My sister’s birthday is in early January. On the day, she was in Vancouver and I was in Las Vegas, so we didn’t get to celebrate. By the time we were both back, January had kicked into full swing. She was back to class, and I was neck-deep in updating the site with lessons learned from the New Media Expo.
When you’re a month and a week late wishing your sister a happy birthday, the celebration has to be big. So, yesterday, my sister and I grabbed the last two seats on the Savour IceWine Escape with Grape Escapes Nova Scotia Wine Tours.
I tried Grape Escapes last April, and have been talking about it ever since. Add to that the fact that my sister has only been to one (ONE!!) Nova Scotia winery. We boarded the bus at 10 am with our Ice Wine Festival tickets, and a Grape Escapes goodie bag complete with kettle chips, trail mix, and a water bottle.
On the ride there, Susan gave us a lesson in Nova Scotia Wine History. Parts were similar to my April tour, but she had updated it with all the new and exciting news of upcoming wineries like Mercator and Planters Ridge Winery and Vineyard. We also got a lesson in Ice Wine!
Ice Wine has come to fascinate me ever since I learned about the harvest. Learn about Ice Wine in the video below, A 90 Second Lesson in Nova Scotia Ice Wine.
Our first stop was Avondale Sky. I have only been to Avondale Sky once before, and never for a full tour. Ian took us through a flight of four wines, paired with strawberries, pate, chocolate, cheese, and smoked salmon. It was a delicious start to the day.
Next, we headed downstairs to tour the winery and try some not-yet-ready wines. It was interesting to taste and smell the difference between the young wines next to the finished wines we had just experienced.
From there, it was back on the bus and off to Ice Wine Festival! This isn’t the first year for Ice Wine Festival, but it is the first year for their new format. In past years, each winery would open to the public for two weekends during the winter. They would each hold their own tastings and events, like the Luckett Vineyards ice luge.
This year, six Nova Scotia wineries gathered at Grand Pre Winery; L’Acadie Vineyards, Luckett Vineyards, Avondale Sky Winery, Grand Pre Wines, Sainte-Famille Wines, and Blomidon Estate Winery. Tastings were divided between two rooms, with a large outdoor bonfire, pig roast, and “Ice Carpet” between the two.
The Saturday session had sold out, and Grand Pre was PACKED! The entry fee was included in our tour price, but the regular fee is $20, which includes 12 tickets (16 for NS Wine Tour participants) and a tasting glass. Each ticket could be traded for a 1 oz wine sample or a food sample.
Not all wines at Ice Wine Festival were Ice Wine. Each table served 3 – 4 selections from their line-up. Because it was so busy, it was difficult to get a good understanding of each sample that we tasted. We still managed to find some favourites, though. We both loved the Martock Late Harvest wine from Avondale Sky and Blomidon’s Tidal Bay. I was also excited to finally taste the Blomidon BMD, a sparkling red wine.
There were a few minor kinks with the new format – the washrooms ran out of soap and paper towel and the pig roast never came to be (during our time there – we ended up leaving just after 3 pm). I love the idea of having everything in one space, and for the first day of a sold out festival in a whole new format they did a great job pulling things off. I’m excited to see how Ice Wine Festival continues to grow over the next few years!
We considered driving to Ice Wine Festival, but I have to say the decision to pay a bit extra and go with Grape Escapes was a good one. It meant that neither of us had to miss out on the wine. We also got a great lesson in the history and industry, a bonus tasting at Avondale Sky, and extra tickets to take in more samples.
There are still a few seats left for their 2015 Ice Wine Festival tour, so if you want to go with Grape Escapes act quickly!
2016 Event Dates: February 27th – March 6th, 2016
Festival Only: $30/person
Grape Escapes Tour: $79/person