Nova Scotia’s growing collection of first class wineries is poised to become Canada’s newest wine router

When I think of Canada’s best known wine producing areas that have become major tourist destinations what naturally springs to mind are Ontario’s Niagara region and various parts of climate-friendly British Columbia–never Nova Scotia which is best known for Keith’s beer and a population penchant for rum.

However, during a recent trip to the province whose vehicle license plates declare it “Atlantic Canada’s Playground” I discovered there is indeed a thriving wine-making industry that is just beginning to get the attention it deserves. Historically, visitors have been attracted to Nova Scotia for a variety of reasons including Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail, scenic Peggy’s Cove, the UNESCO site of Lunenburg and the culturally rich city of Halifax. Wine can now be added to the province’s maritime cachet.

While its unlikely the emergence of wineries will ever upstage Nova Scotia’s long-standing attractions, they do however further enrich its overall character. “Visitors often come here not knowing we have any wineries at all and they’re astounded at the quality of the wine. They (the wineries) have actually extended the tourist season in the province well into the late fall,” says Randy Brooks, Travel Relations Manager for Nova Scotia Tourism. “In the very near future we will have a fully developed wine route,” he says. At present there are seven full fledged wineries and one of the movers and shakers in the industry, winery owner Hanspeter Stutz, predicts at least ten more will spring up over the next decade.

Stutz’s winery, Domaine de Grand Pre, is indeed a poster operation for the entire Nova Scotia wine industry. In fact, you might call the Swiss-born entrepreneur a visionary of sorts. During a business trip to Nova Scotia in the early 1990s he happened upon a small, under-producing winery in the Annapolis Valley, the historic home of viticulture in the province.

Although he didn’t have a background in either grape growing or wine making, he saw enormous undeveloped potential based on climate, location and the province’s popularity as a tourist destination.

It turned out his vision was right on target. He purchased the grape growing estate he named Domaine de Grand Pre and over the past decade has turned it into not only an award winning winery but one of the Annapolis Valley‘s primary tourist attractions. In the first year alone Stutz’s wines garnered three prestigious awards and his accomplishments since then have been recognized by the province which presented him with Nova Scotia’s “Tourism 1st Vision Award.”

About two hours northwest of Halifax and minutes from the town of Wolfville, Domaine de Grand Pre is open year round for tours, wine tastings, boutique shopping and, last but not least, dining in the estate’s Restaurant Le Caveau which serves world-class Swiss cuisine.

Not only is the winery a labour of love for its owner, the entire operation is a family affair. Stutz’s son is chief wine maker who studied his craft in Munich, Germany, his son-in-law (a professional chef) creates Le Caveau’s remarkable cuisine, his daughter manages the restaurant and his daughter-in-law oversees the gift boutique and wine-tasting centre. Stutz is also proud to be a member of the prestigious Atlantic Economuseum, a unique network of artisans who represent the rich traditions of their trade. Economuseums incorporate interpretation of the history of the craft (in this case winemaking), contemporary exhibits, demonstrations of the production process and a boutique that features products made on site.

On any given day, bus tours and a steady stream of independent tourists arrive at Domaine de Grand Pre to explore the facility renowned for its decidedly Nova Scotia wines such as L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc and an award winning Marechal Foch red, plus a Vidal ice wine and a taste pleasing Stutz cider.

While there is yet no official wine route mapped out in a travel brochure Brooks says an official route map is not far down the road. For the present, however, the province’s wineries are easily found by following blue highway signs featuring a cluster of grapes identical to the signage used in Ontario’s Niagara region.

Among those wineries grouped in the Annapolis Valley is Gaspereau Vineyards just 3 km from downtown Wolfville. Once an apple orchard, the vineyards here were planted in 1996 and among its several red and white vintages Gaspereau has also produced an award winning ice wine. East of Gaspereau Vineyards near the town of Windsor, the Sainte-Famille Winery overlooks the Avon River Valley and its south facing location has fostered the production of rich, full bodied reds and whites. Like the other wineries, tours here explore the art of wine making from grapes to glass. Located along the shores of the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Basin, Blomidon Estate Winery offers superb views of the highest tides in the world and produces its vintages from some of the oldest vines in the province.

On Nova Scotia’s south coast, not far from Lunenburg, the Lunenburg County Winery produces both grape and fruit wines. Like Domaine de Grand Pre, this too is a family operation that specializes in wines made from fruits grown on their own farm including blueberries, raspberries, apples, peaches and pears. Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore is home to Jost Vineyards, an operation that produces white, red and fruit wines. In a blind taste test against 594 other Canadian wines, Jost Vineyards 1999 Vidal ice wine was named Canada’s Wine of the Year 2000, a recognition that marked the first time in 20 years a wine from outside Ontario and British Columbia received this distinction.

For more winery information, general Nova Scotia travel information, free guides and maps call toll free 1-800-565-0000 or go online at

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