Earlier this month, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival brought hundreds of wineries from around the world to the city for a week-long celebration of wine. But if you missed out, or couldn’t spring for the pricey tickets, don’t despair. There’s plenty of great wine still out there, and you don’t have to travel all the way to the Okanagan Valley to experience BC’s wineries and free wine tastings.
Greater Vancouver, in particular the rich farmland of Richmond and Langley, is in fact home to multiple wineries that produce a variety of reds, whites and berry-based wines and liqueurs. Many of these wineries are relatively new, but some are already garnering awards on the national and international level. And the best part, for those who enjoy an occasional tipple, is that these wineries often offer free tastings to visitors.
Among the most ambitious of the Greater Vancouver wineries is Lulu Island, located off of Westminster Highway in Richmond. The facility is situated on 14 acres and has multiple tasting rooms and a newly planted vineyard (For now, all grapes are shipped in from the Okanagan and berries brought in from the Fraser Valley). The winery, which combines Western technology with traditional Chinese wine-making, specializes in red and white table wines, blueberry and raspberry fruit wines and even makes its own ice wine (fermented from grapes plucked in the middle of winter).
Lulu Island winery is also famous for serving as the official China House during the Olympic Games. Chinese TV reports were broadcast from the tasting rooms and Chinese medal winners were honored at nightly celebrations.
Lulu Island is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers free tastings for visitors. Stop by in May to try out their 2009 vintages: Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage and Pinot Noir.