When you think of supporting local businesses, what comes to mind? Perhaps buying produce from farmers markets in Vancouver? Or maybe grabbing lunch from a local food truck, or purchasing goods from a local print shop or pop-up store. How about local wine? Most Vancouverites like myself will usually defer to wineries located in BC’s interior, like the Okanagan, Naramata bench, Oliver, or Oosoyoos just to name a few. While they are several hours away from Vancouver, there is a worthy cluster of vineyards planted right in our backyard. Langley is just one of the many areas where wine producers are setting up shop along BC’s west coast.
Last weekend, we were invited to experience the Langley Passport Wine Tour, where we embarked on a tour of 7 different wineries in just 5 hours. Many of us were even surprised to learn that there are that many wineries in Langley, and well, some of us had never even been to Langley before. It took us just an hour by charter bus to go from Vancouver to Langley. Here’s a recap of our Langley Passport wine tour.
Stop #1: Township 7 Vineyards & Winery
Specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, Township 7 occupies 10 acres of land and has worked with several other BC vineyards over the past 13 years. They plan to increase the size of their production by planting new, and so far undetermined varietals next spring. We were invited into their newly constructed tasting room. As a fairly large group of 54 people, somehow we all managed to cram inside the small tasting room to sample their various wines.
We were served 6 different wines to try. As each wine was introduced, we learned that some of them would be sold with their new labels, either with their gold or silver border trim. The two whites that we tasted were the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Chardonnay. In wine tasting, it is common practice to start off with lighter wines and then move on to heavier/fuller wines. We moved onto the reds, and sampled the 2010 Merlot (served with chocolate), 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and their 2008 Reserve 7 (2010 to be released in wine stores). We also tried a wine club exclusive called Black Dog (2010), where the grapes for those are sourced from the Naramata bench. Only 118 cases were made, and our wine host Frank Ocenas deemed us worthy enough of opening a bottle for us to try.
Stop #2: Domaine de Chaberton
Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery sits on a 55-acre property, making it the 5th largest wine estate in BC. Our tour guide pointed out the fact that Langley gets 65% less rain than in Vancouver, making it a good climate for their grapes. They showed us their 30-year old Bacchus plants, which still produce quite well. They have 6 different German varietals on site. All their grapes are still picked by hand, and the day we went also happened to be the first day that they were harvesting their Madeleine Silvaner grapes.
We walked through their wine facility and got to see their grapes and crush pads, and gained insight into their wine making process. Their barrels are made from 75% French oak and 25% American oak. Each tree lives to about 200 years old before it is cut down and turned into a barrel. One tree usually yields one barrel. At about $1,000 each, these barrels are used about 4-5 times before they are discarded. After the tour, we ended up in their tasting room where we sampled 3 wines: 2012 Chardonnay (nice and light, pairs well with fish), 2012 Siegerrebe (an aromatic white that has recently won a bronze medal from The National Wine Awards of Canada) selling for $17.45, and the 2009 AC50 (a solid red, well balanced) selling for $47.50.
Stop #3: Vista D’oro
Once a dairy farm that was built in 1905 and operated until 1977, Vista D’oro is now owned by power couple Patrick and Lee, who purchased the farm in 1997. When you pull up to this beautiful 10-acre estate, you will notice the two large walnut trees in front of the Farmgate Market & Tasting Room, a friendly dog named Chablis who chases deer from the vineyard, and views that overlook Campbell River Regional Park and Golden Ears Mountain Range. The farm operation is comprised of 2 parts, Patrick is in charge of the wine, and Lee is in charge of the jam. Together they deliver a great experience for any visitor looking for great wines and tasty jam spreads. From this piece of land alone, they get approximately 8 tonnes of grapes once fully harvested. Vista D’oro also brings in grapes from Cowichan Valley (Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer varietals), the Okanagan (mainly Merlot and Syrah), and Similkameen Valley (Maréchal Foch and Cab Franc grapes).
