More than two decades ago, Frank Gregus and Maurice Hamilton set out on a venture as amateur home winemakers. Their cottage industry flourished into Pacific Breeze Winery in 2005, and since their first professional release in March 2007, their family-owned _garagiste_?or "garage winery"?has hauled in more than 50 international medals, including Intervin's "Best Winery of the Year" award in 2010. From grape to barrel, barrel to bottle, and bottle to kiddie pool, Pacific Breeze Winery's lavishes meticulous attention to each small-lot, handcrafted product. This diligence infuses every sip of robust reds and elegant whites, each of which begins its journey at premium vineyards across North America.
In 1993, Ms. Bonny Brown formed Grapefully Yours to bring the secrets of wine- and beer-making to the masses. Today, her dream is housed inside Grape Plus Wine Cellar, which is owned by Betsy Rong. Her staff walks customers through selecting and fermenting their chosen brew—a simple process that can treat palates to dozens of red, white, and fruit mist wines, which fuse juicy flavours such as banana and pineapple. An air conditioner's gentle breeze keeps mixtures cool on their journey from grape to wine before bottle-filling and corking machines ready potables to pour into wineglasses or empty ice-cube trays. Additionally, the staff can emblazon bottles with custom labels or dispense beer kits that let customers create bubbly lagers and ales.
What's proper etiquette for the queen's sommelier? West Coast Wine Education's John Gerum confronted this question head on when he served Queen Elizabeth II. Apparently he made the right choice, as he went on to pour wine for prime ministers, presidents, provincial premiers, and cultural icons during his 20-year career. Gerum's achievement distills three generations of fine-dining experience that was passed down from his father, a chef, and his grandfather, a maitre d'. Wine education was always his passion, so when starting out, he sought personal instruction from the master sommelier Andrew Lalibert? and demonstrated a palate refined enough to earn him membership and certification from the International Sommelier Guild. Gerum often merges his know-how with other wine educators to cultivate a roster of classes and hone their delivery. These experts join in delineating scotch terroir and describing the bouquet of a student's favourite pinot-stained shirt with an easy professionalism that has enthralled groups of up to 300 people. They share their expertise with casual drinkers and professionals during two-hour workshops, in consultation for store openings and events, and through appearances on Global TV.
With Langley's picturesque countryside as its backdrop, Neck of the Woods Winery concocts red, white, and sparkling wines using grapes grown primarily in the surrounding Fraser Valley. The facility takes advantage of the area's cool climate–which is similar to that of Northern France and Germany–to oversee the entire production process from pressing to bottling. After spending quality time with their maker or a court-appointed barrel, products migrate to store shelves throughout Fraser Valley and Vancouver, or stay right at home in the winery's tasting room. There, visitors pass through daily to sample the varietals, or hang out in the showroom, warmly stocked with rustic casks and a crackling fireplace.
The award-winning Ott & Murphy Wines outfits fortuitous palettes with otherworldly wines, handcrafted in the French winemaking tradition. From a waterside tasting room overlooking the Puget Sound’s Saratoga Passage and the Cascades beyond, you and a fellow burgeoning oenophile will sample 2-ounce pours of four wines from Ott & Murphy’s current stock. Leave unadventurous taste buds at home when sampling sips such as the 2008 tempranillo, a bright, fruity vintage wafting forth scents of berry, cola, caramel, and coffee, or the 2009 viognier, a dry Northern Rhone white blend that recalls violets, honeysuckle, and straw, supplemented by tastes of peach, apricot, melon, and minerals to form a vino that's both fruity and floral, like a popsicle shrub. Complement a night of imbibing by nibbling on two custom truffles, made with Ott & Murphy’s own tempranillo grape tears and silky-smooth chocolate tongue paint.
Tipplers who choose the Naramata Wine Tour will traverse the vineyard-lined vistas of the Naramata Bench, visiting five to seven wineries, such as Elephant Island Orchard Wines, Laughing Stock Vineyards, and Red Rooster Winery. The Kelowna Wine Tour leads libation lovers into the sun-soaked wealth of Kelowna's wineries, with such featured stops as the Mission Hill Family Estate and Quails' Gate. Guided by an expert in the ways of wining, both tours regale visitors with tales of grapedom and include chauffeured transportation, ensuring guests will save enough energy for decadent imbibing. Naramata pick-up and drop-off is at the Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa, about a five-hour drive from Vancouver; Kelowna pick-up and drop-off is at the Best Western Inn Kelowna, about a 4.5-hour drive.