Exploring Nova Scotia’s wine country… #explorenovascotia #summer2016 @NSWineTours

(Note to readers: No, I did not fall off the face of the earth, I was just planning a wedding. Basically the same thing, right? I can assure you, I continued to enjoy food, I just was not so hot about documenting it. Now that our wedding is done and dusted, I can get back to life. Except… we decided to buy & renovate another house! So yeah, I will probably not be posting here that often, and if I do, I can’t PROMISE it will all be food related. I do a lot of DIY projects these days, so I’ll probably write about that on here too. Hope you’re cool with that. If not, well… sorry!)

So, I took a bit of vacation time during the first week of August. I didn’t have anything planned, really… between work and ongoing renovations we have on the go right now, I had plenty of projects to fill my time. So I opted for a bit of a staycation: a mixture of ticking things off my to-do list and some fun stuff. I slept a lot, spent some time outside, read a couple of books, painted some brick:

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Scraped some wallpaper:

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Doesn’t look like a lot of fun… Don’t worry. I also went on a wine tour! 

Yay! I’ve been promising myself to make a trip to Nova Scotia’s wine country for a few years now. I had contemplated just venturing to the Valley myself, but where’s the fun in that? 1) I have a pretty bad sense of direction, so I would probably get a bit lost; and 2) I wouldn’t really get to taste much wine if I had to drive, right?

I roped my bestie in for the adventure, and after a bit of research, we decided to book in with an organized wine tour. We looked at hopping on Wolfville’s Magic Winery Bus (because who doesn’t want to travel on a magic bus?!), but since it only included transportation around Wolfville, it wasn’t going to help us get home to the city safely if we decided to enjoy more than a sampling of wines. (I still would really like to check this tour out some day, especially if I was going to stay in Wolfville overnight… that way, I could also roll in a visit to Privet House for dinner).

Anyways, we decided to book in with Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours. They offer a variety of tours (some include lunch or dinner, or visits to specific vineyards), but we opted for the “Afternoon Escape.”

It cost $85 per person (plus tax), and included transportation to and from the city, and to three wineries (L’Acadie, Lucketts, and Gaspereau), as well as wine samples at each (normally, you pay to sample flights at each vineyard).

L’Acadie Vineyards is a very small, family-run and certified organic. In my opinion, it was also the most interesting stop on the tour. Their resident wine guy (not really sure what his official title was?!), Ian, was very knowledgeable about the history of the region & industry, and taught us a lot about the wines we were sampling, as well as the land they are grown on and what makes their wine organic. It’s also a pretty gorgeous spot to sip on a glass of wine:

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They’re apparently best known for their sparkling wines, but I didn’t end up bringing home a bottle of their sparkling. Instead, I selected their 2015 Rose.

We ventured to Luckett Vineyards next, where none other than Pete himself was on-hand to greet guests in the bustling storeroom. While our first stop at L’Acadie was a tranquil spot to start our adventure, Luckett’s was very busy, with plenty of other patrons visiting to enjoy lunch outside, while we tasted wines inside. We did, of course, venture outside to take a photo at the iconic phonebooth:

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I scooped up a bottle of bold & beautiful Black Cab and their lovely Tidal Bay.

Our third and final stop was at Gaspereau Vineyards. At this point, we were all starting to get a bit hungry, so it was a good thing that this final stop included a platter of local cheeses to sample. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed some nibbles in the sunshine, while a somewhat-bored-seeming young woman who worked there told us a bit about the wines we were sampling. To be honest, she didn’t seem all that interested in what she was doing (to give her the benefit of the doubt, I believe the staff had all been at an industry event the night before, and may have been feeling the after-effects of sampling the wares), but our Grape Escapes guide, Emma, had filled us in on the winery and backstory behind the winemaker, Gina Haverstock, en route, so we knew to expect big things from their Riesling. And BOY, was she right.

Now, if you’re making a face right now, thinking Riesling = sweet, you’re wrong. Their Riesling is more of a traditional German dry-style, and it is amazing. It also happened to be the 2015 Winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines. I obviously took home a bottle of that, as well.

