British Columbia’s most recent DVA is Vancouver Island, a 250-mile-long isle which hosts a fast growing number of wineries, and distinctly different growing conditions from the province’s main region, the Okanagan Valley. Just a short ferry ride from the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver and about an hour’s drive north of the capital city Victoria, lie the island’s hillside vineyards. Most of the wineries are located in the Cowichan Valley on the island’s eastern side, along with a number of other wineries found on some of the smaller Gulf Islands, and technically outside the DVA. Rainfall is minimal during the growing season, with moderate summer temperatures (usually between 75-80ºF) and winters which are notably mild. So mild are the winters that Vancouver Island is one the few places in Canada where it is not possible to make Icewine within the VQA regulations. The valley area wineries, near the town of Duncan, are 50 miles from the extreme weather of the Pacific. They are protected by the Vancouver Island Ranges, rising to 2,500 feet, sheltering the vineyards from ocean storms. The wines from this area show rich fruit flavors and softer acids. The soil is a mixture of mainly limestone and sand, with some clay, a result of the glacial ebb more than 10,000 years ago.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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is the Regional Correspondent for Vancouver Island.