Exploring the Campbell Valley Wine Route in Vancouver’s Backyard

I’m embarrassed to say that after living in Vancouver for ten years, and visiting the Okanagan Valley about 50 times, I had never explored the wineries in this city’s own backyard.

So I when I was offered a sponsored tour of the Campbell Valley Wine Route, I jumped on the bus without hesitation. The trip was organized by Jelly Marketing and included five other bloggers, one of whom was male.

The Campbell Valley Wine Route is a consortium of four wineries in the Langely area – Township 7, Vista d’Oro, Chaberton, and Backyard – who cooperate in promotion of their industry.

We left early on a drizzly day from Vancouver’s Science World, and in Fort Langley we picked up more bloggers, most with coffee in their hands. By 10:30 we had arrived at our first winery, ready to taste.

Township 7

Township 7 is located in both Langley and on the Naramata Bench, with the bulk of their grapes grown in the Okanagan Valley. Historically, the winery is named for the community of South Langley, originally known as Township 7.

Township 7 tasting room

We were met by Tasting Room Manager Jason Ocenas who said the grapes grown in their vineyard are pinot noir and chardonnay used for sparkling, and 2015 was an incredible vintage.

Township 7 tasting
The diminutive Langley tasting room was renovated in a 2014 and a new patio and picnic area was installed for their Shakespeare events. They are open every day all year ‘round.

Township 7 has a new winemaker, Mary McDermott who comes from Peller Estates, Truis Winery and Thirty Bench.

township 7 grapes
Jason said the winery is running out of wine, making about 10,000 cases. Still, they emphasize the importance of experience as well as edification, knowing there are wine lovers in Vancouver who can’t necessarily drive to the Okanagan Valley for a wine country tour.

Township 7 Jason OcenasWe started with the 2014 Pinot Gris Naramata – bright fruity nose, pears and stone fruit, smooth round mouthfeel.

The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Lou Terrace Vineyard in Naramata – crisp and citric, lemon/lime, great minerality.

2014 Gewürtztraminer/ Pinot Gris/ Muscat – off dry floral, juicy mouthfeel, orange and tropical fruit, spicy notes.

Township makes three Chardonnays: Unoaked, oaked, and well oaked reserve.

The Reserve Chardonnay 2013 is available only through the wine club and is a great reason to join –  big vanilla nose, baked apple on a creamy mouth, woody finish.

Merlot is one their flagship varietals and we tried the 2012 Merlot – bright black cherry nose, good balance, supple tannins.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Blue Terrace Vineyard is 15% merlot – dusty red fruit on the box, chalky tannins, black cherry fruit and a mineral finish.

Finally, the 2012 Reserve 7 is a blend of merlot, cab sauvignon, cab franc, and petit verdot– tobaccoey nose, herbs and raspberry on the palate with good acidity. Elegant.

Township 7 hosts lots of event throughout the year. Coming up December 5 – a Holiday Open House.

Club7 wine club ships 8 bottles 3 times per year. Ships for free at retail or pickup for 15% discount. Pickup parties happen in July and November.

With complimentary bottles in our hands, we said goodbye to Jason and boarded the bus for the next winery

Vista d’Oro

Vista d’Oro Farms and Winery is not just a vineyard winery, but also an orchard and jammery, which is a major part of their business. Their preservatory supports four full-time workers churning out 20 different flavors of jams.

vista d'oro jam tasting
After a quick tour of his owl barn with the dog Schubert, owner Patrick Murphy led us to the porch of the homey tasting room.

vista d'oro roséVista d’ Oro vineyards are 7 years old. for his first four vintages he bought Okanagan grapes, but now, he’s determined to be a totally coastal winery.

2013 Murphy’s Law White is a blend of the obscure petit milo and schönburger grapes made with wild yeast no filtration or clarification, all natural – shy on the nose, a crisp dry mouth with a minerally finish.

2010 Rosé is called the Orange wine because it is orange, as opposed to white or rosé. Made with ortega and a spot of syrah, he calls the style Oxidative, or lacking fruitiness. To create this wine, he poured nitrogen on the wine in barrel to make it loose its freshness. He advised us to look for watermelon on the nose and Bazooka Joe wrapper on the finish. Indeed, I got the watermelon and bubble gum along with streaks of minerality, acidity and oxidation. Vista d'Oro walnut port

Just as I was thinking, hmmm, interesting, Patrick said….

“I might not make a traditional chardonnay taste like a chardonnay, but I like to make something that’s interesting.”

Let’s just say Patrick Murphy is an interesting wine maker.

2013 Murphy’s Law Red is a mix 3 regions: siegerrebe from Vancouver island, local pinot noir, and the last of the similkameen marechal foch – tart black fruit, rich soft mouth, slight green notes.

The Walnut Port uses aged, farm-grown walnuts from their 100 year old trees, estate foch, merlot and cab franc – sweet, syrupy and nutty, it got wows all around.

vista d'oro jam tasting

After that, we stepped inside for a jam tasting. Today: crab apple/lavendar/gin, spice apple/gewürztraminer, blue berry/bourbon, plum/vanilla/star anise, orchard pear/pinot noir, heirloom beet/orange/peppercorn. Suggested use is for pie fillings, ice cream topping and yogurt.

