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Lightfoot & Wolfville. JESS EMIN

Lightfoot & Wolfville. JESS EMIN

Annapolis Valley wine country: your nearby Napa 

You aren’t going to California this pandemic, but Nova Scotia’s take on Napa Valley beckons.

  Driving into the Annapolis Valley can be an instantly relaxing experience. If you've spent the year mostly stuck in the city, the roadside farmers’ markets and Bay of Fundy are welcome, refreshing sights.

With restrictions loosening across the province, this destination—only an hour’s drive from Halifax—is the perfect place for a day-trip or weekend getaway. And while there's a lot to do in the Valley, ranging from hiking to fishing and fine dining, it’s the wineries that truly set this area apart.

The Annapolis Valley and its surrounding bayside communities have an impressively long list of vineyards, establishing the region as the center of Nova Scotia’s wine country. The area’s unique climate and mineral-rich soil (or its terroir, for you winos out there) lends itself to great wine, as do a wealth of passionate local winemakers. The Valley’s wineries are also known for producing Tidal Bay, Nova Scotia’s aromatic and crisp signature white wine. All in all, it’s a great place to sit on a patio, drink and learn about wine, and soak in views of the Bay’s red mud.

Though exploring the Valley and its wineries can be a great experience, if you’re not familiar with the area it can also be a little overwhelming. With so many options, it's hard to narrow down which wineries you want to visit (luckily, they’re all great!). To make planning a trip easier, we've put together a list of businesses to visit for while you're in town, focusing on wineries and adding in a few extras from the Valley’s abundance of worthy destinations. Just note that changing restrictions and levels of comfort mean the services described below are subject to change. Many small businesses are still figuring out how best to operate this summer—to avoid disappointment, check their websites or social media before your visit.

Wineries

Domaine de Grand Pré
The lush gardens and cobblestone paths at Grand Pré make it feel like you’re sipping wine in some faraway European countryside (and not a mere 10-minute drive out of Wolfville). In addition to great wine, this spot also features a restaurant, Le Caveau—which boasts fresh oysters, a carefully-curated menu and an impressively long cocktail list—and a historic inn for overnight stays.
1611 Highway 1, Grand Pré, website

Luckett Vineyards
If you live in Nova Scotia and have friends of drinking age, chances are you've seen the iconic Luckett Vineyards phone box on Instagram at some point or another. The phone box is actually closed for the time being, but Luckett is still a great place to spend an afternoon, with delicious wine, walk-in tastings and an extensive lunch menu at their bistro.
1293 Grand Pre Road, Wolfville, website

Benjamin Bridge
Most reviews from people who’ve visited Benjamin Bridge will mention three things: the beautiful locale, the knowledgeable staff and the sparkling wine this spot has become known for. With a variety of tasting options to choose from (and even virtual tastings, for those who aren’t comfortable venturing out just yet), there are multiple ways to learn about Benjamin Bridge’s wines while enjoying them yourself.
1966 White Rock Road, Wolfville, website

click to enlarge JESSICA EMIN
  • Jessica Emin

Lightfoot & Wolfville
If you’ve picked up a bottle of Lightfoot & Wolfville’s wine from the NSLC, then you'll be familiar with its beautiful packaging, each label intricately designed. Unsurprisingly, everything about the winery itself is equally stunning and thoughtfully laid-out. Located on farmland that's been in the Lightfoot family for generations, this architecturally impressive winery offers up breathtaking views and great wine that you can enjoy on the patio with pizza from the wood-fired oven. (Bonus: the farm also has highland cows, which are very cute.)
11143 Evangeline Trail, Wolfville, website

L’Acadie Vineyards
When the founders of L’Acadie Vineyards moved their young family to the Valley in 2004, it was with the goal of using the area’s unique terroir to make traditional-method sparkling wines. Over a decade later, it's clear this small-but-mighty family-run winery has accomplished just that: Their sparkling wines give champagne a run for its money, and friendly staff members are eager to teach you how it’s made.
310 Slayter Road, Gaspereau, website

Mercator Vineyards
Mercator Vineyards’ location off the main road means its historic building has wonderful, close-up views of the dykelands and the Bay. They have a range of amazing wines you can try in flights, as well as touring-bike rentals for an alternative way to enjoy the area. Why not hop on a bike, ride the close-by Harvest Moon Trail—an old converted railway line that passes through the Wolfville dykes—and end the afternoon with a cold glass of Tidal Bay?
88 Dyke Road, Wolfville, website

Gaspereau Vineyards
In addition to a range of exceptional wines and friendly staff, this beautiful winery boasts an open-air patio facing its vineyard and a locally-inspired lunch menu, making it a great place to stop in for lunch and a wine tasting. In this writer’s opinion, they also happen to have some of the best garlic fingers in the Valley. (Finally, definitive proof that donair sauce and wine are, in fact, a perfect pairing!)
2239 White Rock Road, Wolfville, website

