If you like wine and wine tasting you will love what Island wineries have to offer. From the pastoral Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley to the beautiful Gulf Islands, the region is home to almost fifty commercial vineyards and wineries. Several distilleries thrown into the mix make it the largest wine producing region in B.C. behind the Okanagan.
The mild maritime climate of Vancouver Island is much like the Mediterranean, providing great growing conditions for a number of grapes including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Numerous lesser known varieties are also used both for blending and on their own. A handful of Island wineries specialize in fruit wines; peach, pear, raspberry, blueberry and cranberry among others. Several wineries even produce mead, the ancient wine made from honey. A trip to visit an Island winery would not be complete without tasting an Island signature: blackberry wine. From a rosé blend to sweet desert wine or fortified wine, blackberry is on the tasting menu at many wineries.
The majority of Island wineries are small family run operations with vineyards of 10 acres or less. Many of these producers are proud to use grapes exclusively from their own vineyard or solely Vancouver Island or Gulf Island sourced. A few import grapes from the Okanagan to complement their offerings. Most wineries have tasting bars and some are farmgate operations offering local delicacies such as cheeses, meats and gourmet culinary treats using local ingredients.
Vancouver Island wineries are growing rapidly and are doing something right, as the medal haul continues to grow each year from competitions such as the Canadian Wine Championships and the Northwest Wine Summit. Most Island wines are hand crafted, comprising small runs of several hundred cases or less. This means many of the wines are only available locally or regionally, so if you really like a particular wine, grab it while you can or look into shipping options while at the winery.
Sample and purchase cellar worthy wines for long term enjoyment or pick up a bottle or two for your next meal. Most wineries can also ship cases to your home; an option if you are travelling with limited space.
Touring and tasting at Island wineries
Ever wondered what it takes to win a medal at a wine competition? Read our wine competitions demystified and sampling guide for the lowdown.