02.27.23 | Wine & Craft Beverage Articles

What to Do ‘When in Wolfville’ in Winter: A Nova Scotia IceWineFest Experience

What to Do ‘When in Wolfville’ in Winter: A Nova Scotia IceWineFest Experience

By: Kristin Perrin, WSET Accredited Sommelier & Wine Writer

What to do ‘when in Wolfville’ during winter months, you ask? Calling all wine aficionados alike to center stage: have I got Somm winter wine and foodie event recommendations for you! Sommelier approved, the Nova Scotia Ice Wine Festival is held in The Annapolis Valley, which is home to 12+ Canadian world class wineries and counting. Your chariot and designated driver awaits: owner and operator Jeremy Novak of Where It’s At Tours will gladly share everything you need to know about this charming Acadian region with its richly inspiring and somewhat tumultuous heritage. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Jeremy’s engaging storytelling as he shuttles you around just about every nook and cranny of the Minas Basin. The Wolfville based small business has conducted over 250 + tours since it launched in 2018 and was voted Best Entertainment Business in 2021 by the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce. Offering friendly, professional door-to-door service, Jeremy is the perfect chaperone to Nova Scotia’s wine country!

The 2023 NS Ice Wine Festival was hosted at Domaine Grand Pre on Friday, February 10th, and ran through Sunday Feb 12th. It was declared a sold-out event prior to kick off —a triumphant return since the pandemic flatlined so many in-person events. Tickets were $40 + tax per person which included 8 tokens to use during the event for wine and cider samples, plus a branded Icewine Festival tasting glass to take home, and a tasting certificate to redeem at one of the participating wineries. (See full list of winery lineup below.) Onsite winery restaurant, and the very-much celebrated Le Caveau offered a range of Swiss inspired comfort-food for purchase throughout the festival served alongside award-winning Nova Scotia wines. Here’s a sneak peak at the specialty menu from this year’s event; prepared by locally renowned Chef Jason Lynch.

There is an energy in Grand Pré that makes you feel at home; at ease, but also deeply appreciative of such abundant land.

It is easy to see why it remains a National Historic Site of Canada.

Standing in the Minas Basin at Low Tide
Standing in the Minas Basin at Low Tide

For the history buffs, Domaine Grand Pré is the oldest farm winery site in Atlantic Canada. It has a warm and welcoming ‘family run feel’ to it since opening its doors back in 2000 by the Swiss-born Stutz family. After realizing the potential for grape growing in the Annapolis Valley, Hanspeter Stutz, owner and father established Domaine de Grand Pré Wines with the help of his son Jürg, who is conveniently a Swiss trained winemaker. Still a family-run small business today, Jürg’s wife Cäcilia, offers true hospitality to guests visiting the wine shop and tasting room. Their daughter, Beatrice, provides guests with 5 star dining experience at Le Caveau where locally sourced ingredients are a must for her husband Chef Jason Lynch. Together the family offers a touch of Swiss charm in Nova Scotia wine country.

The cool climate Atlantic wine making region in Grand Pré is no stranger to making ice wine. Boasting its unique terroir of the Minas Basin, the soils offer a mixture of fossil rich sandy-loam red clay, making their ice wines particularly distinctive with refreshing acidity, and ideal sea salty minerality notes to balance any unctuous residual sugars. For those who have never experienced ice wine (nor understood the concept of), consider its’ level of intensity and concentration of sugars to be the equivalent to the frozen cans of orange juice cans typically found in the freezer section of grocery stores. Now picture how it would taste without adding water. That is generally the magnitude of sweetness that many ice wines can exude. Which makes it a fine balance in search of complementary and contrasting acidity / minerality, a challenge for any experienced or experimental winemaker to accept.

Memorable Ice Wines Sampled: Somm Wine Tasting Notes

Lightfoot & Wolfvillehttps://lightfootandwolfville.com/ 2021 Small Lot Riesling Ice Wine – YUM! Lemon drop, a mixed barrel of candied apples “straight outta” The Annapolis valley, refreshing acidity to balance the viscous sugar content that ice wine is notorious for holding. 

Benjamin Bridge 2016 Vidal Icewine  A specialty pour, a teaser at best! Because there is NONE left to buy in the retail shop. (Sorry!) It appeared unfiltered? Tasting notes showcased peachy keen dreams and mango delights, fleshy apricot, sweet floral honey notes. Pure nectar with rich, mouth-coating and oily feels all over the palate, followed by welcomed balanced acidity that this cool climate wine region lends to. Perfect with the decadent Berliner’s with unctuous Ice Cider pastry cream desserts Chef Lynch and his team were spoiling l their guests with!

Sadly, and regretfully, I am remiss to say that I did not get a chance to try EVERY wine tasting station this round. I was way too busy having fun talking to new people, networking with new faces and enjoying the moment. This means I very well could have missed a few gems to report on.

…..I’ll have my homework cut out for next year’s Ice Wine event!

Sean and Karl Coultinho, Brothers & Co-Owners of Avondale Sky Winery

Somm Canadian Wine Industry News….

The hot wine topic at this year: quality Canadian wine is finally finding its way abroad! (And not just icewine.)  Josh Horton, winemaker at Lightfoot & Wolfville was equally as excited as I was to discover that Nova Scotia’s signature (rare) North American designated appellation wine Tidal Bay has made it all the way to the U.K. with admirable recognition. It has since sold out its small offering overseas: this is very exciting news for the Canadian wine industry! Now explain to me why the Canadian government can’t seem to offer the same type of small business support to its boutique Canadian wineries? Another hot topic, for another day. 

2023 Participating Wineries

2023’s Participating Wineries

Annapolis Cider Company

Avondale Sky Winery

Benjamin Bridge

Gaspereau Vineyards

Lightfoot & Wolfville

Luckett Vineyards

Mercator Vineyards

Planters Ridge Winery

Affiliate partners of Nova Scotia Ice Wine Festival: Taste of Nova Scotia

Some More Candid Shots of The Evening

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