Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands

vancouver island food and wine
Gulf Islands
blue grouse winery pouring wine for a tasting
Photo by Derek Ford
Vancouver Island wineries
Vancouver Island
Grapes with bird netting, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island 

Common Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega, Marechal Foch
Average Daily High Temperature (July): 20C
Annual Hours of Sunshine: 2109
Average Annual Rainfall: 583 mm
Acreage: 277
Soil Type: Silty, gravelly, sandy clay, volcanic rock

The Vancouver Island wine industry has really come into its own in the last 30 years. It is the second largest wine growing area in the province in terms of winery numbers and is recognized as its own Geographical Indication.

The wineries here are sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by nearby mountains so the climate tends to be calm and mild. But the proximity of the sea makes for a longer growing season as the frost risk is low in the shoulder seasons.

Winemaking began in the 1920s on the islands, but the vintners back then used loganberrries. Grape growing began to take off in the 1990s. Today, there are about two dozen wineries and about 300 acres of vineyard.

The greatest concentration of wineries are in the Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley, which are blessed with microclimates that are drier and more favourable to winegrowing. The Cowichan Valley is now recognized at a sub-GI.

The island has a lot to offer for outdoor enthusiasts. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails, Garry oak ecosystems, sandstone formations and beautiful seaside beaches..

Urban dwellers will delight in Victoria, a charming oceanside city with a central harbour and an Old English charm. The area teems with heritage architecture and stunning garden displays. It’s a place here high tea is a ritual and a laid-back attitude is a must. It’s an ideal spot for a romantic getaway complete with horse-drawn carriage rides and fine dining. There’s a strong focus on farm-to-table cuisine and fresh local seafood.


Gulf Islands 

Common Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer
Average Daily High Temperature (July): 20C
Annual Hours of Sunshine: 2109
Average Annual Rainfall: 583 mm
Acreage: 79
Soil Type: Silty, gravelly, sandy clay, volcanic rock

The Gulf Islands wine industry may be small but a visit to this emerging area is bound to make a big impact. There are only about 80 acres of vineyard throughout the islands, yet it is a separate Geographical Indication because its terroir is so unique.

Located in the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, several islands are home to a smattering of wineries, meaderies and cideries.

Similar to Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands have a longer growing season compared to other regions as their proximity to the Pacific Ocean means there is a lower risk of frost in the spring and fall and little or no snow in the winter. These areas are more suitable for growing aromatic whites and lighter-style reds.  But fine wines are also being made from tree fruits, berries and honey. 

You’ll find wineries on Salt Spring, Pender, Saturna, Quadra, Gabriola, Hornby, and Denman islands. 

The lifestyle here is laid-back, carefree, unhurried and unpretentious that is apparent in their approach to wines. Agritourism is very strong in on the islands with a focus on organics.They are magical places where growing and food production is a passion. You’ll find plenty of farmer’s markets offering up fresh local produce, honey, spring lamb, cheeses, baked goods, preserves and, of course, wine. 

The islands are full of natural wonders galore. Adventure lovers can partake in experiences unique to the coast such as ocean kayaking and diving, deep sea fishing and whale watching. For those who appreciate art, there is no shortage of crafters on the islands.

The islands are accessible by ferries and float planes.


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