Planters Ridge
If you're coming from out of town, it's easy to forget that the Annapolis Valley is more than just Wolfville and Grand Pré. The village of Port Williams is one of the many other destinations in the Valley that’s worth visiting, and Planters Ridge proves it. Based in a beautifully converted 150-year-old barn, this winery offers a tasting bar, customized tours (available by appointment) and a unique view of the local farmland.
1441 Church Street, Port Williams, website

1365 Church Street Vineyard and Winery, Port Willians
Also in Port Williams—just down the road from the historic church this street is named for—this winery is immensely charming and welcoming. It boasts panoramic views of the Valley and Cape Blomidon, staff eager to talk about their product and an impressive range of vintage wines. Their vintage reds, particularly the 2016 Darryl Brown, are worth a stop on their own.
1365 Church Street, Port Williams, website

A rolling field of Baco Noir grapes at Blomidon Winery. - SCOTT BLACKBURN
  • A rolling field of Baco Noir grapes at Blomidon Winery.
  • Scott Blackburn

Blomidon Estate Winery
If you’re travelling from Wolfville, the 15-minute drive to Blomidon Estate Winery is breathtaking. You get to pass through Port Williams and Canning, and to enjoy some of the Valley’s beautiful countryside. But what really makes the drive worth it is the destination. Located right on the Minas Basin, this seaside winery offers a quiet getaway, an incredible view and a wonderful selection of wines you can enjoy on the patio.
10318 NS-221, Canning, website

Bent Ridge Winery
If you want to get technical, this one isn’t really in the Annapolis Valley—it’s in the charming town of Windsor, which is part of the Avon Valley, a half-hour drive from Wolfville. Close enough for our purposes, though, considering the drive to Napa Valley proper would take about 55 hours. Run by two brothers on a family farm, the architecture and design of this small-batch winery is inspired by Italy, making it feel like a true getaway from the city (and the continent). If wine isn’t your thing, this spot is also home to Bent Nail Brewery, as well as a latin-inspired restaurant called Fuego.
4499 Highway 14, Windsor, website

Avondale Sky Winery
OK, fine—Avondale Sky isn't technically in the Valley either, but it's still worth mentioning. Based inside a beautifully repurposed church, this family-owned vineyard uses hand-picked grapes for its wine and fresh, locally sourced ingredients for its award-winning restaurant. Enjoy lunch and a tasting on their patio, and learn about the church’s history from their staff (it’s a fascinating story).
80 Avondale Cross Road, Newport, website

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Tours

If you want to visit multiple spots in the Valley without the hassle of planning for yourself, it's worth looking into wine and beer tours. The following companies each have different tours to give you a taste (or tastings!) of the Valley, with some options even picking you up and dropping you off in Halifax.

Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours

Magic Winery Bus Tours (yes—the one with the red double decker)

Wildgrape Tours

Uncork Nova Scotia

Wine and Beer Tours of Nova Scotia

Breweries & Cideries

Wine not your thing? Lucky for you, the Valley is also home to a whole host of other boozy businesses. Here are just a few of our favourites.

Annapolis Cider Company
This spot doesn't have food (with the exception of the complimentary corn nuts offered at each table), but it does have a range of both unique and classic ciders. If you can’t nab a spot on the patio, it’s still worth stopping in to take a few bottles home.
388 Main Street, Wolfville, website

The Church Brewing Co.
If you've been to Wolfville, chances are you're aware of this church-turned-brewery. Located right on Main Street, their huge patio is almost always bustling on the weekends. When you try their beer (or their haddy bites!), it’s easy to understand why both locals and out-of-towners flock here; with a range of great brews, nice staff and a fun food menu, going to Church is always a good idea.
329 Main Street, Wolfville, website

Maritime Express Cider Co.
Maritime Express is something special. Built in what used to be part of a railway hotel, the cidery still maintains its gorgeous architectural features: high ceilings, stone walls and huge arched windows, to name a few. Beyond the beautiful location, the small-batch ciders—made using Valley apples—and incredible food make this a great place to visit. (They’ve also introduced cider sangria for the summer, which should speak for itself.)
325 Main Street, Kentville, website

Honourary, non-alcoholic mention

Tangled Garden
This unassuming spot off the highway in Grand Pré is a magical place, and we would be remiss not to mention it. Go for the jam and cordial made from plants grown in the garden; stay for the acres of flowers ponds, and the spiralling labyrinth you can spend hours admiring.
11827 Nova Scotia Trunk 1, Grand Pré, website

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