Welcome to our Sparkling Wine Weekend Guide to Halifax and Nova Scotia’s Wine Country! We’ve put together this handy sparkling wine focused itinerary based on our experience within the region – from wineries to dining spots, and fun things to do – to make the most out of your time in Nova Scotia, so you can sip and savour the region like a Sparkling Wino! For more information about Nova Scotia’s wine country, visit Wines of Nova Scotia online, and check out their comprehensive list of local wineries.
Ah, Nova Scotia. As one of Canada’s maritime provinces, this part of the country conjures up images of cool sea breezes, high tides, salt water taffy and delicious, buttery lobster rolls. For us, however, first and foremost are… drumroll, please… the amazing sparkling wines! 😍🍾
Now, before we get any further, we’re sure you have a number of questions. So let us dispel them for you…
- Yes, Nova Scotia can produce wine! Like the other cool climate wine producing areas of Canada, Nova Scotia’s primary wine regions straddle the northern limit of the habitable zone for grapes. There are four of them – the Annapolis Valley, the Gaspereau Valley, the South Shore, and the Malagash Peninsula. Wolfville, a charming historic town located near the Annapolis and Gasperau Valleys, sits at approximately 45 degrees latitude. Luckily, the Minas Basin of the Bay of Fundy offers moderating effects for Nova Scotian wine producers and geologic history has left behind some amazing soil.
- They’ve been making wine here for hundreds of years! It’s not a fluke or fad that Nova Scotians have embraced wine. In fact, grape production was noted back in the 1600’s to the site of Annapolis Royal (or, as you may remember it from Canadian History class, Port Royal). Modern production took root in the 1970’s however, with pioneers like Grande Pre and Jost, who are still producing wines today! Sparkling wine production owes a high five to L’Acadie and Benjamin Bridge, who saw the potential for bubbles in this corner of Canada.
- Don’t worry, there’s something for everyone! Like most cool climate regions, the backbone of the wine industry in Nova Scotia is formed by aromatic white wines. From the locally regarded Tiday Bay wines, made from a blend of Vitis Vinifera and Hybrid varietals, to still Rieslings and Chardonnays, to internationally regarded sparkling wines, Nova Scotia is killing it.
- And finally, yes, the sparkling wine is so freaking good! From traditional method wines made from the hybrid L’Acadie grape, to exceptional vintage sparkling from the traditional Champagne blend of vitis vinifera grapes, we’re in love with Nova Scotia sparklings. Bracing acidity, truly expressive base wines and so much heart and soul! Full disclosure: we loved the sparkling wines so much, that we arranged this Sparkling Winos Weekend Guide to Halifax around it!
So in saying all that… with so much to see, do and savour on Canada’s beautiful east coast, planning your trip may seem a little bit daunting. But we’ve got you covered! Check out our full 4 day, 3 night Sparkling Wine Weekend Guide for Halifax and Nova Scotia’s Wine Country. The Itinerary takes the guesswork out of how to structure your trip so you can get your sparkle on!
We’ve structured the Sparkling Wine Weekend Guide for Nova Scotia to include sparkling wine consumption and it goes without saying that we absolutely recommend you have a designated driver or use the spittoon!
Arriving by air is pleasant in Halifax, because the Halifax Stanfield International Airport (1 Bell Blvd, Enfield) is located within easy reach of the charming seaside capital of Nova Scotia. Small enough to not feel overwhelming, it’s easily navigable and taxis can be arranged for timely pick up. It was about $65 for pick up and drop off in Downtown Halifax, with the trip taking approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Oh, and expect your cab driver to be super friendly! We felt like we were on our own little tour of the city, with so many fun tidbits provided by our driver!
We checked into the Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites (1515 South Park St, Halifax), located across from the Halifax Public Gardens and within earshot of the cannons of the Halifax Citadel. The Lord Nelson is a historic, stately hotel and centrally located for your weekend away. The antique elevator and mail box were a novelty, but luckily for us, the rooms were modern and had a bar fridge. You know, for that Nova Scotian sparkling haul, of course!
First Stop: Lunch at The Bicycle Thief
We had an early flight so we were hungry for lunch. Luckily, a short walk to the newly upgraded Halifax Waterfront proved to be a perfect choice. We loved the absolutely charming Bicycle Thief (1475 Lower Water St, Halifax). With views of the water and docked ships, an Italian focussed menu and – our personal highlight – a champagne bar, we weren’t disappointed! Yes, we came with the gnocchi in mind but hey, on our first day, we just had to try the Lobster Roll. When in Rome, right? And you could bet we didn’t walk away from the Bicycle Thief’s champagne bar without a glass of bubbly. Sadly, no Nova Scotian sparkling was on offer that day, but we made due with a modestly priced Franciacorta.
