Vineyards to live by

Vancouver Island wineries beckon with benefits and summer bliss

With some 32 licensed wineries dotting southeastern Vancouver Island, you’re never more than a grape’s throw away from sipping an award-winning vintage over a locally sourced share plate. Indeed, living in a vibrant island community — from totem-pole-lined Duncan to beach-blessed Parksville — means you get to enjoy tastings, food pairings, wine club benefits and more right in your own backyard.

Hard to imagine today, but almost a century ago, the Growers Wine Company of Victoria was just starting to use loganberries and labrusca grapes in its wine production. Many vines later, thanks to the region’s moisture-stripping mountain ranges, long frost-free growing season and visionary vintners, varietals like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega and Maréchal Foch now thrive across 432 acres of vineyards.

Ready to sip, savour and swirl your way around Vancouver Island? Here’s what life looks like when you live in the midst of a flourishing wine industry.

Cool introductions

Pull up a stool in the airy tasting room and get to know some seaside varietals at Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery in Courtenay. After sampling the 2017 Petit Milo (an aromatic dry white) and the 2017 Beaufort Borealis (a blend of four cool-climate grapes), buy a bottle to complement your packed picnic lunch on the patio. On the way out, sign up to join the Beaufort Wine Club to receive event invitations and case discounts — you won’t want to miss out. Owned by Hollywood film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron since 2014, the Comox Valley winery consistently scoops up awards, including Double Gold for its 2015 Foch Cab at the 2017 All Canadian Wine Championships.

New club in town

Come for the wine, but stay for dinner in the restored turn-of-the-century farmhouse at Unsworth Vineyards near Mill Bay. Nestled in the agricultural-rich Cowichan Valley, this family-run winery grows warm-weather varieties that shine in the tasting room and on the world stage. While you sample the luscious red Symphony or sparkling Charme De L’Ile, remember to toast the 2015 Unsworth Pinot Noir Reserve — silver medal winner at this year’s International Wine Challenge in London. Join the new Unsworth Wine Club and look forward to a case of top sellers delivered to your door every June. Then sign up for the Worth Reading Book Club’s monthly meet-ups.

Old school, new school

Symphony Vineyard in Central Saanich likes to keep things simple. Sure, it has a Case Club offering discounts and the occasional special event. And with farming roots dating back to the 1950s, the small family winery skillfully turns early-ripening varietals into crisp aromatic whites and fruit-forward, medium-bodied reds. But come summer, it’s good old-fashioned picnic time on Symphony’s vineyard-facing grassy patios. With basket in hand, choose from the deli’s local cheeses, charcuterie and pâtés, then pair with a chilled bottle from the bar before heading outside. Meanwhile, just up the road in North Saanich, the newly opened and renovated Deep Cove Winery (formerly Muse Winery) promises sustainably grown estate varietals like Schönburger and Maréchal Foch, paired with private events, outdoor theatre and live music nights.

The perfect staycation

Scoring Best Architecture and Best View at the 2017 Best of B.C. Wine Country awards, Blue Grouse Estate Winery serves up classic wines in its sleek wood-and-stone tasting room. Take in fetching Cowichan Valley vistas while savouring freshly shucked fare — the pop-up oyster bar is new this summer — and perfectly paired whites like the 2014 Paula Sparkling or 2017 Bacchus. Then head to the adorable rustic-modern two-bedroom Grouse House for the night (stay includes a complimentary bottle of wine, tasting, pre-booked tour and 10-percent discount on wine purchases).

The grape beyond

Island living also comes with easy access to other unique handcrafted pours. At Parksville’s MooBerry Winery on Morningstar Farm, sample the signature Blackberry wine with a slice of Mt. Moriarty aged raw-milk cheese, then fill up a growler to go at Canada’s first milk-on-tap dispenser. Fancy a flight of bittersweet ciders? Only a half-hour drive from Victoria, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse is also just a 1.5-hour leisurely bike ride away along the secluded Lochside Trail. Or sample modern takes on the world’s oldest beverage at Sooke’s Tugwell Creek Honey Farm & Meadery. Try the beer-style Kilt Twister or spiced honey Solstice Metheglin meads.

Wine by the numbers

Vancouver Island and the Gulf islands offer 34 wineries alongside some very fine communities. Many offer relaxing bistros, breweries, farms and dining options. In addition to a super friendly atmosphere, you’re also likely to fi nd live music and enjoy some spectacular views. If visiting or living close by there are wine clubs, tasting rooms and tours. There are even several wineries on Hornby island.

Below is the full list: If we’ve missed any, let us know!

Vancouver Island

40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery, Comox

40 Knots Winery, Comox

Alderlea Vineyards, Duncan

Averill Creek Vineyard, Duncan

Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, Courtenay

Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Duncan

Blue Moon Farm, Winery and Ciderworx, Courtenay

Chateau Wolff Estate Winery, Parksville

Cherry Point Estate Wines, Cobble Hill

Church & State Wines, Brentwood Bay

Club Wine Tours Inc, Qualicum Beach

Coastal Black Estate Winery, Black Creek

Damali Lavender & Winery, Cobble Hill

De Vine Vineyards, Saanichton

Divino Estate Winery LTD, Cobble Hill

Dragonfl y Hill Vineyard, Victoria

Emerald Coast Vineyards and Wine Shop, Port Alberni

Enrico Winery, Mill Bay

Glenterra Vineyards, Cobble Hill

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Parksville

Millstone Estate Winery, Nanaimo

MooBerry Winery, Parksville

Morningstar Farm, Parksville

Qualicum Village Winery, Qualicum Beach

Rocky Creek Winery, Cowichan Bay

Stones Throw Vineyard And Estate Winery, Courtenay

Unsworth Vineyards, Mill Bay

Venturi-Schulze Vineyards, Cobble Hill

Zanatta Vineyards, Duncan

Gulf Islands

Chateau Beaufort Noble Wines, Denman Island

Hornby Island Estate Winery, Hornby Island

Little Tribune Farm and Winery, Hornby Island

Middle Mountain Mead, Hornby Island

South End Farm Winery, Quadra Island