A wine guide to Vancouver Island

We’ve already written about the delectable selection of wineries in the famous Okanagan Valley. While it is undoubtedly British Columbia’s top wine region, Vancouver Island shouldn’t be forgotten about either.

The island is home to 37 licensed wineries, many of which offer tours and boast their own restaurants. Most of the wineries are located north of Victoria, and all of them are located in the southern half of the island (and near the coast). If sipping on delicious wines is one of your favourite activities on holiday, we’ve compiled this quick guide to help you find your perfect glass.

Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Valley is Vancouver’s primary wine region, where you’ll find most of the island’s wineries (and also the highest temperatures on the island). If you’re in Victoria, take your car to Brentwood and cross the Saanich Inlet via ferry to Mill Bay.

Once you’re off the ferry, head north to Averill Creek Vineyard – which is the island’s largest estate winery. Here you’ll be introduced to a unique growing technique: where the vines are wrapped in plastic to create a pseudo-greenhouse effect (which results in a fine-tuned, cherry-scented Pinot Noir).

Then head south and swing by the Vigneti Zanatta Winery, which is near the quaint fishing village of Cowichan Bay. This is actually Vancouver Island’s first estate winery, opened back in 1992, but owned by a family with Italian routes whose grape-growing experience goes back to the 1950s.   They specialise in sparkling Champagne-style wines and even have an on-site restaurant, Vinoteca, where you can pair their wines with a menu of different dishes.

If you want to try something a bit different, head to Venturi-Schulze Vineyards where you can try some “Terracotta” wine. The production method is a well-kept secret but we know that it is produced from 100% Siegerrebe (a white wine grape). They also produce Modena-style Balsamic Vinegar that you can purchase in their gift shop.

Saanich Peninsula

The Saanich Peninsula is one of the most scenic locations to build a vineyard, with ocean and mountain views on either side. Guided tours are available but self-guided tours can be just as fun (and you can slow down to admire the view).

Church & State Wines – near Brentwood Bay and 20 minutes from downtown Victoria – is one of Vancouver Island’s largest and most prolific wineries (they also have another winery in Okanagan Valley). They are multi-award-winning, and specialise in high quality wines. People are invited to stop by the wineries for a specially prepared lunch in their bistro (available in May to December). Everything is prepared with fresh local ingredients – with a suggested wine paring.

If small-scale boutique wineries tend to be your thing, then head to Domaine Rochette. They grow Pinot Noir, Ortega, Marchael Foch, Schoenberger, Epicure, and Petit Milo and support environmentally-friendly growing techniques. Their online wine store can also only ship to British Columbia, so if you don’t pick up a bottle while here – you never will!

As you head back to Victoria, stop by De Vine Vineyards. Located just 20 minutes north of Victoria it boasts beautiful views of the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf Islands and Mount Baker. The vineyard stretches for 6.5 acres and is home to grapes ranging from Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and the island’s largest planting of Gruner Veltliner.

Courtenay / Comox

Further north along the coast from Cowichan Valley lies five wineries that belong to the Courtney and Comox region. This region is quite a new player to the British Columbia wine industry, with new wineries are popping up all the time. The biggest (and most established) is 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery. They specialise in ultra-premium wines that are made with no chemical and unnatural preservatives as well as carrying vegan and gluten-free labels. The centre includes a Tasting Lounge, Interpretive Trail, and a Vineyard Terrace. They also have space available for events.

Another organic vineyard in the Courtney/Comox Region is Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery. They specialise in craft batches, and grown 8 different varieties of grape: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega, Siegerrebe, Schonburger, Cabernet Foch, and Léon Millot. They offer tours (and have a tasting room) but this is by appointment only.

If fruit wine and ciders are your preference, then we recommend Blue Moon Winery and Ciderworx. Everything is produced from fruits handpicked on Vancouver Island, with no added preservatives. A tasting room is also on-site.

Nanaimo

If you’re travelling to Vancouver Island from Vancouver, your first stop will be the city of Nanaimo. Here you’ll find the Millstone Estate Winery, a small, family run vineyard that focuses on handcrafted wines. Their focus is on growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Ortega and Gwertz. Tours are by appointment only and there is also an on-site restaurant.

Gulf Islands

The Gulf Islands are not part of Vancouver Island, but are easy to include in a wine tour of the region. There are 13 wineries spread across the five romantically named islands. One of the best aspects of these islands is the slower pace of life, making it the perfect location to slowly sip a glass of fine wine.

Salt Spring Island is home to four wineries (higher than any other island) and is the best place to visit if you’re looking for a new bottle. We recommend Salt Springs Vineyard, the oldest winery on the island which over the years has produced several varietals of wine, including an award-winning Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, a champagne style wine, and a variety of blends. Aside from tours and tasting room, there’s also a restaurant and live events.

If you’re a wine fan who has toured Vancouver Island – let us know which winery was your favourite? Do you know of hidden gem that we missed out?

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