On the south east side of Vancouver Island is a pastoral setting of rolling green fertile hills surrounded by rugged mountains and majestic softwood rainforests. The Cowichan’s long, Mediterranean like growing season and mild maritime winters make it the most important agricultural area on Vancouver Island, producing a wide range of cultivated crops including hay, fruits, vegetables and more recently… wine grapes. This is British Columbia’s newest wine-growing region.
The vineyard at Cherry Point was established in 1990 when the founders purchased 34 acres on a former mink ranch a few miles south of Cowichan Bay. Since wine-growing was still new on Vancouver Island they planted the vineyard with several grape varieties, for nobody really knew which grapes suited the island’s soil and climate. After the grape trials, Cherry Point Estate Wines became one of the first licensed wineries on Vancouver Island in 1994.
The vineyard is planted on a glacial moraine, a gravel and stony hill rich in minerals on top of the surrounding clay countryside. White round stones that lay exposed under the vines retain and reflect the sun’s heat and help to ripen the fruit long after the sun sets. The grapevines thrive in the gravel and sandy soil, an open soil they can get their roots down deep into, searching for water and nutrients. A large pond nearby catches the winter rain as it runs down the vineyard’s sloping hill and the mineral enriched water is judiciously irrigated back onto the vines when they need it in the summer.
Today the 24-acre vineyard is the second largest on Vancouver Island and consists of grapevines that flourish in Cherry Point’s microclimate. Ten main varieties and eight limited varieties are planted including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Zweigelt, Epicure and Cabernet Libre, Pinot Noir, Agria, Ortega, Seigerrebe and Castel. Blackberry bushes surround the vineyard and the pests are few, for the leaf-hoppers favour blackberries over grapes.
The healthy lush vines are fastidiously weeded, clipped and pruned, allowing more sunlight to filter through to the grapes and decreasing the yield to increase the quality of the fruit. When they reach their optimum, usually by the beginning of October, the grapes are hand picked, the flesh gently crushed, and the pressed juice made lovingly into wine.
The award-winning wines are made simply, using state of the art equipment, allowing the grapes to make the wines, without interfering with nature as much as possible – honouring the spiritual connection between the earth, rain and sun that nourish the vineyard. The whites are crisp, and clean, brimming with varietal fruit.