Winery Tour: Fraser Valley, British Columbia
British Columbia’s Fraser Valley is a gorgeous and diverse region where the climate is as good for dairy farming as it is for winemaking. Explore four of the region’s best wineries, which produce some of the country’s best tasting wine varietals
Grape-Growing in the Valley
The broad alluvial meadows that cover the Fraser River valley floor make for ideal dairy-farm conditions. The higher ridges, with their sandy loam and red-clay soils, offer better drainage and sun exposure and lend themselves to grape-growing. The sea-level climate virtually eliminates any danger of the vines freezing in winter. While this region does not enjoy the same warm temperatures as the central and southern Okanagan Valley, the growers here compensate by planting cool climate varieties like Bacchus, Siegerrebe, Kerner, Madeleine Angevine, Zweigelt and Maréchai Foch, as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
A major benefit for the fruit and grape wineries here is their proximity to the greater Vancouver area, which is less than a 45-minute drive away. This valley is the place for those who love the outdoors, whether it's cruising on the river or strolling through Campbell Valley Park. Your winery tour starts at Township 7, south of Langley.
Here are four wineries worth visiting in the Fraser Valley.
21152 16th Ave (at 212th St), Langley, BC V2Z 1K3; (604) 532-1766
In 2006 restaurateur Mike Raffan and partners bought this facility and Township 7's winery in Naramata in the Okanagan Valley from the founders, Corey Coleman and his wife, Gwen. The couple had started the Fraser Valley enterprise in a 60-year-old horse barn, which is testimony to the number of riding stables in the neighbourhood. Winemaker Brad Cooper, formerly at Stag's Hollow and Hawthorne Mountain in the Okanagan Valley, provides the continuity with the change of ownership.
Unoaked Chardonnay, Chardonnay Reserve, Semillon, Merlot and Seven Stars sparkling wine (made by the traditional method) are all worth trying-and acquiring.
1064 216th St, Langley, BC V2Z 1R3; (604) 530-1736
Domaine de Chaberton was the first winery to be built in the Fraser Valley back in 1991, and today it is the largest, producing some 48,000 cases a year. The original owners, Claude and Inge Violet, planted their vineyard against everyone's advice on a former raspberry farm, naming it after Claude's father's winery in Montpellier, France.
They sold the winery to Hong Kong businessman Anthony Cheng and Vancouver lawyer Eugene Kwan in 2005. The new owners have maintained the character of the original winery-a cluster of dazzling white buildings, including an award-winning French restaurant called Bacchus Bistro (which serves up great bistro cooking with farm-fresh ingredients from the Fraser Valley at both lunch and dinner) and a cedar-panelled Quonset hut that houses the barrel room. Depending on the weather, you can dine indoors or out within sight of the beautifully groomed vineyard.
The emphasis at Domaine de Chaberton is on white German varietals, such as Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Siegerrebe, produced with great care by oenologist Dr. Elias Phiniotis. The reds-Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend and Shiraz-are sourced from vineyards in the warmer southern Okanagan. Try their Bacchus and the range of wines under the Canoe Cove label.
25180 8th Ave, Langley, BC V4W 2G8; (604) 856-5787
Blackwood Lane Vineyards is the newest winery in Fraser Valley. From Domaine de Chaberton, continue along 16th Avenue to 8th Avenue. The winery will be on your right. Blackwood Lane has a Latin motto: Bonus Vita et Bonus Amici. Caesar might turn over in his grave at the grammar, but it's meant to translate as "Good Life and Good Friends." Carlos Lee (a restaurateur) and Charles Herrold (rock musician turned winemaker) have combined their talents to produce richly flavoured wines with grapes sourced from the southern Okanagan Valley. The ambitious design for the new winery features three perpendicular wine caves excavated into the hillside and an amphitheatre for concerts. Their best wines are Bordeuax-style red blends: Try the richly textured Alliance and The Reference.
28450 King Rd, Abbotsford, BC V4X 1B1; (604) 857-4188
Continue east on 16th Avenue, which turns into King Road. Proprietors David and Liz Avery used to call their enterprise "A Very Fine Winery," but thankfully changed their name in 2003 to Lotusland, as a tribute to British Columbia and its citizens. The photos of several prominent BC personalities grace the labels of this boutique operation. David Avery maintains an organic vineyard, and as dedicated proponents of green winemaking, the couple power their tractors with biofuels recovered from used restaurant cooking oils. Their wines, from 8.6 acres of vines, include Pinot Grigio, Zweigelt and Cabernet Franc.