Sparkling Winos Tip:
Sit outside… at the Champagne bar, obvs!
Second Stop: Explore the Waterfront & Downtown
Take a stroll along the Halifax Waterfront, which is one of the world’s longest downtown boardwalks. We loved the seaside vibe, and with so many attractions along the way, there’s plenty to see and do (and eat… and drink! 😉).
But, this is a Sparkling Winos guide, right? Right! So, while we took in the Waterfront and enjoyed catching some seaside rays along the boardwalk, we were curious about the sparkling wines of Nova Scotia and made a pit-stop at the legendary Bishop’s Cellar (Bishops Landing, 1477 Lower Water Street, Halifax). Located along the Watefront, Bishop’s Cellar is Nova Scotia’s leading private wine store, with over 800 wines in stock. We were jazzed to see a few Ontario wines! Luckily for us, there was a perfectly stocked Nova Scotian Sparkling Wine section and we couldn’t be happier. Needless to say, the bar fridge in our room at the Lord Nelson Hotel was stocked after a visit to Bishop’s Cellar!
With quite a few historic sights to explore in the Downtown, we really enjoyed the spooky Old Burial Ground (1541 Barrington St, Halifax), perusing for gems at Taz Records (1521 Grafton St, Halifax) and the ultra-modern Halifax Central Library (5540 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax).
Sparkling Winos Tip:
The staff really know their stuff! Hit them up for recommendations. And definitely check out their epic selection of Nova Scotian 🍾!
Third Stop: Dinner at Obladee Wine Bar
We worked up an appetite walking around Halifax and we couldn’t imagine a more fitting introduction to the Nova Scotian wine scene than Obladee Wine Bar (1600 Barrington St, Halifax). Snug and warmly decorated, with a killer wine list that incorporates many of the region’s gems and an assortment of small plates, this wine bar could hold its own in any major city. Jacob, our server, suggested a flight of Nova Scotian sparkling. With L’Acadie, Benjamin Bridge and Blomidon, we were given the perfect insight into the stuff we came to try. We may have stayed for a glass or two after our flight, since the vibe was on point. 😎
Sparkling Winos Tip:
Definitely go for the flight of Nova Scotian sparkling! And the charcuterie. Oh, and grab one of the adorable seats in the window to watch the world go by.
As this was our first time visiting, we based ourselves out of Halifax. We structured our trip around one full day in Nova Scotia Wine Country (centred around the Gaspreau and Annapolis Valleys) without overnighting in order to make our hotel stay as seamless as possible. It’s a short drive from Halifax to Wine Country (about an hour) but there are tons of beautiful places to stay closer to the vines, so if you prefer to tour the vineyards at a more leisurely place we totally recommend overnighting in Wolfville!
You will need to rent a car, but luckily there are a number of options in close proximity to Downtown Halifax, including Budget Car & Truck Rental (1554 Hollis St, Halifax). As always, we recommend hiring a driver or appointing a responsible, designated driver for your trip. We suggest calling wineries in advance to confirm tasting bar and winery hours and, where possible, making reservations. If you are overnighting in Wolfville, check out the Wolfville Magic Winery Bus – a double decker hop-on/hop-off bus that travels in a loop between 5 different wineries!
Depart for Wolfville, which is 100 km north west of Halifax, which comes to an easy 1 hour drive. Located in the Annapolis Valley, this charming and historic little town is the perfect touchpoint for your Sparkling Wine needs. Along the way, you’ll see the city give way to a sea of fir trees, lakes and agricultural activity. You’ll even get to see the Gaspereau River, with its muddy, red waters on its way to empty into the legendary (by Canadian standards, anyway) Bay of Fundy.