The beet jam was my favorite.

With tiny jam samples in our hot hands we got back on the bus and departed for the next winery.

Chaberton Estate

At Chaberton Estate we were met by General Manager Brian Ensor who told us how (formerly Domain de Chaberton) Chaberton is the oldest and largest wine in the Fraser Valley. It was established by the Violets in 1980, and includes 55 acres, with 50 acres planted. Domain de Chaberton’s first vintage was 1990.

Chaberton Brian Ensor
He said the winery has grown by leaps and bounds, which is no exaggeration. The complex is reminiscent of an elementary school with no building looking like another, including the lovely Bacchus Bistro restaurant.

He took us around back to scan the vista of vineyards, grown in blocks by varietal, primarily white grapes. Their Okanagan grapes come from Naramata, Black Sage Bench and from Desert Hills winery who Chaberton’s original owners helped start their vineyards years ago.

200 tons come from the estate 400 tons from the Okanagan for a total production of 45,000 cases

“We’re the 5th largest estate winery in BC that nobody knows about!”

Fun fact: this area gets 60% less rain than Vancouver and this year’s harvest was 3 weeks early this year, he said adding, “Thank you Al Gore and global warming,” even though Gore can hardly be blamed.


After a tour of the barrel room, where I was able to see a wine barrel being topped up, we headed for the tasting room for some wine.

Chaberton glasses
We started with the 2014 Reserve Pinot Gris from Cawston – lovely blush color, pretty fruity nose, lemony melon with lively acidity.

Chaberton meritage2014 Reserve Bacchus Fraser Valley – big fruity nose, bright peach and orange flavors, fruity but dry.

2014 Reserve Siegerrebe Fraser Valley – candied nose, tangerine and grapefruit, spicy and crisp in the mouth, zesty finish. I loved it and brought home a bottle.

2012 Valley Cab from Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys is 85% cabernet franc, 15% cab sauvignon – tobacco on the nose, raspberry and cassis in the mouth, dry with a graphite finish.

“Most of our wine are fairly moderate in price” he said, and they over deliver in quality. The Valley Cab, for instance, retails for only $16. Almost all the wines are under $30.

Chaberton also sells boxed wines and I brought home a box of the Valley White. 3 liters for $35!

After some shopping, we got back on the bus and headed to our final winery, Backyard Winery.

Backyard Vineyards

Backyard Vineyards tasting room
Backyard Vineyards bubblyThe Backyard tasting room is impressively spacious and woodsy with a fireplace in the corner and blankets loaned to customers.

With glasses of a colorful Blanc de Noir bubbly in hand, winemaker James Cambridge gave us a tour of the cellar.

He told us that all varietal wines – pinot gris, pinot noir, gewürztraminer, syrah riesling – are made from free run juice. “Not a stick of press fraction in it. Kinda like bringing boutique into a commercial setting.”

Using free run juice is something he did when working at Le Vieux Pin/La Stella and uses the technique to bring the wow factor to his wines.

Backyard Vineyards Larissa
We saw open-top tanks of fermenting fruit doing that burbling, gurgling thing on the first step toward becoming a wine.

Backyard James Cambridge tanks
Among the canyon of cold soak tanks James poured samples of fresh pinot noir and chardonnay juice, both of which tasting fruity, fresh and clean. Rather like grape juice.

Backyard Vineyards syrah riesling gewurstraminerAt a picnic table in the tasting room we tasted through a smattering of the wines. Backyard has two tiers: Backyard varietals and Nosey Neighbor blends range from $14- $17 and the BYV Reserve wines hover around $31.

2014 Riesling – pretty floral nose, peachy, crisp, fresh and dry with no diesel, but lots of cleansing acidity. I took a bottle home to drink with sushi.

2014 Gewürtztraminer – bright and spicy with tropical fruit, floral notes, and clean finish.

2013 Cabernet Franc – herbal/floral nose, grippy mouthfeel, chalky tannins, dry finish.

2012 Reserve Syrah – deep and full-throated plum and black fruit here with long, earthy finish.

After making our purchases, we re-boarded the bus. Back to Langley for lunch.

lelem’ 

Located in central Fort Langley near the fort and on the river across from the Qwantlen first nations reserve, lelem’ Arts and Cultural Cafe is chicly decorated with floor to ceiling windows, warm woods, etched glass and grey slate.

lelem' cafe
The space in which we sat serves as an art gallery, craft room, drum and yoga room. On Saturday nights they have jazz. On the other side of the fireplace was the main cafe with long wood table and leather armchairs.

lelem' lunchlelem' cafe frontWe were treated to some special dishes whipped up by chef Rocky.

There were brie and blueberry philo wraps, salmon cubes with green tea jam, nut covered, goat cheese balls, of cheese and spinach tarts,  coal slaw and pork, salmon and arugula, and  onion and mushroom flatbreads – all of it local sourced.

I paired my plate with Kalala chardonnay and it was perfect.

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality and diversity of the Campbell Valley wineries. They all have something different to offer and all of it is worth driving the relatively short distance from Vancouver.

Now that I’ve been to Campbell Valley I want to go back again soon.

How about you? Have you been to the Campbell Valley wine country? What was your favorite spot?

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Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.