Our next stop in Nova Scotia was the Annapolis Valley, a 150 km-long valley that runs along the Mina’s Basin, an estuary that is separated from the body of the Bay of Fundy by the mountainous Cape Blomidon. The region is notable for a number of reasons, including;
- It’s geology and microclimate, which makes it Nova Scotia’s most productive agricultural regions, especially suited to growing fruit from the 17th century (as by Acadians on intricately levied and irrigated land) to today (including for wine grapes, as discussed below);
- The Minas Basin as the site of some of the largest tidal variations (up to 12 meters between low and high tides) in the world. This creates a surge so powerful that within a single 12.5 hour tidal cycle, more water is forced into and out of the bay than by all the world’s rivers and streams combined (see our next post, “Experiencing Bay of Fundy Tides” for a more detailed discussion of the tidal flows); and
- Grand Pre’, which was the center of a farming community formed by Acadians in the 1680s who created an complex system of dikes and floodgates that allowed them to capitalize on the Basin’s nutrient-rich alluvial sediment. It is now home to a historic site and World Heritage Site dedicated to the Acadians who were deported from their New World home when the British took control of the region after create a sustainable community, productive farms and a unique culture.
Sampling Annapolis Valley Wines
If we are anywhere near a wine area, we have to try the wines. In Annapolis Valley, we sampled wine from two of the local wineries. Given the very short growing season (about 120 days), grape varieties are limited and tend to produce grapes with more acid and less sugar than we are accustomed to. And, since the grapes have so little hang time, the only way of getting deep colors and concentrated colors in the reds are to dry the grapes before pressing. Our tastings yielded mixed results. Even so, we did find a couple of wines from each winery:
- Domaine de Gand Pre’. This first winery in Nova Scotia (established in 1979) produces a range of whites, reds and dessert wines. Although few were to our taste, we did enjoy the Riesling, with its pear and citrus notes. We thought the Marechal Foch to be light and very dry, but interesting with red cherry and spice. The Vidal Icewine was also interesting, with its licorice nose, pear and peach tastes and 6.6 percent residual sugar.
- Luckett Vineyards, where we found three wines that we kind of enjoyed (but wouldn’t necessarily rush out to buy). One white (Tidal Bay white blend, with a touch of sugar, finishing with grapefruit), one red (Triumphe red blend which is dry and a bit gamey with cherry and licorice), and a dessert wine (Geena late harvest, made of Muscat and Tramante grapes with pear, peach and about 4.5 percent residual sugar). Although not quite to our taste, the winery also offers a type of wine we had never tried–Buried Wine, which is aged in American Oak barrels that are buried (yes, actually buried) in the ground for aging. This imparts an earthy aroma and minerally taste. Again, not exactly our taste, but very interesting.
Restaurants an Hotel
We had two meals in the Annapolis Valley.
- Lunch at Luckett Vineyards where we started with a rich and delicious seafood chowder (with poached haddock, bay scallops, shrimp and lobster). Since they were out of our chosen main course (shrimp, scallops and lobster salad rolls with tarragon aioli), we had to settle for two other less interesting and satisfying dishes (a smoked salmon plate and a steak and mushroom pie). Even so, the view was wonderful, especially with the quirky British telephone booth planted in the middle of a vineyard.
- Dinner was at the lovely, Victorian-style Blomidon Inn, in Wolfsville. Tom had a nicely prepared grilled tenderloin with mashed potatoes and asparagus, with a red wine jus and bourbon bacon butter–with a lobster tail on the side for good measure. Joyce had the restaurant specialty, linguini with lobster in a horseradish cream sauce. While both were good, they were nothing to write home about. This being said, the building is lovely, the service good and the food more than serviceable.
We stayed at the Tattingstone Inn, a small “inn run by extremely friendly and accommodating hosts Tom and Heather. We were in room 8, which, while nothing special, was clean and suited our needs. The pillows were a little firmer than we normally like, but we slept well. Breakfast was included in the morning but since we had to leave before breakfast started, we were given a box breakfast of homemade peanut butter and honey and peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and juice. A very nice treat (and also very good sandwiches and bread!).