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:

IMG_20160731_195833

Scraped some wallpaper:

IMG_20160804_174306

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:

IMG_20160803_131026

IMG_20160803_160407

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:

IMG_20160803_143721

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:

IMG_20160803_180500

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.

 

Advertisements

Storm snacks, anyone? Sorry, but #stormchips ain’t gonna cut it on a #snowday

Well, here we go again: another blizzard is headed our way. *sigh*

As we ready to hunker down and weather the storm, one of the most important things to consider are our provisions. I’m not talking bottled water here (that would be far too practical). Nope. I’m talking delicious, hearty, warm-you-to-the-bones grub that will make you perfectly content to go into full hermit mode.

My suggested pantry items/meals/snacks to help you survive any storm:

BOOZE

My elixir of choice is wine: I picked up a bottle of red (Trapiche Broquel Malbec) and white (Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay) on my way home the night before the blizzard. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on drinking both. If the storm isn’t too bad, the white will suffice. If I need to shovel 40 centimetres out of my driveway, well, the Malbec may be in order.

CAFFEINE

I stock up on espresso and made sure my tea selection hadn’t dwindled too badly… warm drinks are a must. Bailey’s isn’t a bad idea, either.

SOUPS & STEWS

Bust out the slowcooker, chuck in some root veg (I had onion, turnip, mini potatoes, carrots and parsnips on-hand), chunks of browned stewing beef, seasoning and some liquid, and you’ll have a warm, hearty dish to dig into for lunch and dinner (no need to make multiple meals). Best served with baguette and butter, of course:

Beef stew

If you’re a vegetarian, I suggest curry sweet potato soup, instead: roast 3-4 sweet potatoes in the oven and scoop out the insides. Set aside. In a large pot, saute a diced onion and two cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of melted butter, then add in 2 tbsp.of curry powder and 1 tsp. cumin. Stir until the spices are mixed in, then add your sweet potato and mix well. Add 4 cups of veggie stock and 1 cup of milk (I like the creaminess), plus salt and pepper to taste. Again, best served with baguette and butter (most things in life are).

SNACKS

Forget chips, give me cheese. After you’ve shoveled out the driveway, you’ll want something warm, gooey and delicious. My suggestion is cheese fondue. It isn’t hard to make (really) and you can even invite the neighbours over to share (especially if they’ve helped you shovel). I always use this recipe (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cheese_fondue/) minus the kirsch (because what the fuck is that anyways, and who actually has it in their kitchen?)

Cheese Fondue

Anyways, those are just my personal tips for surviving a blizzard. I’m sure you have your own suggestions! What are your favourite #stormsnacks?