As mentioned previously on this site, Fraseropolis — the sometimes quarrelsome liaison of Fraser Valley County and Vancouver County — produces two thirds of the agricultural wealth in British Columbia. This output includes wine grapes.
The Wine Institute of B.C. recognizes the Fraser Valley (including Metro Vancouver) as a wine producing region. There’s room for a little caution here, since most of our locally-produced wine isn’t produced from local grapes. Putting aside the industrial-scale use of Californian and Chilean product, the Vancouver-area wineries that want a “VQA” sticker (made in B.C.) truck in most of their grapes from the sunny Okanagan Valley, four or five hours away. The issue on the Pacific Coast, I think, is the relative shortage of hot, sunny days, combined with a fewness of vines.
Not to worry, however. The Wine Institute’s excellent touring guide lists 22 wineries in Fraseropolis, including fruit wineries. Cross checking against individual company websites, we find a few that are working hard to develop the truly local product. My friend Gary and I set out to visit two businesses on this list.
The oldest vines at the Mt. Lehman Winery in Abbotsford date back 16 years. The company has developed an “Old Settler” blend of red, made partly from local grapes, that is available at area restaurants and specialty wine shops. But most of Mt. Lehman’s 15 acres of grapes are destined for white wine; I sampled a good local Chardonnay, and purchased a reasonably priced blend called “Symmetry”, combining (we are told) Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Ehrefelser, Riesling and Oraniensteiner varietials from the elegant Mt. Lehman estate.
The trip to Backyard Vineyards in Langley was more of an unknown. This brand was launched in spring 2013, based on a 13-year-old vineyard in south Langley and a newer but established vineyard in Abbotsford. The “Nosey Neighbour” blend of whites will create a little family buzz at Christmas, along with the Okanagan-grown Syrah.
The flagship domestic winery in the region, Langley’s Chaberton Winery, has moved into the big leagues with volume sales to the B.C. government stores. Chaberton and its restaurant, looking up to the Chaberton vineyard, is definitely worth a visit.
Direct sales of wine made entirely from B.C. grapes totalled more than $200 million in 2012/13, capturing about 20 per cent of market share inside the province, and placement on a few restaurant menus in foreign places like Calgary. I can’t find a sales figure for Fraser Valley wines, but it’s fun to go looking for them.