Harvest Review: BC Island communities rally together

By / Wine + Drinks / November 12th, 2020 / 13
British Columbia Harvest - Rocky Creek Winery

Photo source: Rocky Creek Winery Facebook Page

This year, the whole world seems to be focussed on a few very specific issues, so it’s easy to forget what’s happening in our own backyard. Over the last few weeks, Quench writers have been speaking to winemakers across the country to find out how the 2020 harvest is going. In our Harvest Review series, winemakers share how they’re handling this year’s unique challenges. We’ve already looked at Ontario, Nova Scotia and BC’s Valleys. Now, in our final Harvest Review, Daniel Yetman goes to BC’s islands where communities are banding together to make the vintage a success.

This year, many winery owners in the province have had to deal with smaller than usual harvests and limited staffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite less than optimal conditions, wineries have rallied the support of the local community to make it through this tough time. Let’s take a look at this year’s harvest in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island wine regions.

Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is home to 32 licenced wineries centered around the Cowichan Valley area. The nearby mountains provide shelter from storms that blow in off the Pacific and allow for a long growing season. There’s no shortage of great wineries in the area, but a few worth checking out the next time you’re on the island include Rocky Creek Winery, Enrico Winery, and 40 Knots Winery.

Many wineries on Vancouver Island had to deal with difficult conditions early this summer as well as the difficulties presented by COVID-19 closures. According to Mark Holford, the owner of Rocky Creek Winery on Vancouver Island, “Overall our harvest is about 25 percent lower than a typical year … We scaled back to our core team this year. Our usual practice of hiring a crew for periodic help was off the table.”

“This year’s harvest is looking promising. After a cold and wet June delayed flowering and reduced fruit set somewhat, the summer and fall have been quite warm on the island and allowed us to harvest about 10 days later than we did in the past couple of very warm years.”
Mark Holford

“2020 has been a challenging year. Weather conditions were not the best in the Cowichan Valley this year. With lots of selective culling to decrease the amount of underdeveloped fruit, we ended up with a slightly above average harvest.”
Lorin Inglis
General manager at Enrico Winery

Fraser Valley

The Fraser Valley wine region encompasses the Greater Vancouver area and the communities along the Fraser River as far as the town of Hope. The highly fertile soil and mild climate make it great for growing, and the region produces more than half of BC’s agriculture revenue, according to the British Columbia Wine Institute. The more than 25 licensed wineries produce a wide range of wine types. Some of the most notable wineries in the region include Mt Lehman Winery, Singletree Winery, and Krause Berry Farms & Estate Winery

Pinot Noir from Mt Lehman Winery, British Columbia

As with Vancouver Island, COVID-19 has left many wineries understaffed, however, many wineries in the area are making the most of things despite the difficult conditions.

“We’ve had a battle this year with mildew and had to fight it off. Labour has been a challenge to get the fruit off. However, having said all that, we are getting unique flavours out of our Pinot Noirs. Lots of colour and flavour. We are excited for the Pinot Gris. We are making orange wine for the first time this year.”
Vanessa Siemens
Tasting room manager at Mt. Lehman Winery

Gulf Islands

The Gulf Islands are an archipelago of islands in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and mainland BC. They offer beautiful ocean views and plenty of rest and relaxation. You’ll find 12 wineries spread across the islands of Salt Spring, Pender, Quadra, Saturna and the Bowen Islands, tucked away amongst the rolling hills. The next time you’re ferrying around the archipelago, make sure to check out Sea Star Estate Farm and Vineyards, Kutatás Wines, and Garry Oaks Estate Winery

A wet early summer presented some challenge, but a milder late summer and fall helped make up for it. Many wineries in the region are dealing with restrictions from COVID-19 but have taken this opportunity to update their online stores.


Daniel Yetman is a freelance writer who left the shores of Nova Scotia to pursue his MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. When he’s not binging on dark chocolate and kimchi, he’s jetting around the world to try the local cuisine.

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