Ask just about any local about BC wines, and you can probably expect to have a discussion about the Okanagan, where the majority of our province’s wine is produced. Ask any Vancouverite about craft beer, and they’ll probably direct you to visit the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, which in the past couple years has really taken off as the city’s hub for craft microbreweries. The Fraser Valley is home to over a dozen of wineries and breweries, and I’d say the region still flies under the radar with a lot of wine and craft beer enthusiasts who call Greater Vancouver their home. I recently had the opportunity to spend a day out in The Fraser Valley with a group of bloggers who were brought in from as far away as Oregon. It had been a couple years since I’d been out there for the Abbotsford Circle Farm Tour and the Langley Passport Wine Tour, so I was excited to check out some new places.
Dead Frog Brewery
After having a nice hearty breakfast at Tracycakes Bakery Cafe, we headed to our first stop at Dead Frog Brewery (yes, at 10am). The beer company actually began as a U-Brew operation. Derrick Smith transformed it into a microbrew named Backwoods in 1998, and then rebranded it as Dead Frog in 2006. Over the past decade, they have slowly become quite a recognizable local craft beer brand with a loyal following, as they’re now producing around 400 hectolitres of beer per month. Their 650ml lines, which they started 3 years ago, is now their fastest growing line, and they’re now brewing one new beer per month. Their limited release beers are known to have quite clever names and well-designed labels, such as their Nutty Uncle Peanut Butter Stout. Dead Frog’s core brews and staples are their Pilsner, Nut Brown Ale, Belgian Pale Ale. As a fan of hoppy beers, I’m particularly fond of their Fearless IPA.
Address: #1-27272 Gloucester Way, Aldergrove, BC
Chaberton Estate Winery
If you find yourself out in Langley, you should definitely make some time to stop at Chaberton Estate Winery to pick up some wine and also grab lunch. With a large tasting room, a sprawling 55-acre vineyard, and a restaurant with a large open patio, it’s not a bad place to spend an afternoon sipping on BC VQA wines and savouring delicious French cuisine. We decided to start by lining our stomachs with a big hearty lunch at Bacchus Bistro.
Left: Pork shoulder confit with mixed mushroom and tomato ragout, paired with Chaberton’s Reserve Merlot, which is aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels; Right: Gulf Island Mussels, steamed in white wine and tomato sauce with cracked coriander and fennel seeds. With lunch out of the way, it was now time to tour the winery, which happens to be the 5th largest estate winery in B.C.. Because of the particularly hot and dry summer that we’ve been experiencing this year, which is causing grapes to stay on their vines longer, hence making them sweeter, many wine industry people expect 2015 to be a great vintage year for wine.
One of my favourites from Chaberton was their 2014 Reserve Bacchus. Produced from estate grown grapes, this off dry Bacchus has aromas of apricots, chamomile, and citrus, and flavours of orange blossom, peach, and lemon notes with a smooth, long finish. Priced at $15, it is a great value wine that would pair particularly well with spicy seafood dishes.
Address: 1064 216 St, Langley, BC
Mt. Lehman Winery
I’ve been to a lot of wineries but a particularly memorable one is Mt. Lehman Winery in Abbotsford. It’s not a particularly big or spectacular winery, but rather it’s actually quite a small and humble family-owned boutique winery. However it remains the only winery that I’ve been to where I’ve been able to taste wine siphoned straight from the barrels. Vern Siemens, farmer/winemaker/proprietor of the winery, exudes so much passion for what he does that you just can’t help but like him, and that passion and care really translates into their wines too.
Before we left, Verne, who is such a kid at heart, also took us on a tour of his vineyard on his high-powered ATV. That was definitely one of the highlights of my day.
Address: 5094 Mount Lehman Rd., Abbotsford, BC
Just down the road from Mt. Lehman Winery is the family-owned Singletree Winery founded in 2010. The winery is owned by Garnet and Debbie Etsell, and is named after a single harness yoke, an essential tool for pioneering farmers back in the 1800s. In 2014, Singletree opened their wine tasting room, which overlooks their working farm and vineyards.
We tried their entire portfolio of wines, and one that stuck out to me was their 2013 Siegerrebe. This white grape grows very well in cooler climates with intense aromatics similar to a Gewürztraminer. This wine is lush and rich with highly floral aromatics and soft acidity and notes of lychees, pears, and peaches.
Address: 5782 Mount Lehman Rd., Abbotsford, BC
Ravens Brewing Company
Located in an unassuming industrial neighbourhood off the side of Highway 1, Ravens Brewing Company is one of those breweries that you would never stumble upon unless you already knew about it. And chances are, you’ve probably never heard of them (yet) as they’re only 2 months old. From the outside, it looks like a print and copy shop, but their tasting room is quite tastefully designed in a minimalist kind of way. They’re currently offering bottle sales and growler fills in their tasting room, and I really enjoyed their Elderflower White IPA. Be sure to keep tabs on them to see what they hatch up next over the coming months, as their website is also launching soon.
[BONUS] Cultivate Chilliwack
After an exhausting day of drinking, we capped off the evening at the first-ever Cultivate Chilliwack, a long table farm-to-table dinner at Chilliwack Corn Maze. With open air seating and the beautiful sunset as a backdrop, it was the perfect way to end the day. Chaberton Estate Winery was the featured winery of the evening, as we enjoyed a 3-course wine paired feast which showcased some of the best local farms and ingredients The Fraser Valley has to offer. After dinner, we even enjoyed a tractor hayride in the dark through the corn maze.
It was a truly magical evening to end an amazing day touring some of the great wineries and breweries that we often forget are located just in our backyards. If you haven’t been out to The Fraser Valley in awhile, there’s no better time than now to go for a short day trip.