A tour of Victoria's wine region with Magnolia Hotel & Spa's "Grape Escape" package

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Glenterra Vineyards

Glenterra Vineyards is just a short trip up the country back road from merridale and here winery owner John Schreiner shared tastings of his organic estate wines in Glenterra’s Thistles café.

John Schreiner serves a Pinot Noir at Glenterra Estate Winery

The topic of conversation at Glenterra was the September rains and how they had devastated some of the local region’s grape harvests. John’s grapes were protected because he had tented most of them. He also hadn’t removed as much foliage from the vines so the leaves helped to protect the clusters underneath. The Saanich wineries were hit hardest, he said. I began to get a sense that wine-making is a changeable business and dependent on many things going well over the season.

Cowichan Bay

Lunch seemed like a good idea after Glenterra, and I took the turn off the highway for Cowichan Bay, and hopefully some soup, before looping back towards my final winery stop.

Cowichan Bay is a lovely seaside collage of floating homes, bakeries, bistros, and galleries all smushed together and hanging over the water like a bright watercolour painting.

A smile with my soup at Hilary's Artisan Cheeses

Hilary’s Artisan Cheeses sits somewhere in the middle of this happy jumble and here I found a warm corner with a view and a pottery bowl of delicious cabbage soup.

I took a little time post-soup to drink in some sunshine, explore the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre and the Arthur Vickars gallery before pulling out for the last leg of my tour.

Cherry Point Vineyards

Cherry Point Vineyards is the second largeset estate winery on Vancouver island and one of the most established. Recently purchased by Xavier and Maria Clara Bonilla, its 34-acre estate produces some of the finest and most award-winning wines of the region.

Amelio Bonillo pours out a wine education at Cherry Point Vineyards

Amelio, the Bonillo’s son and a UBC economics grad, was my knowledgeable, affable host for a Cherry Point wine tasting. With each pour he helped me to understand more about the complexity of building a wine based on grapes, weather, soil, sugars, and the small “design” window that a winemaker has to modify or enhance the qualities of a particular year’s grape.

Bonillo talked about Dean Canadzich, Cherry Point’s winemaker and the Australian “influence” that he sometimes plays with in their wines. He also explained how Cherry Point wines are characteristic for their dryness because they do not add extra sugars to their wine, a practice other winemakers often use. Consequently Cherry Point leaves their grapes on the vine as long as possible to ensure the highest sugar content.

Grapes at Cherry Point

As I left, I noticed the contradiction of the rows and rows of sugar-sucking, heat-loving grapes against a wall of towering rainforest cedars and marveled at the ability of this winery and the others in this burgeoning wine region to blend and balance all of the local elements with their own cultural influences to create drinks that are subtle, creative and at the same time wonderfully complex. I decided that if I support these local wineries then I might be supporting a greater understanding of how wine culture, if not the world, needs to work.

If you go:

Taking the plane, Helijet, or bus to Victoria doesn’t prevent you from enjoying a wine tour. There are tour operators which provide wine tours of either the Cowichan Valley or Saanich Peninsula for approximately $95 - $125 per person depending on the length and type of tour. The Magnolia can also arrange rental cars very easily and cost effectively, and pick up is a breeze, as there are car rentals just one block away. Rates range with the time of year, but it is a safe bet that you can arrange a full day car rental for $50-$60 per day or less.

Verjus Wine tours http://www.verjuswinetours.com/

LA Limousine www.lalimo.ca

Vancouver Island wine tours www.vancouverislandwinetours.com 






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