By Kaitlyn McInnis – February 28, 2022
Condé Nast Traveler
Spend any amount of time in the seaside province of Nova Scotia and you’ll quickly come to love the subtle taste of sea salt in the air: You’re never more than 40 miles from the ocean in any direction. As a result there’s an abundance of local seafood, and the unwavering appetite for sharing a cold drink and a spirited story with new and old friends. And that’s the personality the Winery Association of Nova Scotia was aiming to highlight with a new wine, while brainstorming the collaborative Tidal Bay appellation of the coastal region in 2010.
What is an appellation? “Most people have heard of Bordeaux—this is an example of an appellation in France—well, Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia’s equivalent,” says Gina Haverstock, head winemaker for Jost Vineyards. Put simply: Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia in a glass. The low-alcohol non-sparkling white wine (under 11 percent ABV) is aromatic, terroir-driven, and crisp. To become part of this coastal appellation winemakers must only use Nova Scotia-grown grapes, and are required to pass yearly blind tasting evaluations, which are created by sommeliers, before their wine can be put into a bottle labeled Tidal Bay.
“It’s quintessentially Nova Scotian, yet it can be compared to the zestiest dry Rieslings, that varietal being one of just 20 allowed in the blend,” says Alexandre Morozov, winemaker at Benjamin Bridge and current chair of the Tidal Bay Technical Committee. Wine experts compare Tidal Bay to other cool-climate whites such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Muscats, depending on the unique combination of varietals in a given blend. Grown on a mix of sandstone, slate, and ancient seabed, the briny Tidal Bay terroir also sets itself apart from the more full-bodied and fruity offerings in neighboring Quebec and Ontario due to its proximity to the ocean.
While the Nova Scotia appellation has expanded to 14 wineries since its inception just over a decade ago, Tidal Bay is still very much only sold locally. The best way to savor a sip is to immerse yourself in the Tidal Bay-producing regions of Nova Scotia, and their fresh seafood and coastal landscapes, namely those of Wolfville and the Northumberland Shore. Here are the best spots to hit on a getaway in each, whether you’re looking for biodynamic newcomers to the area or some of the oldest wineries in North America that have joined the Tidal Bay club.
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
The expanding Nova Scotia wine scene is largely concentrated in and around the Annapolis Valley, particularly in the town of Wolfville, with eight wineries and vineyards located within six miles of the town’s center. The abundance of wineries and eateries in the area provide a comprehensive education in Nova Scotia’s culinary offerings, and the deep-rooted Acadian culture and outdoor activities here also make Wolfville an essential stop on any Nova Scotia itinerary.
Where to taste Tidal Bay wines
Tucked into the Gaspereau Valley just outside of the Wolfville town limits, Benjamin Bridge is locally known as the best celebration wine and one of the first sparkling wines to come out of Nova Scotia. The vineyard prides itself on its abundance of bubbly that can be served in place of Champagne, with the slightly effervescent Nova 7 Muscat to the top of the list, and it offers a delightfully fresh and tangy Tidal Bay that pairs best with a hot Nova Scotia summer day. The family- and pet-friendly vineyard is open for visitors year round, with a terrace dining space open from May to October, and an outdoor skating rink in the winter. Benjamin Bridge also runs guided tastings, with the most comprehensive offering being a full afternoon workshop with the head winemaker.
Dating back to 1979, Domaine de Grand Pré is considered to be the oldest farm winery in Atlantic Canada, with over 15 different wine varietals that include three dessert wines and a well-established Tidal Bay. Located along Nova Scotia’s Evangeline Trail, the winery offers tours and tastings that take visitors right into the heart of the vines as well as a fine dining restaurant called Le Caveau, where locals and visitors alike can savor seasonal and locally-sourced seafood and vegetable-based fare. Grand-Pré has been bottling a Tidal Bay since 2012, the very first year Tidal Bay was released, among six other wineries.ADVERTISEMENT
Lightfoot & Wolfville is a relative newcomer to the Nova Scotia wine scene, having opened its doors to the public in 2017, but the organic and biodynamic vineyard has quickly made a name for itself as some of the best low-intervention wines in the region, including a particularly zesty and slightly briny Tidal Bay. Co-founders Jocelyn and Michael Lightfoot aim to make the sustainable vineyard a destination in itself thanks to the family-friendly Lightfoot & Wolfville restaurant (the woodfired pizza is some of the best in the province) and the expansive wine shop and lounge onsite.
