With a cluster of wineries less than an hour away, you’d think Vancouverites would be hightailing it out to Langley every chance they could for a sip of Siegerrebe or a taste of Brawny Tawny.
Yet in many ways the Fraser Valley remains B.C.’s best-kept wine secret.
That’s too bad, because this sprawling region is becoming a serious destination for food and wine lovers.
Head out on Highway 1 and the glittering condo towers and traffic snarl quickly give way to wide green fields, the misty Cascade Mountains in the distance and the mighty Fraser River flowing placidly through the valley, nearing the end of its 1,375-kilometre journey from the Rocky Mountains. Over millennia, the river has left rich deposits here that make this some of the most fertile land in Canada. That, plus its temperate climate and abundant rainfall, makes the Fraser Valley ideal for raising dairy and growing hops, berries, vegetables and some wine grapes.
Mostly, you will find soft, delicate, food-friendly whites, rosés, bubbles and a few reds, including a fair number made from the hybrid grapes that are gaining new respect in the wine world.
This is not a region for big, tannic reds or austere, mineral-driven whites. Mostly, you will find soft, delicate, food-friendly whites, rosés, bubbles and a few reds, including a fair number made from the hybrid grapes that are gaining new respect in the wine world. If you do stumble across an inky Cab or Syrah, the grapes likely travelled from the Okanagan.
Most of the wineries are gathered around the communities of Langley and Abbotsford.
Langley is actually three communities in one: the city, the township and, within the township, the charming village of Fort Langley, with its boutiques, galleries, restaurants and the famous historic site considered the birthplace of British Columbia. Greater Langley, however, is where you will find the wineries.
The oldest of them, dating back to 1975, is Chaberton Estate Winery, where winemaker Andrea Lee makes award-winning aromatic whites and bright, juicy reds. At nearby Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, Mary McDermott produces crisp bubbles from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown on site, as well as big reds from the winery’s sister property on the Naramata Bench. Backyard Vineyards produces everything from crisp whites to a Port-style fortified. Also making a terrific fortified is Vista D’oro Farms & Winery, whose luscious D’oro is flavoured with green walnuts grown on the property.
Bring a cooler, a map and your appetite.
Just a short hop away is Abbotsford, a community whose downtown has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, preserving its historic character while welcoming hip new boutiques and eateries like Duft & Co. Bakehouse and Spruce Collective.
Its wineries are mostly up around Mt. Lehman, and they offer a visitor experience that is as charming as the wines they make. Singletree especially has been gaining recognition for winemaker Andrew Etsell’s floral and fruity Siegerrebe and crisply lemony Grüner Veltliner. At Seaside Pearl Farmgate Winery, visitors can sample sparkling white wine in an old chapel. Mt. Lehman Winery specializes in limited-edition wines, including its flagship Pinot Noir and richly fortified Brawny Tawny.
And that’s just a small taste of what the Fraser Valley has to offer. Come the next sunny weekend, why not hop in your car and discover its farm markets, craft breweries, cheeseries and, of course, its wineries?
Bring a cooler, a map and your appetite. A whole valley full of delicious things is waiting for you.
@ Vitis Magazine