First Stop: Lightfoot & Wolfville
Your first stop should be Lightfoot & Wolfville (11143 Evangeline Trail, Wolfville). Lightfoot’s winery was opened to the public in late 2017 and we were lucky to get in on the action! What can we say? The winery is beautifully located on the slopes overlooking the Gaspereau River and Midas Bay, with exposed beams and a light, airy design that maximizes the sunshine and cool breeze of the water. We had the pleasure of trying (and falling in love with) Lightfoot’s sparkling and chardonnay at i4c, so trying their wines in their ‘native habitat’ was a real treat. Lightfoot focuses on traditional vitis vinifera grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling, that grow well in the microclimate of the property. Did we mention that the winery practices biodynamic viticulture? Yes! But you’re probably wondering: how’s the sparkling? Nothing short of amazing. The 2014 Bubbly White and 2014 Bubbly Rose are both wonderfully aromatic, with that quintessential Nova Scotian acidity. Don’t be alarmed, its so balanced and fresh, you’ll be wanting another sip immediately! Our personal favourite, though, was the 2013 Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, made from 100% Chardonnay. The grapes were handpicked after a warm growing season and the wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation and maturation in neutral French oak barrels. After three years on the lees, this sparkling was showing aromas of crisp apple, toasted nut and a balanced palate that we can sum up as beautifully complex. If only we had a glass while writing this! Oh, and lucky you, the woodfire pizza oven should be up and running by the time you read this. 😉
Sparkling Winos Pick:
2013 Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
Second Stop: Benjamin Bridge
Your second stop should be Benjamin Bridge (1842 White Rock Rd, Wolfville). Benjamin Bridge, or BB as we like to call them because we’re besties (or, if not that, then we’re lucky enough to be in the BB Wine Club) is a Nova Scotia sparkling O.G.! BB recently began public tours and is open to the public for tastings, and the unassuming but modern facility is the perfect space to try the winery’s amazing sparkling wines. Located in the heart of the Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy, the cool climate and the vineyard’s terroir bear an a striking resemblance to the Champagne region of France. In fact, BB’s innovative sparkling wines share many of the same characteristics of the classic prestige cuvées from the world’s most famous sparkling wine region, but with a Nova Scotia flare. It’s no surprise that Tony Aspler, Canada’s most renowned wine authority, declared BB’s sparkling wines as the best he’s tasted in Canada. Not only that, but BB recently made it onto the wine list at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in London. Pretty amazing, huh? We definitely think so! While we had the pleasure of meeting young and dynamic winemaker Jean-Benoit DesLauriers at i4c, we were more than excited to see his domaine and try his wines while overlooking the slopes of the Gaspereau Valley. After an informative tour of the vineyard, we sat down and tasted the sparkling wine. Finally! Up first, was the Non-Vintage Brut, made from a blend of reserve wines made from Vitis Vinifera and Hybrid Grapes. While vintage sparkling remains BB’s focus, we enjoyed this crisp, new “house style” that certainly holds its own in the line-up! Our personal favourites (its a tie since there’s two of us and we were too stubborn to pick a collective favourite 😜) were the 2011 Brut and the 2012 Rosé. The 2011 Brut, made from 100% Chardonnay, spent 4 years on the lees and, what can we say… from minerality imparted by the nearby Bay of Fundy, brioche and hints of smoke on the nose, to green apple, toasted almond and citrus on the palate, this wine is as intense as it is elegant. The 2012 Rosé, unlike its Brut cousin, is made of a blend of 2/5 Pinot Meunier, 2/5 Pinot Noir and 1/5 Chardonnay. You’re probably thinking… red grape varietals in Nova Scotia? Yes! Fresh, fruity and aromatic – with tart cherry, included – the Brut Rosé is a sparkling wine in perfect harmony.
Third Stop: Lunch at Domaine de Grande Pré
After an amazing introduction to Nova Scotia sparkling, you’ll definitely have an appetite worked up. We stopped at Le Caveau Restaurant at Domaine de Grand Pré (11611 Hwy 1, Grand Pré), known for its farm to table fare that is locally sourced and sustainable. Le Caveau is beautifully located, overlooking the vineyards of Domaine de Grand Pré, and includes an outdoor pergola that’s perfect for dining al fresco. Being farm to table, the cuisine is seasonal and focuses on regional Nova Scotia product, but with a global outlook. We were feeling the Nova Scotia feels and decided on a round of Line Caught Halibut and Rock Crab Cakes, because who doesn’t love the sound of North Nova Rock crab, line caught halibut, potato, terragon and panko with tomato and garlic aioli? While you’re here, be sure to check out the winery, which was founded in the 1970’s by Hanspeter Stutz. The winery operates on the philosophy that Nova Scotia should develop its own varieties, styles, and vineyard procedures that will thrive within the local terroir and oceanic climate. And, luckily for us, the research supported by Domaine has yielded some exciting sparkling wines, including the 2009 Vintage Brut and the Champlain Brut (made from the hybrid grapes, L’Acadie Blanc and Seyval Blanc).
