Wineries: Vancouver Island, Canada: Unusual Wines, Tough Growing Conditions

Jay and I were excited about visiting the wineries on Vancouver Island this fall because when we'd last gone there two years ago, we'd had some surprisingly good wines, most of which are very difficult to find outside of the area. The wineries on the Island are mainly small-production, family-run places where the owner or another family member is also likely to be pouring your wine, so they're good places to ask questions about the growing and production process.

Wine We Drink: Thirty Bench – 2007 Beamsville Bench Red

We lazily made our way towards the quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake stopping to take in a taste of the local grape in an area just south of the lake and west of the St. Catharines referred to as the Niagara Escarpment. This area has shale and limestone cliffs from the glacial movements that provide good drainage for the rain and melting snow and allows the roots of the vines to grow deep. Over 40 wineries have cropped up over the years further establishing the Niagara Peninsula as a strong appellation and the jewel in the VQA crown.

Wineries: Bodegas Ysios: Calatrava’s Riojan castle is crumbling.

Bodegas Ysios was one of the first wineries to be completed in the Rioja region by the parade of starchitects - designed by Santiago Calatrava in 2000 and opened to the public (by appointment only) in 2003. Liz and I visited the winery grounds during our first trip to Spain in 2003 when the estate vines were just tiny clusters of leaves on the ground. We actually stumbled upon this stunning structure as we peered across the valley from the hill town of Laguardia and since we were rushing from one town to the next (as always) we didn't have time to inquire about a tour. We did drive up to the building - drawn in by the contrast of the glittering aluminum roof and the bleached cedar walls with the granite and green mountain range behind.