Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wine books celebrate our coastal wineries

The tidal wave of publicity about Okanagan wineries in the past decade must have seemed like a tsunami sweeping aside the wineries on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Fraser Valley.

It is ironic, then, that two books dealing with this “forgotten” region are in bookstores this spring.

One is my newest book: John Schreiner’s BC Coastal Wine Tour Guide (Whitecap Books, $20). The other is Island Wineries of British Columbia (TouchWood Editions, $30).

The purpose of this blog is to promote my book. But I have no hesitation in recommending the other book as well. While the books overlap somewhat, the differences are so substantial that, in fact, these are complementary volumes.

Island Wineries, written by contributors of EAT Magazine, devotes itself only to Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands producers. While missing some producers, it does include craft brewers and artisan distillers. It also includes recipes and some listings of restaurants and bed and breakfast accommodation. The book, with 232 pages, is illustrated with such beautiful photographs that it will appeal as a gift book.

BC Coastal Wine Tour Guide is laid out to be a practical tool for touring wineries. It is 234 pages but is in a handy pocket-sized format ideal for the wine tourist’s glove compartment or the saddle bags of the bike or motorcycle. The text covers the history of wine growing in the coastal regions (surprisingly interesting) and profiles 70 producers – wineries, cideries, meaderies and sake houses) from Chilliwack to Port Alberni, and points in between. Some of these producers are opening this summer or are under development. I include them to ensure that this book is as up to date as possible, and stays that way for a year or two.

The guide is a companion to my Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, now in its third edition. I persuaded my publishers that the coastal wineries needed a separate guidebook to help them raise their profiles. It has always struck me how few Vancouver consumers go wine touring in the Fraser Valley or on Vancouver Island. Perhaps they don’t know there are at least a dozen wineries to visit in the valley. An Island tour can fill a happy week, starting in the Saanich Peninsula and ending on Quadra Island. My book includes helpful maps.

The coastal producers are every bit as colourful as wine producers elsewhere in the province. Because the wineries are small, there is always a good chance that the owners will be hand to welcome visitors.

What is so interesting about coastal producers? Consider these examples.

* There are doctors in the house at three wineries. Averill Creek north of Duncan is owned by Andy Johnston who practised in Alberta for 27 years before setting out to make great Pinot Noir. Devlin and Joanne McIntyre, who took over Salt Spring Vineyards a few years ago, were long-time practitioners in Abbotsford. John Wrinch, the winemaker at Starling Lane, is a radiologist in Victoria. Four if you include veterinarian Hans Kiltz, owner of Blue Grouse Estate Winery.

* Former economists run several wineries. Elaine Kozak’s mother was upset when Elaine left her profession to make the wine at Garry Oaks Winery. Xavier Bonilla, who owns Cherry Point Estate Wines, was an economist in Colombia for three presidents. Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek, the owners of Lillooet’s Fort Berens Estate Winery, trained and worked in economics in Holland before coming to Canada to start a winery.

* Of course, there are lawyers: Kim Pullen, the owner of Church & State; Eugene Kwan, one of the owners of Domaine de Chaberton; and Larry Pierce, who plans to open Little Tribune Farm and Winery this year on Hornby Island.

* Former oil industry managers Jeff and Susan Vandermolen have a unique guardian figure in the Comox Valley vineyard of their Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery. Carved from a massive cedar log, it is a Moai inspired by the stone carvings of Easter Island.

* An active towboat captain, Wade Bauck, owns The Fort Winery while a former operator of a towboat company, Bill Montgomery, plans to open 40 Knots Estate Winery this year at Comox.

* Many wineries offer unusual and unique products. Kermode Wild Berry Winery at Mission relies almost totally on wild berries as its raw material. At the Saskatoon Berry Farm south of Duncan, the sparkling wine is a blend of red table wine and saskatoon berry wine. Nearby, Damali Winery & Vinegary has a lavender-Gewürztraminer blend. Venturi-Schulze Vineyards is renowned for its balsamic vinegar (to say nothing of the fine wines). Vista D’oro Farms in the Fraser Valley makes a remarkable walnut wine, among other wines.

* Bird watcher Vaughan Chase, owner of Chase & Warren Estate Winery in Port Alberni, has a rare hummingbird nest on display in the wine shop.

My subjects all have engaging stories, generously shared with me for this book.

Obviously, I discuss and recommend wines as well, but always within the context of vivid personalities that make the coastal wine regions so special.

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