The new Gulf Islands appellation currently has 12 vineyards and 103 acres of vines scattered across half a dozen islands. The mild climate of this maritime region is very conducive to grape-growing, although scarcity of water and extreme aridity in summer present challenges. Like the Okanagan and Fraser valleys, the Gulf Islands region had a well-established fruit-growing tradition in the late 1800’s. Today, a number of different grape varieties are planted including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay and others.
With most vineyards only planted within the past decade, many of the wineries also buy, or have bought, grapes from the Okanagan and Similkameen appellations to supplement their limited local production from young vineyards.
The Gulf Islands, a northern extension of the American San Juan Islands, are situated between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland in the well-sheltered Strait of Georgia. The distance, as the crow flies, from Saturna in the south to Quadra Island at the likely northern limit of island viticulture is about 160 km.
Currently, there are six wineries scattered among the islands. Saturna Island Family Vineyards, which opened in 1998 and has a 60-acre vineyard, is the largest and the oldest continually operating winery on the islands. Garry Oaks Winery and Salt Spring Vineyards opened in 2001 on Salt Spring Island (the largest of the Gulf Islands with a population of 10,000). Thetis Island Vineyards on Thetis Island and Marshwood Estate Winery on Quadra Island opened in 2004, followed by Morning Bay Farm on Pender Island in 2005 and Carbrea Vineyard on Hornby Island in 2006. Galiano Island Winery will open in the summer of 2007.
(Marshwood was sold in 2006 and the winery closed at the end of the year. However, another winery is under development on Quadra.)
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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