Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Grape growing is probably the last thing, which comes to mind when thinking of Canada.
But yes, Canada has a very dynamic and fast growing wine industry. In British Columbia the wine industry began with some hybrid varieties being planted in the 1960s, and then around 1980 actual wine grapes (called vitis venifera) were planted in the Okanagan Valley, which is the fruit basket of B.C. with its continental climate.
I left Germany in 1967 and lived for the next 20 years in tropical countries around the globe. In 1989 my family and I moved from Sulzbach am Taunus to Canada where, naturally, we searched for the “warmest spot”. We ended up on Vancouver Island because of the new emerging salmon farming industry in which I was initially involved. I was unable work in my profession as veterinarian and had to look for other ways to keep me occupied.
This coincided with a time when crop diversity and grape growing was officially encouraged by the government, and no one had ever tried it on Vancouver Island where the maritime climate is mild, and the growing season very short. Our property in the Cowichan Valley (just South of the 49th parallel) is very well suited for grape growing with its southern slopes, and so I started this business first as a hobby.
It was a great challenge as we didn’t know which varieties would grow successfully on the Island. Furthermore, I had never operated a tractor and all the necessary supplies and equipment had to be imported from Europe. I experimented with more than 100 grape varieties and had to pull all but 10 out again because they were unsuitable for our soil and climate. We have currently ten acres (2.5 ha) planted to Ortega, Bacchus, Müller-Thurgau, Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Black Muscat.
Being one of the first grape growers on Vancouver Island, the pioneering work paid off
and Blue Grouse Estate Winery has become very successful in producing award winning
wines. It is a very small farm winery run by our family of four. The average production
is approximately 1800 cases and all our wines are only sold from our cellar door to local restaurants and private liquor stores on Vancouver Island and Vancouver.
For more information check out: www.bluegrousevineyards.com