Book Review: Island Wineries of British Columbia

Each time I sat down to start writing about Island Wineries of British Columbia, published by Touchwood earlier this month, I’d flip open the book and get completely absorbed, forgetting the work that was waiting to be done. First, I read all about the owners and winemakers themselves, enjoying the glimpse into their vineyards, how they came to be, what challenges they’d met along the road. Then I learned about the varietals, the grapes that thrive (some with much patience or gentle coaxing) in this region, finding out what makes Island wines so different from their Interior counterparts. Finally, I started planning out a future dinner party menu – salivating over local chefs’ recipes, each designed to pair with specific Island wines, and dreaming ahead to a road trip that would allow me to stop in and visit the wineries first hand.

This is exactly what the book’s editor, Gary Hynes, had in mind as he was overseeing the project. When we recently met to discuss the book, he said the book was to encourage us – “Let’s get out there, enjoy the wines in our own backyard, and find out what we can eat with them.” Describing himself as an executive producer of sorts, he explained how he put the team together, drawing on the expertise of wine and beer contributors of EAT Magazine. The result is a spectacular group effort that comes together seamlessly – the history of the Islands’ wine industry explained by Larry Arnold, 15 wineries and craft beers profiled by Adem Tepedelen, grape varietals demystified by Treve Ring, who also contributed sections on blackberry dessert wines, blattners, sparkling wines, ciders and artisan distillers, while new contributor Jeff Bateman added a word on mead. Julie Pegg edited the mouthwatering chapter of seasonal recipes, testing each dish in her home kitchen, Kathryn McAree mapped out tours of the Cowichan Valley, Saanich Peninsula, Gulf Islands, Comox Valley and Sooke and Rebecca Wellman provided breathtaking images that bear witness to the natural beauty of the islands and a wine industry that is just coming into its own.

Beyond being compellingly readable, this book is also delightfully user friendly. Profiles of the wineries include an image of at least one label, to help you recognize what you’re looking for on the shelf. Sidebars offer contact information as well as listings of the best vintages. The section on touring the wine region indicates visually which stops make wine/other alcohol, which serve food and which do both.

Touchwood approached Gary about doing this book a few years ago, but the timing wasn’t quite right – the majority of wines being produced on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands at the time could only be acquired on site at the wineries. Fast forward to 2011, and most of the wines featured in the book can now be found on shelves at wine shops around the Island, with more and more restaurants showcasing them on wine lists as well. This book offers locals a chance to get to know these wines a little better and provides visitors with a great souvenir. Best of all, it feels as though we’re being let in on the ground floor. Island Wineries of British Columbia gives us a proper introduction to a new generation of BC wines. Now may the relationship flourish.

Island Wineries of British Columbia, From the contributors of EAT Magazine, Edited by Gary Hynes, Photography by Rebecca Wellman. Touchwood, 2011. $29.95. Available in book stores, wine stores, BC Ferries and at the wineries.

Cook Culture is hosting a special book launch this Friday, March 25th. Chef David Mincey (Camille’s) will be creating a special West Coast menu while Treve Ring will guide a tasting from five different Island wineries. Only a few spots remaining – click here for more details.

Written By:

Rebecca Baugniet is a freelance food writer and editor living on Canada’s West Coast with her husband and their four children. The author of three published cookbooks, Rebecca has also written for EAT Magazine and for Montréal ...

Comments are closed.