Readers, buy this mouth-watering treat

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June 19, 2013

Island Wineries of British Columbia (updated and expanded)
Edited by Gary Hynes
Contributors from EAT Magazine
Photographs by Rebecca Wellman
TouchWood Editions, 256 pages, $29.95.

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

This book was first published in 2011 and won the 2012 Gourmand International Wine Books Award for Canada, among other accolades. That a revised edition was deemed necessary is a testament to the growth in wine-producing on Vancouver Island.

The volume is a visual treat that will whet anyone’s appetite for the marvels that can be produced in our own back yard, from the Saaanich Peninsula to Sooke to the Cowichan Valley and beyond. Port Alberni has wineries. Saturna and Saltspring have wineries. So much is happening in regard to local food and drink, and Island Wineries of British Columbia provides an excellent introduction not only to wine from grapes, but also to wine from other fruit, plus mead, cider, and spirits. There’s even a selection of recipes featuring local ingredients—and suggestions for wine pairings. Chai Tea Honey Cake with Summer Fruits (suggested beverage—Venturi-Schulze Brandenburg No. 3 or a sparkling wine or blackberry dessert wine) is next on my baking list.

Hynes has assembled a huge amount of information by various writers, experts in the topics and, perhaps even more important, lovers of the local. Larry Arnold gives a short history of Island wines; Adam Tepedelen describes the Island wineries, often by using the words of the growers and vintners. Jeff Bateman, Treve Ring, and Adam Tepedelen explain the varieties of grapes; Julie Pegg gives us recipes sources from local restaurants. Kathryn McAree suggests some touring routes, and the volume concludes with a list of restaurants featuring Island wines.

Island Wineries of British Columbia is useful for beginner and expert alike, and the gorgeous photographs of Rebecca Wellman add to the mouth-watering effect. This book is marked by the sheer exuberance of the contributors: drink and food are pleasures, and to explore the pleasures of Island offerings is relatively easy. And the overall message is that what we have here is different from what is available from other wine-producing areas. The terroir changes the taste, as do the weather and the skills of the wine-maker. Over and over, wine-makers assert the challenge of making wine in BC. The growing season is short compared to, say that of the Okanagan. But the mild winters create an advantage in protecting vines. White wines, especially bubbly, tend to be more successful than red, but the local growers and vintners are in a constant state of experimentation and openness to what may work.

And the wine world on the islands is new. While people have made wine for ages, the business of it is only about twenty years old. What is being made is remarkable and testifies to the dedication of the people involved and the natural gifts of the regions.

Island Wineries of British Columbia would make a lovely gift for those interested in local fare. Buy one for yourself and one (or more) to give away.

Candace Fertile is a voracious reader who also enjoys food and wine.

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