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WINERIES IN OUR FRASER VALLEY BACKYARD

Story and Photos by Lauren Kramer

If you're looking for good wine, you don't have to look much further than the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. The bountiful fields and vineyards not far from our homes produce a delectable taste of local viticulture, one that's ripe for the sampling. So grab a good map of the Lower Mainland, a trendy jacket and a designated driver. Head out of town to experience the fall harvest through viticulture and stock up your wine collection with a few fabulous local favourites.

Delta's Wellbrook Winery is a place with personality, a cozy, century-old store on a 55-acre heritage farm, with a distinctly farmhouse ambience. The Old Grainery Store, which now houses the tasting room, is warmed by a large fireplace, and antique wood furniture in earthy tones, coupled with century-old beams makes this a wonderful place to stop, browse and taste.

Wellbrook offers a wide assortment of wines and juices, but one you simply can't miss is the iced apple wine, which contains five varieties of BC apples and tastes like heaven in a glass. Look out for blueberry wine, strawberry wine and white cran-apple wine, as well as a variety of juices using mostly BC fruit and the odd organic pomegranate that hails from Turkey.

The 45-minute drive to Langley is well worth it even if you only stop at Township 7 Winery. Drive onto the property and you immediately feel like you've arrived in the countryside. Five acres of healthy vineyards planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot glisten in the rain and the air is sweet and fresh, devoid of the noise of the highway traffic, a few kilometers away.

The winery has two vineyards: one in Langley and one in the Naramata Bench, both of which contribute to Township 7's wines. While the tasting room at Township 7 is in an understated, farm-style building with no pomp or grandeur, Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery is precisely the opposite. Located just a few minutes' drive from Township 7 in South Langley, this 55-acre property commands a sense of arrival, with a tasting room that is infinitely less personal and more corporate in ambience and décor than others.

Domaine has perhaps the longest history of wine-making in the Fraser Valley, and was initiated by a French couple, Claude and Inge Violet, wine-makers from France who relocated to the province in 1975. By 1991, after several years of experimenting with grape varietals in Langley, they opened Domaine de Chaberton, which now produces more than 40,000 cases of wine a year and has achieved national and international acclaim.

Be sure to try the Ortega, a dessert wine with a touch of citrus, apple and pear that is simply delectable, and eminently affordable. Clearly, the estate winery's new owners, Anthony Cheng and Eugene Kwan, are continuing the tradition of excellence and know what they're doing.

As a sucker for an ambient, farmhouse-style store, I fell in love with the Fort Wine Company in Fort Langley right away. Located in an old-fashioned saloon bar, this winery has picnic tables beneath the shade of creeping vines just outside the store, and a delicious range of fruit and dessert wines, of which the raspberry portage and wild west blackberry portage, with velvety, sensuous textures, are highlights.

"Fruit wines are a delicious, fun and healthy alternative to the sea of grape wines available on the market," says Richard Roseweir, the Zambian-born winemaker who relocated to BC from Southern Africa in 1995. "They aren't snooty or syrupy, and are perfect for those seeking something refreshingly different."

A day of wine-tasting in the Fraser Valley is an adventure into its wealth that can add flavour to your meals all through the winter. Just be sure your designated driver stays away from the tasting tables. Those wines are potent, and have no place in the drivers' seat.

IF YOU GO:

  • Chef & Chauffeur offers chauffeur-driven day trips into the Fraser Valley highlighting its best wineries and culinary experiences. Half-day tours cost $395 per person and full-day tours $595. (604) 267-1000; www.chefandchauffeur.com
  • Wellbrook Winery 4626-88 St Delta (604) 946-1868 www.wellbrookwinery.com Open daily 11-6
  • Township 7 21152 16th Ave. Langley (604) 532-1766 www.township7.com Open daily 12-6
  • Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery 1064-216 St Langley (604) 530-1736 www.domainedechaberton.com Mon-Sat 10-6; Sun 11-6
  • Fort Wine Company 26151 84th Ave Langley (604) 857-1101 www.thefortwineco.com

    PHOTOS - Lauren Kramer:

    1. For a tasting room in an old-fashioned saloon bar, head to Fort Langley and be sure to try the sensuous textures of the raspberry and wild west blueberry portage.

    2. Situated on a 55-acre heritage farm, Wellbrook Winery has a cozy tasting room where the scent of strawberry wine mingles with the woodsy aroma of century-old beams.

    3. At Wellbrook Winery, visitors sample an assortment of delectable fruit wines and juices that highlight the bounty of the Lower Mainland.

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