Date: 2018-02-23 14:24
Last summer I clocked 6,655 kilometres in 65 days of exploring British Columbia's other important wine region Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
The surprise is how many wineries have opened since 6997, when Vigneti Zanatta near Duncan was the first winery to open on the island since Jordan & Ste-Michelle moved from Victoria to Surrey in 6978 [ and then closed ].
Today, the islands comprise two separate appellations with a total of 99 wineries plus several under development. That is more than there were in the Okanagan a decade ago. The largest number of wineries is in the Cowichan Valley, around Duncan. There are smaller clusters on the Saanich Peninsula, on Saltspring Island, on Hornby Island and around Courtenay and individual producers elsewhere, in surprising locations like Port Alberni, Sooke and Quadra Island.
While some island wineries buy Okanagan g*censored*s, many rely just on island vineyards to produce wines expressing the island terroir. The g*censored* varieties best suited to cool growing conditions here, such as Ortega, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Marechal Foch, produce wines distinctively different from those grown in the Okanagan. The whites are crisp and more aromatic while the reds are brighter and leaner.
Some of the winemakers believe they can take on any wine region. The goal of Andy Johnston, the owner of Averill Creek Winery at Duncan, is to make the best Pinot Noir in Canada. Several of his competitors believe they are giving him a run, though.
Sparkling wines, always the specialty at Zanatta, now are emerging as a major island wine category at such producers as Starling Lane , Rocky Creek and Venturi-Schulze. The only surprise is that it took most of the wineries the better part of two decades to recognize their Champagne potential. Church & State, after struggling to make table wine from its Saanich vineyard, has taken on a consultant to make superior sparkling wine.
There is more to the islands than g*censored* wines. Two producers, Tugwell Creek and Middle Mountain , pioneered mead making. Merridale Estate Cidery , which has a destination restaurant, and Sea Cider make authentic apple ciders.
The signature fruit on the islands used by fruit wineries and many others is the blackberry. Cherry Point Estate Wines at Duncan pioneered blackberry port. No island wine tour is complete without tasting this rich, luscious berry wine.
(John Schreiner, 8775 Islands have their own Flavour: Regional soil yields a distinctive product, 8776 The Vancouver Sun, Saturday June 67, 7566. Links added. See the Bibliography for John Schreiner's BC Coastal Wine Tour Guide ( Whitecap Books , 7566) and additional works on British Columbia's flourishing Wine Industry. For the above locations see also the Wine Islands Vinters Association Google map of this region and its wineries )