Wildlife, wine, and wandering, North America is a wonderful place for all three. Wildlife starts in my backyard in Northern Virginia, inside the beltway, a suburb of DC, where we have birds at our feeders, deer in our garden, foxes making nightly rounds of our yard, raccoons, rabbits, and even flying squirrels gliding from tree to tree while we finish a bottle of wine on our patio after dinner. But real wildlife starts in the nearest National Park where the animals are star attractions. Smoky Mountain black bear and deer, Everglades’ alligators and birds, Yellowstone wolves and grizzlies, elk in the rut chasing golfers in Banff, all these parks have “signature” animals that attract visitors from all over the world. Alaska is in an animal class by itself, giant runs of salmon fill the rivers, attracting huge Brown Bears that fish in waterfalls; moose wander the streets of small towns, Dall Sheep graze by the side of scenic highways through beautiful mountains, wildlife seems to be everywhere and people hang on tenuously in a harsh environment for homo sapiens.
Wine is plentiful, with wineries in every state and fine wines are made on both coasts of Canada. Obviously the Napa Valley comes to mind first when we talk about wine in the USA, but while Napa produces wonderful wine they are not alone in California. California wine regions reach from Mendocino County in the north to San Diego’s South Coast, literally 100s of miles of wine tasting with acclaimed wines from every region. Oregon’s wine country is known for fine pinot noir and Washington State has amazing wines along the Columbia River, Even Idaho’s St Chapelle produces great wines in spite of the jokes. Further north the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia has lakes surrounded by beautiful wineries making great wines.
Twenty years ago the wines of Virginia were drinkable as a novelty, but that’s about it. Today Virginia is ranked as a top 3 wine destination in the USA, with scenic mountain vineyards producing wines that compete on the international stage. New York has two noteworthy wine regions; the Finger Lakes and Long Island. At the eastern tip of Long Island vineyards tempered by ocean breezes produce fine wines almost in sight of the skyline of New York City. Further west the deep waters of the Finger Lakes create micro-climates that allow vineyards to prosper along the shores, and winemakers to craft wines of distinction. Ontario Canada is predictably famous for Ice-wine, but the area produces blue ribbon wines from a number of varietals. Last but not least, the vineyards of Nova Scotia are Canada’s most easterly wine region. Vineyards are scattered around the peninsula, they produce good wines from interesting varietals.
The Nitti Gritty – What did we like?
B&Bs; The Pebble in Halifax and Rum Hollow on Peggy’s Cove Rd – we would consider going back to NS just to stay at either place again!
Wineries; Blomidon Estates, Avondale, and Sainte-Famille Wines were our favorites.
Restaurants; Rhubarb was our favorite, but I believe it has changed hands, so you are on your own with this one, was great when we were there!
British Columbia – Okanagan
Country Ridge Bed & Breakfast; absolutely WORLD CLASS! We have stayed in B&Bs everywhere and this one is very special.
Burrowing Owl, Tantalus, Dirty Laundry, Gray Monk, & Rollingdale are wineries that stand out, but we seldom left a winery disappointed in the Okanagan.
San Diego – South Coast
There must be someplace better than the Wine Country Springhill, vin motel ordinaire!
We liked the “Big Reds” of Wiens, but we really found a jewel at Robert Renzoni! Renzoni has an Italian flair with great red wines that we order on the Internet.
Virginia! We live here!
We love Saturday concerts at Tarara (don’t love the wine so much, but what a great concert picnic venue), Doggy days out at Barrel Oak, the wines at Sunset Hills. More to come!