local tourist office arranged for me to stay, and have dinner in the historic district at the MacKinnon-Cann Inn. Built in 1887 it is an example of the Italianate Victorian style. Co-owner Neil Hisgen and his partner are also renovating several other historic homes in the district. I am not sure I heard him correctly as to how much money they have invested in renovating the 7 rooms. I think he said over 1 million dollars. It shows in that all the very large rooms reflect a different era from 1900-1960. I was one of only 2 dining in the restaurant that night but what an experience. Chef Michael Howrys moved from the west coast of Canada and their loss is Nova Scotia’s gain. I don’t think I have a better meal anywhere I have traveled.
After a light breakfast I was off to the ferry and my return to Portland.
For Further Information: www.yarmouthandacadianshores.com, www.annapolisbasin.com, www.fundyfun.com, www.exploreannapolisroyal.com, http://www.wolfville.ca/, www.winesofnovascotia.ca/wineries, www.grapeescapetours.com, www.blomidon.ns.cca, www.mackinnoncanninn.com, www.novastarcruises.com, www.capeforchulight.com