Pinot Noir grapes are mainly associated with Burgundy but Andy Johnston of Averill Creek Winery on Vancouver Island are putting Duncan on the global Pinot map.
Averill Creek is the largest estate grown vineyard and winery on Vancouver Island and they’re producing everything from Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer to a Foch Cab. “I’m a grape grower,” Andy told my media group earlier this spring. “Making wine is a bonus.” He, a former MD from Edmonton, and his wife Wendy founded Averill Creek in 2001 and have been growing grapes on the 40 acre estate ever since.
They began planting in 2002 using “a vertical shoot positioning system (Guyot) is used to allow for optimal photosynthesis, air circulation, and ripening.” With the region’s long, dry summers the southeastern slope of their property on Mt. Prevost is often several degrees warmer than the Cowichan Valley below. They have small-lot plantings even though they could potential yield more fruit from a number of their grape varieties. The winery sticks to a practice, and what would seem to be their mantra, of “quality over quantity”.
Andy is very proud of what they have accomplished at Averill Creek and they’ve done so in a very particular manner. They don’t crush grapes and they don’t pump wine. Everything is gravity-fed and pressed. They also do not use any American Oak and they only use screw-caps on their bottles.
His commitment to the grape and the purity of the process is definitely working. Averill Creek has been named “Victoria’s Best Local Winery” for 2013, according to readers of EAT Magazine and their pride and joy — the Averill Creek 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve — was named one of the top 25 wines from BC at the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards.
Our group got to sit down in at the winery and sample the Somenos Rose (2011), Pinot Grigio (2011), an Alsace-style Pinot Gris (2009), Foch Cab (2010) otherwise known as a fun “bubble gum wine”, and the Cowichan Black — a 100% blackberry wine. Of course we tried the Pinot Noir as well. “There’s 150 cases left in reserve and if I don’t sell it, I don’t care. It’s my drinking wine!” Andy joked and we all knew that of course, the bottles of this award-winning local Pinot Noir would soon be flying off the shelves.
As the President of the Wine Islands Growers Association Andy keeps pretty busy but you’ll probably spot him around the winery if you stop in for a visit (at 6552 North Road in Duncan). They have a tasting room and wine shop with outdoor seating for picnics and events.
Follow Averill Creek on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the winery and events around BC where their wine is being poured. You can find their wine in several local wine + spirit shops and buy online.