Here’s my bounty from the trip:

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Besides sampling some lovely local wines, I really did learn quite a bit about Nova Scotia’s burgeoning wine industry: I learned about what makes the Valley region well-suited to growing grapes; what grapes thrive in our climate (and as a result, what types of wine are hardest/impossible to produce here); what Nova Scotia’s appellation wine is (Tidal Bay); and that there are NINETEEN vineyards in the province (with two more on the way)… so basically, there’s a lot more of Nova Scotia’s wine country to explore. As a plus, our guide and driver, Emma & Randy, were absolutely lovely and clearly knew loads about the industry and region.

If you’re interested in learning more about Nova Scotian wines, or just trying some different wines and spending some time with friends, I would definitely recommend going on a wine tour with Grape Escapes.

 

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Morsels from #Montreal… What we ate during our whirlwind visit (@placedarmes @mtljazzfestival)

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Six days in Montreal is simply not enough… Still, we made the most of our short stay, filling our bellies with oodles of Quebecois goodies.

We spent just one night at the Montreal Jazz Festival, taking in the sights and sounds as we sipped a beer (of course):

Beforehand, we indulged in a fabulous dinner on the 8th floor patio of Terrasse Place d’Armes:

Beautiful, right?! Our meal was also superb:

At just one page, the menu is surprisingly diverse (and en anglais, aussi!). After a few sips of my clear sangria (sparkling wine, peach schnapps, and plenty of fresh fruit), we decided to try their mini kobe burgers, BBQ duck confit wings, and Parmesan pita chips with hummus and baba ghanoush.

For our mains, we opted for the entree-sized kobe burger, topped with brie, bacon and a house-made ketchup; the filet mignon, cooked to medium-rare perfection and served with a tomato garlic salad and fresh fries; and the grilled albacore tuna, which was lightly seared, nestled on a bed of fennel puree and braised pink radishes, and accented with an artful smear of tobido mayonnaise.

The food was phenomenal; beautifully prepared and presented, perfectly seasoned and fresh. Coupled with the view and the company, I didn’t have a single complaint about the evening.

We spent a lot of time eating breakfast in Montreal. I don’t know if its a French thing, or just a Kevin thing, but we consumed a lot of eggs during our stay. The first place we went was an all-day breakfast joint called Eggspectations, and I loved it:

A hearty plate of smoked salmon eggs benny, fresh fruit, asparagus and toast, piled on a mountain of thinly-sliced roasted potatoes. I begrudgingly shared with Kevin, because I couldn’t polish the whole plate off by myself…

He, on the other hand, does not share breakfast. 😛

We also at breakfast twice at a place called Kewi (sp?!). It was a solid breakfast spot, but I preferred Eggspectations, to be honest.

Another day, we went for “real” poutine (because apparently the poutine we eat in the rest of Canada isn’t the same). After sampling the authentic dish from Valentine’s, I must say, I noticed a major difference in the cheese: it has a sharper flavour, and isn’t as rubbery as the stuff that is in most poutine dishes:

Kevin even split a “steamer” with me (aka a steamed hot dog):

One of my favourite things about Montreal? You can buy wine & beer at the corner stores. Kevin had always told me you could, and I never *really* believed him… But what do you know?! It’s true!

Along rue Duluth, I stumbled across a real gem: Les Chocolats de Chloé. Stepping into the cool, mint-chocolate-scented air was like discovering a little corner of heaven – hand-crafted chocolates lined the shelves like tiny soldiers.

The chocolates sadly would not have survived a 30+ degree day in my purse, but I happily snagged a jar of salted caramel spread to enjoy later:

See?! Real specks of vanilla bean. Mmmmm…

I couldn’t resist bringing a little taste of Montreal home to Halifax, either: I toasted one of my amazing Brossard Bagels and spread each side with a thin layer of butter and caramel spread. Divine.

Travelling: Any recommendations? #Montreal

Hello, down there! I’m writing this post from 40,000 feet, as we hurtle towards Montreal.

We’ll just be in town for a few days, but I’d LOVE to hear your recommendations for places to grab a bite to eat, or even just to visit (thanks again to Remo, JoAnn and Jon for your tips; Selena, where’s that email?!) So far, Kazu and St. Viateur Bagels are among my insider tips… 🙂

It’s always fun to see what other cities have to offer on the restaurant scene, and Montreal is sure to have plenty to keep us busy – poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, and bagels are all on my mental list.

And while we’re keeping things Canadian this summer, visiting Quebec, I’m quite keen to get out of the country next time around. The question is, what will our destination be?

Does anyone have any recommendations for places to eat/visit while in Montreal?

🙂