The Wine Scene on Vancouver Island
The winemaking industry on Vancouver Island may be relatively new, but it is thriving. Today there are some 46 wineries and cider houses spread out across the island and the adjoining Gulf Islands.
When wine was first produced in this area, it was made with various berries. Commercial production did not start until the 1970s and really only caught on in the past 25 years, thanks in part to a government grape-growing program.
For the most part, wineries on Vancouver Island are small yielding, family-run operations that are free to determine their own winemaking agenda. The result is a delightfully experimental and eclectic yield of aromatic whites and subtle reds.
Hillside vineyards with gravelly soil make for similar conditions to Germany and parts of Northern France. Not incidentally, similar wine varietals are produced, though the sea-influenced results vary considerably from their European counterparts. Floral whites such as Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, and lighter reds such as Pinot Noir and Merlot, are produced with much success.
Vancouver Island wineries are concentrated in two main geographical areas – the Saanich Peninsula and the Cowichan Valley. Both regions are shielded from the open Pacific Ocean to the west by the mountain ranges. The wine-growing season here is long and characterized by temperate temperatures and low risk of frost. Although precipitation is high in the winter months, summers are long and dry with soaring daytime temperatures and cool nights.
Vancouver Island’s small specialty wineries are proud of their Island-produced wines and are most welcoming to visitors.