Fourth Stop: Blomidon Estate Winery
With a belly full of delicious East Coast fare, it’s time to take a drive out of Grand Pré to Blomidon, located on the north side of the Minas Basin. The drive is scenic, as is pretty much everything in this part of the country, with beautiful seaside views. Blomidon Estate Winery (10318 NS-221, Canning, NS) is a boutique winery crafting small lot wines made entirely of estate grown grapes, and… lucky for us they have a fantastic sparkling portfolio! The first vineyards here were planted back in the 1980’s and most of the buildings were put up by the founders of Creekside Estate Winery from Niagara! Over time, Blomidon has evolved, and under the Ramey family the winery has focused on producing terroir drive wines perfect for local cuisine. While Blomidon produces a variety of wines – including their well regarded Baco Noir – we focused on the sparkling (surprise!), which include the 2011 Woodside Sparkling, the 2011 Lake Pick Sparkling Chardonnay, the 2012 Cuvée L’Acadie, the 2015 Crémant and the BMD Sparkling Red. That’s a lot of bubbly! 😍 We loved the portfolio, but our favourite was the 2011 Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay. One of the unique elements of Nova Scotia’s climate is that Vitis Vinifera grapes can stay on the vine for almost the entire growing season, all the while maintaining the high levels acidity required for sparkling wine! In warmer areas, grapes for sparkling can be picked as early as late July. Intense, right? The Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay benefited from a long, frost-free season that gave the grapes even more time on the vine that resulted in very complex flavours of apple, citrus and lemon rind. Made in the Extra Brut style, this traditional method sparkling was kept on the lees for 30 months, and was a toasty, autolytic standout. Yum! Special shout out goes to the BMD Sparkling Red – an off-dry sparkling that is inspired by the off-dry wines of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna. With a fruity nose and earthy palate, this wine would make a fun companion for a backyard barbecue. And hey, you can say you tried a sparkling made from red hybrids! How cool is that?
Fifth Stop: L’Acadie Vineyards
As the afternoon sun makes your love of Nova Scotia even stronger, it’s time to make your way to another O.G., L’Acadie Vineyards (310 Slayter Rd, Gaspereau, RR1, Wolfville, NS). Located in the centre of the temperate Gaspereau Valley, L’Acadie’s founders had the vision to turn organically grown L’Acadie Blanc grapes into hand crafted, bottle fermented sparkling wines. Specializing in traditional method sparkling wine, L’Acadie is also Nova Scotia’s first organic winery. The winery is located on a slope, allowing for natural earth insulation for their wines and benefiting from the moderating effects of the Gaspereau River. On top of that, the winery is famous for embracing the namesake grape – L’Acadie Blanc – which is a complex hybrid of several Vitis genus grapes and is sometimes referred to as Nova Scotia’s answer to Chardonnay. Originally created in Ontario, where it was too warm for L’Acadie to truly prosper, it was taken out to Nova Scotia where the terroir and climate proved to be a perfect match. L’Acadie Vineyards uses the grape to craft exceptional traditional method sparkling wines, including the Prestige Brut, Sparkling Rosé and Vintage Cuvée. Our personal favourite is the 2007 Prestige Brut, which is aged on the lees for 4-5 years and displays complex toasty characteristics and elegant, bright aromas that helps create an appreciation for the use of hybrid grapes in traditional method sparkling wine. It’s no surprise that this wine has received many accolades, including the Silver Medal at the 2011 Effervescents du Monde, Best Sparkling Wines in the World in Dijon, France.
Sixth Stop: Dinner at Halls Harbour Lobster Pound
What would a trip to Nova Scotia Sparkling Wine Country be, without a Lobster Roll? We suggest taking the scenic route to Halls Harbour Lobster Pound (157 W Halls Harbour Rd, Centreville, NS). A half hour drive north west from L’Acadie, Halls Harbor is a picturesque seaside village, complete with colourfully painted seaside homes and – thank goodness, because we verging on hangry – a certifiable, no none sense seafood spot. Known for great lobster, which you pick up in the gift shop (of all places!), we opted for the lobster roll. Served with mayonnaise and on a bun, the roll was simple and delicious. The views of the Bay of Fundy, along with the seaside cliffs and pebbly beach, were absolutely stunning and the perfect way to end off our sparkling shenanigans. With a full belly, and hopefully a trunkful of amazing Nova Scotia Sparkling Wine, we suggest taking your precious cargo back to your hotel room. The drive to Halifax, depending on your route, is anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours. If you choose to stay overnight in Wine Country, Wolfville has the biggest range of accommodations.
