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Planning your B.C. Wine Tour
Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands Dubbed the “Wine Islands,” Canada’s far West Coast is casual, home-grown, rustic sophistication. It’s a must-visit for the foodie who craves an intimate experience and is passionate about wine and local, sustainable ingredients. There are multiple 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 favourable to winegrowing then one might think on the “wet coast.” You’ll also find a bunch of wineries on the neighbouring gulf islands of Saturna, Thetis, Hornby, Salt Spring and Quadra. The lifestyle on the islands is laid-back, carefree, unhurried, unpretentious, artistic and that is apparent in their approach to wines. 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. About 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 even honey. This area is a naturalist’s dream with natural wonders galore – cliffside hiking trails, Garry oak ecosystems, 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. For families there are plenty of beaches, campgrounds and festivals and events year round. Those with a boat 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.