It's a sunny, late-summer Sunday morning. The sky is as clear as a glass of L'Acadie Blanc, and I'm on my way to Wolfville to hop on a double-decker bus that will cart me through Nova Scotia wine country: the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus tour.
Part of the Nova Scotia Fall Wines Festival, the Ambassatours hop-on, hop-off tour takes place every weekend through October 14. Leaving downtown Wolfville every hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm (with a pick-up route at 4:30), the bus makes a loop of Muir Murray Estate, Domaine de Grand Pré, Luckett Vineyards, L'Acadie Vineyards and Gaspereau Vineyards.
The tour is the result of recent collaboration between the Wolfville Downtown Business Commission and the Town of Wolfville. "The wine industry has chosen Wolfville," David A. Hovell, executive director of the WDBC says. The idea for the bus seemed like a no-brainer. "The Annapolis Valley is synonymous with agricultural production," he says. "This is a community that is really connected to where their food comes from, and we want to demonstrate that to the public. This is the centre of wine in Nova Scotia, and we want to celebrate it."
Apparently people agree. "We've been pleased early on," says Hovell. "There has been a sense of momentum building."
Hovell cites the convenience factor and broad-based appeal of the bus as a major draw, as it attracts tourists and locals of all ages. Winery activities vary each weekend, and children ride for free. Still, I have to admit I saw more than one bored-to-death-looking child during my winery tours, so perhaps its best to leave the tots behind.
We arrived in time for the 12:30 bus. I don't recommend this. Only arriving early will give you time to soak up the wino experience. I had to cut a winery from my list.
A large double-decker bus awaits, an obvious hue of Pepto-Bismol pink, complete with a knowledgeable yet jolly kilt-clad tour guide. At $10, riding on the back of a clumsy giant through the tiny streets and lush rollercoaster valleys of Wolfville is already worth the price.
Within a few bumpy moments, the packed bus pulls into Muir Murray Estate. A family-run winery with a focus on health and wellness, it raised the bar immediately and literally: offering free wine samples during a vineyard hayride. Next it was back to the winery for more free samples, and a chat with the owners, cheers!
Grand Pré, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, was disappointing. We, the booze-sheep, seemed an afterthought to them. Maybe if their award-winning restaurant, Le Caveaux, had been open, we wouldn't have had to hang out in the parking lot, sharing a Lindt chocolate bar for lunch.
By the time we got to Luckett Vineyards, the bus was running almost an hour behind. Although apparently "magic," the bus runs on what I call "tourist time"---we would have to end our tour there. Lucky for us, there are worse things than being trapped atop a mountain with fresh, local-grown food and enchanting wines named after Shakespearean heroines. Sadly, we didn't make it to L'Acadie or Gaspereau. Who knew five hours wouldn't be enough time to spend on these glorious properties?
The Wolfville Magic Winery Bus tour reminded me that, yes, we do have amazing wineries in our backyard. And, my, how easy it is to visit them. The tour itself is an ingenious idea---offering a quirky designated driver to choose your destinations---but I have a feeling that, like any fine wine, it will get better with age.