Picnic tables at Backyard Vineyard give guests a place to rest and enjoy the scenery.

Picnic tables at Backyard Vineyard give guests a place to rest and enjoy the scenery.

Gems of the Fraser Valley

Indulge's wine columnist discusses his favourite local wines

You can enjoy a great day touring top notch Fraser Valley wineries on just a quarter tank of gasoline. That’s no small thing when you consider that a round trip to the Okanagan is at least 1,000 km.

The oldest and largest vineyard is the Chaberton Estate Winery in South Langley. The 40-acres of grapes, all white varieties planted in the 1980s, flourish within sight of the winery’s bistro where, after a walk among the vines, you can dine on boeuf bourguinon and other French comfort cuisine.

The French stamp was placed on this winery by its founders, Claude and Inge Violet, who emigrated from France in 1981. When they opened the vineyard in 1991, they named it after the Violet family farm, Domaine de Chaberton.

Eugene Kwan and Andrew Cheng, who bought the winery in 2005, simplified the name to just Chaberton.

The winery sources red varieties from the Okanagan. The vineyard in the back yard still provides many of its whites, notably intensely aromatic varietals like Siegerrebe and Bacchus. “Those are the ones I baby,” says Barbara Hall, winemaker since 2011. “Those are the ones that speak to the Fraser Valley.”

Whether the wine tour at Chaberton is led by Barbara or by one of her colleagues, her passion for those varietals guarantees excellent wines. And you will also have a selection of big reds.

An international businessman and collector of Bordeaux wines, Andrew Cheng has a hand in blending remarkable Merlot-based wines released under his AC label.

On 16 Avenue, just around the corner from Chaberton, Township 7 Vineyards and Winery is the Langley outpost of a sister winery in Penticton, also called Township 7.

The Langley winery was opened in 2001 because the owners at the time decided to spare their customers the drive to the Okanagan.

They have all of their excellent Okanagan wines in the Langley wineshop.

Backyard Vineyards, a short drive up 232 Street, has a lower profile because it has operated under three names, opening in 2002 as Glenugie Winery, then becoming Neck of the Woods Winery and now Backyard.

James Cameron, the veteran winemaker who has been there for two vintages, has significantly raised the quality of the affordable wines.

The Nosey Neighbour White and Red blends, at $15, are solid barbecue wines, and go well with the light lunches available in the Backyard tasting room.

By contrast, you might want to check out the $150 bottle of The Referènce 2008 at Blackwood Lane Vineyards & Winery on 8 Avenue. Owner Carlos Lee presides over a tasting room, offering wines for connoisseurs.

The final visit of this day tour is to Mt. Lehman Winery on Mt. Lehman Road in Abbotsford.

Owner and winemaker Vern Siemens has a photogenic vineyard planted largely with Pinot Noir. He offers superb wines both from his wines and from premium Okanagan grapes. And before returning home, fill up in Abbotsford with the cheapest gas in the Lower  Mainland.


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