Fraser Valley Wineries
Last Saturday we visited a farmer’s market near Langley with some friends, and after loading up on some unusually large produce we headed back to Vancouver, only to pass by a winery: Neck of the Woods. After determining that it had a tasting room and was actually open we headed back for a visit. There are quite a few wineries in the area around Langley, in the designated viticultural area officially called The Fraser Valley. Since we so rarely make it out there it seemed like a great time to check out this sometimes overlooked region of BC’s wine industry. What began as one winery visit turned into an exciting afternoon of wine touring that we hadn’t expected whatsoever!
Neck of the Woods Winery, our first stop, is a young winery that began life as Glenugie Winery in 2002. After the unfortunate passing of the winery’s founder it was purchased by a White Rock developer in 2008 and eventually renamed Neck of the Woods. They grow Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, and Schoenberger at the Langley vineyards, and produce a very nice sparkling Blanc de Noir from that Pinot, plus a Rose from the Zweigelt and Schoenberger. The winery also produces several additional wines from Okanagan fruit, such as a solid Meritage and a very off-dry Gewurztraminer. After tasting several of their wines (some of which can also be found under the “Backyard” label) we ended up taking home a bottle of Brut, as well as a mixed case of Chardonnay, Merlot, and Gamay (all Okanagan VQA) – 2006-vintage leftovers from Glenugie and priced to move at $99/case. There’s still plenty left so if you’re looking for some good basic table wines at a price that can’t be beat it’s a great opportunity.
Following Neck of the Woods, and with a complimentary and handy Fraser Valley Wineries map in hand we decided the day was young, and headed off in search of Township 7’s Langley location (having visited their Okanagan winery last spring). Township 7 clearly brings in a lot of traffic, as the small tasting room was buzzing with activity. We tried a few whites – a very nice Viognier, a crisp and clean Sauvignon Blanc, and a refreshing un-oaked Chardonnay among them – before picking out a tapas tray and a chilled bottle of Viognier for the picnic table outside. Having these pre-made trays of cheeses and dips ready to go in the fridge is a stroke of genius on Township 7’s part, and was the perfect way to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the vineyards. Red wines followed lunch and we thoroughly enjoyed the Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon; a breakthrough moment occurred when we realized that the Merlot conjured up flavours that reminded us all of smoked ham with mustard – surprisingly specific! I ended up purchasing a bottle, recalling that I also very much enjoyed the previous year’s vintage (2006) when I got a bottle in the Okanagan.
Quite close to Township 7 is a very unique winery and farm called Vista D’oro: “a culinary agritourism destination” in their own words. Vista D’oro not only produces a small portfolio of table and dessert wine (primarily using Okanagan fruit), but also an extensive series of artisanal preserves from fruit and vegetables grown on the farm. Above and beyond their excellent wine you should visit if you are interested in unique, locally-made, high-quality gifts to impress the foodies in your life. If we hadn’t just purchased a couple of jars of compote at the farmer’s market, we would certainly have come away with delicious-sounding preserves such as Turkish Fig with Walnut Wine or Chestnuts, Dates and Brandy. The selection changes with the seasons of course, the mark of a truly authentic artisanal producer. Fortunately you can find Vista D’oro wines year-round in VQA stores, including a very unique fortified wine called simply “D’oro”: a walnut wine comprised of Marechal Foch, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in which green walnuts (from the trees right beside the tasting room) have been macerating in Okanagan Brandy. The best part is, Vista D’oro uses the brandy-soaked walnuts a second time after draining off the red wine blend. They add Okanagan Pinot Noir to the mix and age for a year in oak to produce a Sherry-like wine they cheekily call “Pinot Noix”. Hearing that it is not available outside the winery (“D’oro” is in select stores), and would taste superb alongside an olive tapenade (for which I have a killer recipe) I had to get a bottle!
The next time you find yourself in the Fraser Valley on a beautiful sunny Saturday keep your eyes peeled for winery signs; you might just discover some unique treats and unexpected delights!