A Guide to Canada’s Wine Islands

The climate of British Columbia rivals that of the great wine-making regions of Europe making it the ideal location in Canada for wineries producing delectable wines. The long dry summers and fertile soils lend themselves to the growing of different varieties of grape vines. In this article you can take a brief tour of the wineries on Vancouver Islands and the smaller islands off the west coast of British Columbia so that you can be prepared for your visit to the area or recognize the wines when you see them on the shelves.

Alderlea Vineyards

Alderlea Vineyards, which was established in 1992, is located at 1751 Stamps Road in Duncan, British Columbia. Vines grow on the slopes of the Cowichan Valley overlooking the Quamichan Lake producing grapes used to make Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines as well as 100% Marechal Foch grapes used in the production of Pinot Auxerrois, Bacchus and a deep red variety of Clarinet wines. This winery also includes an aromatic white wine in its line up of products in addition to Angeliquend, which is a dark rich port wine.

The owners of this vineyard, Roger and Nancy Dosman, employ the technique of tending to aid in the process of ripening the grapes. This involves using the greenhouse effect produced by covering the grapes with sheets of polyethylene in the spring of the year.

Averill Creek Winery

Located on the slopes of Mt. Prevost, Averill Creek Winery is owned and operated by Andrew Johnson, who studied the wine making techniques in Italy, France and Australia before starting his own business. Over 1400 vines are grown on this property, which takes in 46 acres of land. Named for the creek that cuts through the vineyard this winery produces Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Gewurztraminer wines. The wines here are sold in screw top bottles because the owner believes that this is the best method of preserving the wine once it has been bottled.

Barking Dog Organic Vineyard

This was originally a farm in Victoria operated by the parents of the present owner, Jon Popham and his wife Lana. In 1977, Jon’s father experimented with planting vines and producing wine and the first wines were produced in 2005. Operating under the Winchesters Cellars licence, the winery is named for the owners Yellow Lab, George, hence the name “Barking Dog.”

The main wines produced by this winery are Bacchus and Ortega but Pinot Noir and Foch have recently been added to the list. The signature organic wines are an Ortega/Bacchus blend  and a Dornfelder/Blackberry port wine.

Beaufort Vineyards

Located just outside Courtenay, the Beaufort Vineyards is located in the Comax Valley region of the West Coast of British Columbia. This winery focuses on the use of traditional methods of producing wines with minimal amounts of inputs into the wine itself. In its lab, it performs detailed experiments on the wine to determine the amount and types of additions that the wine needs in the fermenting process. The winery is relatively new, having been licensed in 2007. One of the unique features of visiting this area is the presence of the carvings of statues similar to those found on Easter Island.

Blue Grouse Vineyards

Duncan, B.C. is the home of Blue Grouse Vineyards, which is located in a forest setting. The first wine from this winery was produced in 1989 and was a red wine made from Black Muscat grapes. The vines planted have been imported from Europe and were specifically selected to include those that grow well in a cooler climate. The wines produced include Bacchus-Ortega, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Muller-Thurgau.

Chalet Estate Winery

Focusing on producing handcrafted wines, Chalet Estate Winery is located in Deep Cove on the Saanich Peninsula. The owners, Jane and Peter Ellman, bring a wealth of experience to the winemaking having worked in the vineyards of California. Their philosophy is to use only vines imported from France and the wine is aged in barrels made from French, Australian and Hungarian oak.

Cherry Point Vineyard

This was one of the first wineries to be established on Vancouver Island in the 1990’s and was one of the first to be licensed in 1994. There is a long list of wines produced at Cherry Point Vineyard, which include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Ortega and the two blends known as Coastal White and Coastal Red. The wines are very aromatic with a whisper of oak, which is used in the aging process. The most famous wine from this vineyard is the Cowicahn Blackberry Dessert Wine.

Chase and Warren Estate Winery

Located in Port Alberni, there are 12 acres of vines planted at the Chase and Warren Estate Winery. the first vines were planted here to determine whether or not the Gewurztraminer vines would succeed, and succeed they did. This winery focuses on the production of mainly German wines.

Church and State Winery

Named one of the best of the British Columbia wineries, the Church and State Winery is located in Brentwood Bay. Eleven of the twenty-five acres are devoted to growing the grapes needed for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines. This award winning winery has been named the “2009 Winery to Watch” and produced the best red wine of the year in the 2009 wine championships.

Doel Winery

The experience of winemaking in Portugal is evident in the family run Doel Winery. The family brought the vines and their experience with them when they emigrated from Portugal in 1980 and today the 23-acre vineyard produces the grapes used in the production of Gamay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay.

Echo Valley Vineyard

Developed from an experimental acre of 40 varieties of wine, Echo Valley Vineyard has grown to 20 acres focusing on grapes for Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Kerner and Chasselas.

The Wine Islands of British Columbia offer wine tasting, a tour of the facilities and gift stores where you can buy samples of the fine produce to take home with you.

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