WINE WISE: Time to try some intriguing Island wines

In the last 20 years the number of wineries on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands has increased exponentially.

At the same time, the variety and quality of these wines has soared to new heights.

Hans and Evangeline Kiltz bought the farm that would become Blue Grouse Estate Winery in 1988. On the property they discovered an experimental vineyard planted in 1977 by pioneering Island viticulturist John Harper in 1977. By 1992 they received a licence to sell their wines to the public.

From an early ripening cross between Madeline Angevine and Gewurztraminer, Blue Grouse Siegerrebe (712893) $17.95 has aromas of ripe pineapple, mandarin orange and apple blossom. Bright fruit flavours slide seamlessly into a lingering spicy finish.

A blend of 54.5 per cent Merlot, 39.5 per cent Cabernet Franc and six per cent Marechal Foch grown in Oliver and the Cowichan Valley, Blue Grouse Quill Red (712752) $18.99 won a gold medal at the All Canadian Wine Awards. Blueberry and boysenberry aromas lead into flavours of ripe plum and earthy prunes with a sprinkling of cappuccino in the finish.

Halfway between Ganges and Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island, Salt Spring Vineyards has been owned and operated since 2002 by Joanne and Devlin McIntyre. Winemaker Paul Troop has been instrumental in introducing early ripening ‘Blattner’ hybrid wine grapes across the Islands from his vine nursery on Salt Spring Island.

A crisp white blend of Petit Milo and Epicure wine grapes, Salt Spring Vineyards Evolution (407452) $19.99 manages to capture the brightness of Island grown fruit with flavours of Granny Smith apple and fresh sliced pear and subtle undernotes of ripe yellow melon.

A smooth and seductive Island red, Salt Spring Vineyards Millotage (263038) $19.99 blends the dusky plum and mocha notes of Marechal Foch with the classic strawberry and berry flavours of Pinot Noir. A touch of oak adds notes of tree-bark and caramel to the finish.

Just outside of Mill Bay on Vancouver Island, Unsworth Vineyards was purchased by Tim and Colleen Turyk in 2009. Their winemaker Daniel Cosman and his crew currently farm 12 acres of grape varieties at Unsworth Vineyards.

Unsworth’s signature white blend Allegro (766055) $20.95 is a blend of 50 per cent Petit Milo and 50 per cent Sauvignette. Bright and sassy, it boasts a medley of apple, peach and guava aromas and flavours.

A blend of 95 per cent Cabernet Libre and five per cent Marechal Foch which was dried in the Italian appassimento style, Unsworth Vineyards Symphony (666164) $26.35 offers up a medley of red and black berry aromas and flavours. Black cherry, raspberry and blackberry flavours lead with earthy notes of sweet fig and cedar in the lengthy finish.

Owned and run by Ben McGuffie and Jill Ogasawara, SouthEnd Farm is the only winery on Quadra a retirement project that started 30 years early. Initially their wines were made from exclusively Quadra Island and Comox Valley grown grapes.

A unique Acacia barrel aged ‘unvintaged’ white made from Petit Milo, SouthEnd Farm Acacia (35477) $24.30 offers an off-dry mouthful of green apple flavours. Bright and sassy on the first sip, it slips into sweet peppery fruit with a woodsy twist in the finish. They compromised their principles and brought in Cabernet Franc grapes from the Okanagan Valley to make SouthEnd Farm Principles (284497) $27.05. Outrageously flavourful, this is an inky, dry red wine with lots of peppery liquorice, dark red and black fruit and sweet vanilla notes in the lengthy finish.

Film director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis purchased the Comox Valley’s Beaufort Vineyards & Estate Winery in early 2014 from founding owners, grape growers and winemakers Jeff and Susan Vandermolen.

Beaufort Epic $19.50 is a blend of 20 per cent Pinot Gris and 80 per cent Epicure. Still a ground-breaking variety in British Columbia, Epicure is a complex cross based on Cabernet Sauvignon! Lush tropical flavours abound pineapple, guava, and passionfruit as well as gooseberry. Realizing the difficulty of getting classic red wine grapes fully ripe on Vancouver Island, only the best free-run juice from Okanagan-grown fruit was used in making Beaufort Vineyard Shiraz (817031) $32.40. Aged in oak, this red flaunts the generous aromas of black pepper, black cherries and liquorice typical of the variety.

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