ANNAPOLIS VALLEY, N.S. - When you conjure up images of Nova Scotia, it’s hard not to imagine rough Atlantic waters filled with seafaring stories, or scenes of small fishing villages, the kind that jut out along a shoreline enveloped by fog and boasting docks lined with wooden lobster traps.
Now go past those magical Maritime ideals and enter the Annapolis Valley, which lies nestled along Nova Scotia’s Fundy shore — famous for the highest tides in the world — and find yourself in a place punctuated by quaint towns and bucolic topography.
The Valley, as it’s known in these parts, proudly boasts award-winning vineyards and a growing craft brewery scene, which makes it an integral portion of the Good Cheer Trail.
The first of its kind in Canada, the Good Cheer Trail offers up samples from over 35 locally produced wines, beers and spirits and beverage enthusiasts can pair with fresh local cuisine along the way.
The name of the trail is derived from The Order of Good Cheer, established by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1606. Champlain was a true culinary pioneer, fostering the notion that settlers in Nova Scotia needed to celebrate food and drink, especially during the dreary winter months. It became the oldest social club in North America and the New World’s first ever-gastronomic society, surviving to this day.
Above: Good, wine, good times and medeting good friends is all part of the Good Cheer Trail experience.
Globetrotting TV personality and chef Anthony Bourdain was inducted into the Order of Good Cheer at last year’s Devour!, the Food Film Fest which is held in the Valley each November.
Indulging in a glorious day of food and drink on the Good Cheer Trail is easy when you don’t have to worry about driving; Nova Scotia Wine Tours offers a Trail Tour every Thursday, which consists of six fabulous stops. It starts at two craft breweries in Halifax, and then carries on to the Annapolis Valley, visiting three distinctive wineries and a whimsical garden that serves up homemade liqueurs. Travellers are issued a Good Cheer Passport at the start of the journey and they can get it stamped to commemorate stops along their trek.
Garrison microbrewery in Halifax’s Seaport District makes some of the city’s most popular ales, which are found at most local bars and pubs.
The Good Cheer Trial gives your palette a taste of where the “beer appeal” lies in their all-natural, preservative-free ale. Garrison’s Tall Ship Amber and Irish Red are full of hops and rich flavour.
The Gahan House weaves its brew-magic right on the Halifax waterfront. Originating in Charlottetown, Gahan opened up its second restaurant and brewery in Halifax last year and brews their ale on site. While traversing the Trail this summer, the Beach Chair Lager and Blueberry Ale are perfect choices to sample, especially when paired with the scrumptious lobster croquettes.
Tangled Garden is an enchanting haven in the heart of the Annapolis Valley. The lush gardens are filled with fresh herbs utilized in the homemade jellies and liqueurs sold at the quaint shop. The liquor flavours are a tantalizing mix of sweet and spice, like the Rhubarb Blush Liqueur and Spicy Diablo. They can be added to many spirits and desserts for an extra kick.
Pulling up to Luckett Vineyards may have you wondering if you’re seeing a illusion; vineyards stretch across the open fields and the Bay of Fundy sparkles in the distance. With views like this, partaking in a sample of the aptly named Tidal Bay Wine is a must. Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia’s first Appellation wine, made with 100 per cent Nova Scotia-grown grapes. Luckett’s Tidal Bay is infused with citrus and floral undertones and it’s best sampled alongside a half chicken or beef panini with brie.
Left: The food pairings that accompany wine and beer in Nova Scotia are right from the sea. Right: The Garrison craft brewery in Haifax is the place to see and be seen these days.
L’Acadie Vineyards is known for its traditional organic method of making wine, and derives its name from the flavourful grape that thrives here. You can learn all about the process of making organic wines while you sip their distinguished Bubbly Brut. L’Acadie’s renowned style of brut took the silver medal in France at the 2011 Effervescents du Monde, which celebrates the best sparkling wines from around the world.
The Domaine de Grand Pré vineyards are surrounded by a major part of Canadian history. Meander along the vineyards that take you to the Grand-Pré National Historic Site — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — which commemorates the Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia. The Acadians founded Grand Pré in the late 16th century and you can feel the history seeped into the soil while breathing in the ocean air.
The world-class local wines of Domaine de Grand Pré are a pleasure to sample at the onsite winery, especially when paired with local smoked trout and capers on a crusty baguette. The Baco Noir red performs a sophisticated palette dance, and the Pomme D’or dessert wine, made with Annapolis Valley apples and hints of caramel, will seduce you into taking a bottle home with you. •