Patrick shared with us information about the farm while we tasted the fruits of their labour. The 2010 Murphys Law is a white blend made up of 65% Gewurtztraminer, 20% Pinot Gris, and 15% Voiginer and Chardonnay. They practice natural wine making, which means no clarification agents or proteins are added. Their wine label is inspired by the hundreds of photos submitted to their designer that capture the farm, dogs, chickens, horses, tomatoes, and everything they stand for. We went on to taste their Franc en Foch, aka the F-bomb. It’s a beautiful Cab Franc Rose made of 50% Cab Franc and 50% Marechal Foch.
The last wine that we tasted was a walnut dessert wine. At the farm, they harvest their green walnuts as a fruit, which have the equivalent of 7-9 bricks of sugar in them. The harvest is timed around Bastille Day, and takes place just before the membrane is formed into a hard shell. Then it’s aged in brandy for 9-12 months. Patrick brings in Kentucky whiskey barrels and blends red wine (about 90%) with the green walnut brandy. This recipe originates from Northern France and dates back to 1796. Their walnut wine was such a highlight for me that I just had to buy a bottle. Light snacks were also provided, which featured some of their jams.
Stop #4: Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery
Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery is a father and son venture that’s now in its 9th year. Their wine tasting room is located at the top of a hill with a narrow road leading up to it, making it tricky for the charter bus to manoeuvre, so we hiked up the small hill instead. Carlos met us at the top, where we were led into their backyard patio which overlooks their beautiful vineyard. For the tasting, only their reds were featured, which I didn’t mind since I’m more of a red drinker.
As we waited for some food, the wines started flowing out of the bottle, using the coolest wine dispenser/aerator that I’ve ever seen. We started off with their 2009 Sentilino, which had just been bottled that weekend. Their Syrah was a more full body versatile wine. Their Meritage was the last we tried before we made our way back to the bus. It takes almost 4 years to make their wine, and they always use brand new barrels.
Stop #5: Backyard Vineyards
Having a backyard as large as 10 acres and being close to a salmon bearing stream called Murray Creek, the owners sure know what to do with their space. The vineyard consists of pinot noir grapes, and the wines are made using traditional methods. In addition to this space, they also have another 2 vineyards, one being 5 mins away growing pinot noir, and the other is 30 acres located in Abbotsford and grows pinot noir, pinot gris, sauv blanc, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, and merlot varietals. To diversify their wine selections even further, they bring in syrah, franc, and cab sauv from the Okanagan, particularly from Oosoyoos & Oliver.
James Cambridge is their new wine maker, and has spent some time most recently at Summerhill, and wineries in Ontario. We started off with some bubbles (Blanc de Noir), and then moved on to their 2012 Nosy Neighbour (white) which is a well-balanced blend of pinot gris, riesling, siegerrebe and gewurztraminer. Their 2011 Gewurztraminer and 2010 Meritage were also poured as we enjoyed some lovely cheeses and berries outdoors.
Stop #6: Krause Berry Farms
Krause Berry Farms is one of the newer wineries in Langley, but they probably have one more the most interesting tasting rooms. It’s Western themed and is adorned with cowboy hats, saddle seats, and boot-shaped shooter glasses for wine tasting. While they focus mainly on berries and wine, they’re opening a cooking school in partnership with Chef Wolfgang Schmelcher, which is set to take place on Saturdays starting on October 5th.
In their wine tasting room, winery manager Ted (with his distinctive moustache and friendly demeanour) made us feel at home as he talked us through some of the sparkling wines we tasted. We sipped on some apple and strawberry sparkling wines from our boot-shaped glasses, and we enjoyed platters of tasty appetizers.
I know Langley has 7 wineries, but we only visited 6 that day, as we arrived 20 minutes late and The Fort Wine was already closed. I guess that means we’ll just have to come back and see them another time! Just a heads up, this winery is open by appointment only.
Though it was a long day, we’re glad we went on this wine tour. If you needed a reason to check out Langley, I don’t think there’s a better one than this! Kudos to Jelly Marketing for organizing this event for such a large group, and for connecting us with the wineries that are located so close to home. For more information on where to get your wine passport, visit the Langley Passport website.