Owned and operated by British-Canadian culinary expert and media personality Pete Luckett, this hillside vineyard in the Gaspereau Valley is best known for two things: its outstanding local wines (including a dry Tidal Bay) and its bright red (fully operational) telephone booth sitting between the grapes. Although the winery has been growing grapes for over two decades, Luckett Vineyards officially opened its doors to the public in 2011 and continues to offer a wide variety of activities for visitors and locals alike, including private cellar events, guided tastings, and a daytime barrel room that doubles as a co-working space (bookings required).
What else to do in Wolfville
The Grand-Pré region of Nova Scotia was the center of Acadian life before the French and Indian War in 1755, which resulted in a mass deportation of Acadian families by the British. Today, the Grand-Pré National Historic Site is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrating Acadian culture past and present. If you find yourself in the valley on a Saturday, you’ll want to pop into the Wolfville Farmers’ Market before making your way back to the city. The charming Saturday morning market is well-loved by locals for its locally grown produce, preserves, regional crafts, and handmade gifts.
Nova Scotia holds some of the highest tide records in the world, which makes the coastal beaches a unique and multifaceted experience. Head to the red sand coastline at Evangeline Beach at low tide and you’ll find miles of natural beachfront walking trails or arrive at high tide and go for a refreshing swim. Or grab your bike and head off on this 68-mile stretch of cycling paths and trails that connect Grand-Pré and Annapolis Royal. The Harvest Moon Trailway is by far the path of least resistance if you’re hoping to visit multiple vineyards or explore the historic Grand-Pré region without a car.
Where to stay in Wolfville: The Annapolis Valley is about a two hour drive outside of downtown Halifax—so it might be smart to consider spending the night in the region. The Inn at Grand Pré is located directly on the Domaine de Grand Pré property and can often accommodate same-day bookings (though it’s recommended to book in advance in the summertime peak season).
The Northumberland Shore
The Northumberland Shore doesn’t quite offer the same abundance of wineries and vineyards as Wolfville, but it is home to two major attractions that make it worth tacking on the extra mileage, about two hours, between the North Shore and Wolfville: the oldest continuously-operating vineyard in the province and the warmest ocean beaches in all of Atlantic Canada.
Where to taste wine on the Northumberland Shore
Jost Vineyards is the oldest continuously-operating winery in Nova Scotia—but it’s one of the only vineyards in the North Shore, on the shores of the Northumberland Strait (the body of water that separates Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island), which is known to have the warmest waters north of Virginia.
“This warm water often provides our vineyard an extended warmer fall,” explains Haverstock of Jost Vineyards. Jost is a must-visit if you want to taste the full spectrum of the Tidal Bay appellation—but the property is also worth visiting for its comprehensive tour and tasting as well as the charming Seagrape Cafe patio and deli—which offers standout menu items inspired by the Nova Scotian terroir like local cheese boards and charcuterie samplers.
What else to do
Whether you’re in the mood for a quick dip in the ocean or you’re a keen beachcomber, the Blue Sea Beach Provincial Park is a must-see. The coastal park has extremely low tides and warm waterways and is great for sea glass hunting as it’s on the northernmost tip of the province. Located on the Northumberland Strait coastline, the Malagash Salt Miners Museum is a quick five-minute drive from Jost Vineyards. The charming indoor/outdoor museum is packed with regional artifacts commemorating the first rock salt mine in the country.
Where to stay: The North Shore is well-loved for its cottages by the sea thanks to the uncharacteristically warm waterways that separate Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island. If you want to make it an overnight trip, consider checking into the Moon Jelly Beach House; the two-bedroom oceanfront cottage is a short walk from Jost Vineyards, set directly on one of the best private beaches on the Northumberland Strait.