NOVA SCOTIA ICEWINE FESTIVAL: Seven wineries pair with local chefs for two weekends of cool fun
Researchers say January is the most depressing month of the year, but February and March, when winter won’t end and a box of wine and Netflix sound good enough, are up there, too. There are remedies for those late winter blues, though, and a good one for anyone willing to travel to Grand Pré is the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival.
The treatment is simple enough: head to Domaine de Grand Pré, sample wines from seven Nova Scotia wineries and pair with gourmet eats made by chefs from the area. Whichever weekend you pick, the intended effect should be immediate: a warm, happy glow — maybe from the bonfire, probably from the wine — and a better sense of the expertise of this province’s vintners.
“Our goal in doing this is really just for people to have a ton of fun and meet some of the people that are directly involved in making Nova Scotia’s wines,” says Beatrice Stutz, one of the organizers who’s also a co-owner of Domaine de Grand Pré. “We want to get it out there how good these products are, get people talking about them and just show people what we can do.”
Inside Domaine de Grand Pré, each of the seven participating wineries — Blomidon Estate Winery, Domaine de Grand Pré, Gaspereau Vineyards, L’Acadie Vineyards, Luckett Vineyards, Planters Ridge and Sainte-Famille Wines — will show off a red wine, white wine and hopefully an icewine, which is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.
This isn’t a Domaine de Grand Pré event, by the way; it’s just located there. All seven of the wineries plan the festival together. “I don’t know how many wine industries there are in the world where they can work so closely to do something like this,” says Stutz. “We’re a small industry, we’re still growing and we’re competitors, but we work this out together, and I think that can make our industry stronger.”
The seven wineries will be set up inside beside local chefs who will have bite-sized pairings to try. L’Acadie Vineyards’ sparkling wine, for instance, will be paired with oysters. Le Caveau Chef Jason Lynch, though still mulling options, may pair Sainte-Famille’s wines with cheese and bacon jam canapés, smoked salmon or scallops.
Outside in the courtyard, you can warm up by the bonfire and pair a roasted marshmallow (or 10) with a drink from a yet-to-be named cidery or winery. Last year, Bulwark was there doling out fresh mugs of hot cider. Jason Lynch should be out there, too, serving up tasty eats from his Chinese roasting box like last year’s whole pig.
The $30 ticket to the event comes with 12 tokens used for getting wine and food samples (you can buy more), along with a tasting glass. There will also be grapevine wreath workshops, guided snowshoe hikes through the vineyards and hopefully cocktail demonstrations. And for an added cost (not yet specified), guided ghost walks will happen on Saturdays at 4 pm — with wine tastings, of course.
A new addition this year could be kitchen parties on the two Saturday nights complete with a band or DJ, pop-up food stalls and a bar. “We’ve found that people want to make a weekend of it,” says Stutz. Especially if they’ve been drinking all afternoon. “They can’t drive back, and so they find accommodation and then try to figure out what they’re going to do for the night.”
Kitchen parties could work, says Stutz, because there’s nothing else going on in the area that time of year. Which is one big reason the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival as a whole has worked.
Six or seven years ago, after the Winery Association of Nova Scotia and Taste of Nova Scotia decided to drop out as organizers, Valley wineries started getting calls from people wondering when it would be back. Not wanting to disappoint, and still seeing a good promotional opportunity, a few of them got together and started the festival again in 2014. Ever since, it has consistently drawn about 250 people per day.
“It’s a cozy festival, it’s small,” says Stutz, “and it just gives people a nice weekend. It’s casual, it’s fun, and at the end of the weekend, we just want the satisfaction that people had a good time — that’s all we really want to do.”
Head to nsicewinefest.com for tickets, though you can buy them at the door, too. If the event has to be cancelled because of weather, tickets can be used the following day or weekend.
Nova Scotia Icewine Festival
February 25 – 26, March 4 – 5, 12 pm – 4 pm
Domaine de Grand Pré, 1161 Highway 1, Grand Pré