Sparkling Winos Tip:
Get the lobster roll… duh! 😜
Now that we’ve explored Halifax and Nova Scotia’s Wine Country in Sparkling Winos style, we’d be remiss to leave you without mentioning the beautiful little towns and villages, including the infamous lighthouse, along the coast. You know, the one on all the postcards? So, we reserved an extra day for a full-blown, flavours of the Nova Scotia coast day trip. Fingers crossed for sunshine, but we can confirm the coast is still beautiful in the heaviest, coldest of summer rain storms. There’s nothing that a little bubbly and fresh lobster can’t fix! 😉
First Stop: Lunenburg
Head west to Lunenburg, located about 100 kilometers and 1 hour west of Haliax on Lunenburg Harbour, which forms part of the Altantic Ocean. Lunenburg is a colourful, seaside town that was founded in 1753 and today is known for its historical architecture and charm. We enjoyed strolling through the town, and especially the beautifully restored St. John’s Anglican Church (64 Townsend St, Lunenburg, NS), the insightful Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (68 Bluenose Dr, Lunenburg, NS) and the famous Bluenose II herself!
Second Stop: Lunch at Lincoln Street Food
Don’t get us wrong, we love the simple east coast fare. We don’t have lobster often and, when we do, it doesn’t come straight out of the ocean. Lincoln Street Food (200 Lincoln St, Lunenburg, NS), in the heart of the colourful downtown, offers contemporary fare, with a Nova Scotian flare!
Sparkling Winos Tip:
Grab a bottle of local wine… and the fish tacos!
Third Stop: Mahone Bay & Peggy’s Cove
Take a drive along the scenic Lighthouse Route to the quaint seaside Mahone Bay, which sits on Mahone Harbour. Full of historical homes and shops overlooking this beautiful body of water, you’ll be charmed (…even in the rain!). Keep following the Lighthouse Route to the famed Peggy’s Cove. You know, that lighthouse and teeny, tiny settlement on all the postcards? About 1 hour east of Mahone Bay, Peggy’s Cove is a scenic community of (depending on who you ask, and the season) roughly 80 people. While its name is a bit of a mystery (as in, no one really knows for certain which Peggy it’s named after), what’s for certain is that it is (touristy but) beautiful! Once you’ve had your fill, of tourists or clam chowder at The Sou’Wester, it’s time to head back to Halifax.
Fourth Stop: Dinner in Halifax
It rained the entire time we were sightseeing, so we were feeling like something warm to eat. Soup, meatballs, goat cheese sandwich… we tossed ideas around and The Stubborn Goat Gastropub (1579 Grafton St, Halifax, NS) fit the bill. Located downtown, this pub was the perfect answer to a long day of touring in the rain. We made our way over to the equally delightful Black Sheep Restaurant (1569 Dresden Row, Halifax, NS), which was tucked away off an alley. An excellent place for a night cap!
Sparkling Winos Tip:
SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!!
First Stop: Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
We began our final day with a brisk walk to the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market (note: not all stalls are open on Sunday). A beautiful, LEED certified facility, this market has it all. From freshly made Donairs (a Halifax specialty), to Tidal salts and culinary lavender, to fresh produce and wines, we loved browsing what the province had to offer. With some culinary lavender and a snack in hand, we made our way across the street to the Garrison Brewing Company for some beer and apple cider (we know, off brand!). Conveniently, the Pier 21 Canadian Museum of Immigration (1055 Marginal Rd, Halifax, NS) is also nearby for a bit of history.
Sparkling Winos Tip:
Grab some cool local products to take home! We stocked up on culinary lavender!
Second Stop: The Port by the NSLC
Now that you’ve had some local bites, a beer and a dose of Canadian history, why not take a stroll to The Port (5482 Clyde St, Halifax, NS), the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation’s new concept store? Now, you may be thinking, why would you want to visit a liquor store on a trip? Well, we wrote this guide with you in mind. Feeling like you missed a sparkling wine on your trip? Didn’t get to try all the reds you wanted? Or, maybe thinking about buying a bottle of Tidal Bay for that one friend who loves Gewürztraminer? Well, The Port is kind of the place to be. The Nova Scotia section is extensive, and we were happy to pick up a few extra bottles of wine for our friends back home! Side salad: the sparkling wine section is also extensive in the global category!
Sparkling Winos Tip:
If you’re all bubbled out, check out the extensive Tidal Bay selection… a Nova Scotia specialty!
Aw, Shucks… it’s Time to Head Home!
Alas, it’s time to head out! But, don’t be depressed: you’re leaving with a suitcase full of some of the most amazing sparkling wines being produced in Canada! Now that’s something to smile about. 😊 That, and maybe the lobster you bought on impulse at the airport. We’re not joking. You totally can.