You don’t have to ask me twice to join a wine tour through Langley. A few weeks ago it was parents’ weekend for the Langley Rivermen. For the past four years we have been a billet family for our local Junior A hockey team, the team recruits players from Canada and the USA and those players need a home away from home during hockey season. It has been a great experience and part of that is meeting the families of these great young men that call our home, well home for part of the year. After the parents’ breakfast Saturday morning our billets parents asked about what they could do for the rest of the day, they were thinking of heading into Vancouver to see some sights. Taylor Henderson, the Director of Operations for the Langley Rivermen heard the question and suggested they tour some of Langley’s wineries. Now what kind of host would I be if I didn’t offer to go along with them? Clearly Taylor was thinking the same thing and it took less than a minute for each of us to let our spouses know we were off to play tour guide.
I was born and raised in Langley yet am still learning interesting facts and about the community. One story that stands out in my head is that in 1981 Claude Violet, founder of the Domaine De Chaberton Estate Winery did extensive research and found that their property lies within a small micro-climate which receives approximately 30%less rain than Vancouver and weather conditions much like those that are valued in northern France. So the next time you have the desire for a visit to northern France you don’t need a plane ticket just a quick drive to South Langley!
Our first stop was at Township 7 Winery. Now speaking of neat stories – did you know that Township 7 was the official wine of the 2012 Calgary Stampede? As we walked up to the tasting room there were a few people seated around their fire pit, glass of wine in hand. You can purchase a bottle or glass to enjoy on the property while you walk amongst the vines or if it is a cool February day, stay warm around the fire. It was busy inside the shop but we found a corner of the counter and sampled our way through some whites and reds. Taylor said his favourite was the Merlot and we must have all agreed as we all left with a bottle to take home. It was the weekend before Valentine’s Day so they had a table set up with bites of sweets and savory items to enjoy with your wine. Township 7 has other unique events that are well worth checking out. I have been to their Art in the Vines a few times, and a friend formed a team for their grape harvest and stomp a few years ago and highly recommends it.
Next stop was Vista D’oro Winery. The Farmgate Shop & Tasting Room feels like you could pull up a comfy chair and spend an afternoon here. If it is a Saturday or Sunday between April and October you can order a custom picnic to enjoy on the farmhouse porch. Everything is beautifully arranged in the shop and one of the first things that caught our eye were bottles of Pera lined up on the mantle. Each had a number hand written on the bottle and it was bottle #26 that caught our billet Matt’s moms’ eye as that is the jersey number he wears for The Rivermen. Last year 48 bottles of this special “pear in a bottle port” were made by attaching the bottles to the pear trees so the pear could grow inside the bottle. The Pera was already on the counter ready to be purchased before Patrick one of the co-owners explained that the white residue on the outside of the bottle was from hockey tape, one of the items they use to secure the bottle to the tree. That combined with Matt collecting unique bottles sealed the deal, this bottle was going home to Chicago! All of the heritage orchard fruits and vinefera grapes grown on their 10 acres can be found in their wines and artisanal preserves that you can sample.
With bags in hand full of preserves, wine and the prized bottle of #26 Pera we were off to Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery. Their philosophy is summarized in the company’s motto: “Bonus Vita et Bonus Amici” (Good Life and Good Friends). They have turned the home on the 12 acre property into their tasting room and winery. The knowledgeable staff make your tasting an educational experience and it was at Blackwood Lane a few years ago where I was introduced to the wine aerator that they use when pouring your wine samples. Owner Carlos Lee had myself and friends try the wine with and without the aerator used and we were all surprised at the difference we could taste when it was used to pour the wine. Many of the wines found here were higher priced than the other wineries we visited but go ahead and treat yourself or think of a special occasion you can save the purchase for.
Our last stop of the day was at Backyard Vineyards, we would have loved to carry on to more of the wineries but we had a hockey game to get to! I will confess that on occasion when I am browsing the aisles of the liquor store I have bought a bottle of wine based solely on that fact that I loved the label. Guaranteed if I saw the Backyard Vineyard bottles on the shelf they would be in my basket. Now that I have had the chance to sample the wines I can report that the contents of the bottle are equally enjoyable to what is on the outside. The tasting area here is the largest of those that we visited, instead of a counter, they have wine barrels as tables with stools to sit on. The staff bring each wine to your table, tell you a bit about it, leave you to enjoy and then appear again when you are ready for the next wine. It is a very pleasant way to wine taste especially if you want to do so at a leisurely pace. They offer snacking and pairing plate menus and if you call in advance you can order lunch to enjoy with your wines.
We were lucky that Matt’s dad prefers hops over grapes and was more than happy to enjoy the scenic drive while we enjoyed the scenery and samples of wine at each stop. If you wish to head out on a wine tour please ensure you have someone that is willing to do the driving and no tasting (perhaps the samplers can purchase a bottle or two as a thank you for the driver to enjoy at home). If everyone in your group wants to participate in the tasting there are companies you can work with that will do the driving for you. Give our office a call and we would be happy to help you make those arrangements.