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Planning your BC Wine Tour
Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands Wine has been made on Vancouver Island since 1920, but originally not from grapes. Loganberries were the fruit of choice until the Duncan Project – a government-funded trial – evaluated about 100 different grape varieties in the mid to late 1980s. Eventually it was decided that Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega were the best choices to grow in the island climate. Dubbed the “Wine Islands,” Canada’s far West Coast is casual, home-grown, rustic sophistication. With access to seasonal, regional ingredients such as seafood, spring lamb, cheese and a bounty of produce, it’s a foodie’s paradise. Vancouver Island visitors who crave an intimate experience and are passionate about wine and local, sustainable ingredients will love it. There are 37 wineries on the main island mostly concentrated in the Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley, which are blessed with microclimates that that are drier and more favorable to winegrowing then one might think on the “wet coast.” You’ll also find another 13 wineries on the neighbouring gulf islands of Saturna, Pender, Hornby, Salt Spring and Quadra. The lifestyle on the islands is laid-back, carefree, unhurried, unpretentious and creative. Vancouver and the Gulf Islands have a longer growing season, a lower risk of frost in the spring and fall and little or no snow in the winter. These areas are more suitable for growing aromatic whites and lighter-style reds. More than 500 acres of grapes are grown in this region. The main varieties are Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega, Foch and Gewurztraminer. Many island producers purchase grapes from the Okanagan to make fuller-bodied wines. But fine wines are also being made from tree fruits, berries and honey. This area is a naturalist’s dream with natural wonders galore, such as cliff-side hiking trails, Garry oak ecosystems and sandstone formations. Adventure lovers can partake in experiences unique to the coast such as ocean kayaking and diving, deep-sea fishing and whale watching tours.
There are plenty of beaches, campgrounds and festivals and events year round. Boating enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that many of the most pristine natural areas can only be reached by the water. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, for example, covers 33 square kilometres of parkland on numerous islets, reefs, and islands. Nature cruises, boat charters, sailing tours, and saltwater fishing charters are options to get out on the water. Agritourism is very strong in this area with a focus on the 100-mile diet and organics. You’ll find roadside stands and farm-gate shops offering up fresh local produce, honey, spring lamb, cheeses, and, of course, wine. Urban dwellers can opt to stay in Victoria, a beautiful seaside city with a central harbour and an Old World charm. The area teems with heritage architecture and stunning garden displays. It’s a place here high tea is a ritual and a laid-back attitude is a must. It’s an ideal spot for a romantic getaway complete with horse-drawn carriage rides and fine seaside dining.