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The Fraser Valley's microclimate has produced some of BC's finest vineyards outside the Okanagan, with award-winning wines, artisan winemaking and eclectic tasting rooms

Over the years, the Fraser Valley has become more than a blip on BC wine lovers' radar. It has grown — literally — in our backyard (new plantings, increased production, plus an augmentation of licensed wineries) into a well-respected wine region.

40 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, the come-hither rolling countryside and rural hospitality are as inviting as a front porch swing. The Fraser Valley is one of five main growing regions or Designated Viticultural Areas (DVA) in BC with over 20 wineries, and a variety of specialty gourmet and farm gate shops. Cool climate varietals like Chardonnay, Bacchus and Pinot Noir thrive here.

A Langley wine tour has all the makings of the perfect day trip for dining al fresco, market shopping, and exploring local libations. Easily accessible off Highway 99, here are just five South Langley wineries to get your swirl and sip started.

Backyard Vineyards

3033 - 232nd St, Langley; 604-539-9463

We had a "Nosey Neighbour" in our backyard last week; on the deck, in a stemmed glass of course. And as we tasted the signature white at Backyard Vineyards, Tara McNeill, marketing manager, knew that her tongue in cheek response, "thankfully, they'll never wear out their welcome," would make us smile. So, too, did the delightful lemon notes and fresh crisp Pinot Gris, Riesling, Siegerrebe, and Gewürztraminer 2011 blend.

Their Story

Formerly Neck of the Woods, Backyard Vineyards uses combined grapes from the Fraser Valley and the South Okanagan and is 100% VQA and 100% varietal based. They handcraft, age and bottle all of their wines on-site.

Highlights

- Signature wines: Pinot Gris, Nosey Neighbour white (great apéritif), Meritage, and Zweigelt

- 2010 Meritage: Mellow, rich, red fruit with deep chocolate edge to the finish

- Blanc de Noir Brut (NV): Flagship bubbly, crisp, light, bright fruit-citrus

- Events: Summer BBQ at the Winery on July 27

- Gift baskets and cranberry jalapeno pepper jelly

- Fully covered patio/gazebo, perfect for picnic lunches

- Tasting room/gift shop open year-round

Township 7 Vineyards & Winery

21152 - 16th Ave (at 212th St), Langley; 604-532-1766

When your winemaker's name is Bradley Cooper, you know that's bound to raise a few eyebrows. At Township 7, Deb Funnell, tasting room host, tells us that people often comment on the winemaker's celebrity namesake — naturally, it makes him easy to remember. Equally memorable is their award-winning wine — old-world inspired, small lot production, high-quality wine, and crafted with sustainably grown hand-harvested grapes.

Their Story

Five-acre property established in 2001 (Langley) and 2003 (South Okanagan), the winery/tasting room is housed in a 60-year-old horse barn, and reflects the abundance of neighbourhood riding stables.

Highlights

- Renowned for Merlot and Chardonnay (French & American oak and unoaked; Unoaked Chardonnay 2011: clean but lush, crisp citrus notes, works well with chicken and seafood; Chardonnay 2010: caramel, stone fruit, honey on the palate, and will welcome cream based dishes like butternut squash ravioli)

- Reserve 7 2008: Bordeaux style, 75% merlot, rich black current, long finish

- Full-bodied blends with grapes sourced from sister winery on Naramata Bench

- Other top varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris; exceptional sparkling wine and dry, Provence style Rosé

- Self guided tours, daily tastings, picnics

- Culinary festivals and events like Art in the Vines on August 25 (over 30 artisans showcasing local wares)

Domaine de Chaberton Estate Winery

1064 - 216th St, Langley; 604-530-1736; Bacchus Bistro: 604-530-9694

In the wine shop at award-winning Domaine de Chaberton, oak barrels make up the room's end-to-end tasting bar, where we sampled the highly acclaimed signature Bacchus (German varietal, off dry, lively citrus, crisp finish); we're told that some Bacchus is harvested from the nearly 30-year-old vines from the original planting. Also notable is the medal-awarded 2011 Gamay Noir, a fruit forward patio sipper, lots of berries (cranberry) and smooth finish, ideal for Italian dishes.

Their Story

With nine generations of grape growing under their belt, it's no surprise Domaine de Chaberton was the first winery in Langley (opened in '91) and remains the largest (50 vineyard acres), with production in excess of 50,000 cases a year. The adjoining Bacchus Bistro overlooking the charming bucolic vineyard, under chef Ashley Chisham, spins a modern French freshness, sourcing local seasonal ingredients with daily table d'hôte menus and wine pairings.

Highlights

- New Bacchus Dry vintage returns after one-year absence, classified as "100 Mile Vancouver Diet" wine

- Recent release, 2011 Canoe Cove Barrel Reserve Chardonnay, perfectly balanced with a buttery smooth finish

- Slow cooked, braised lamb shoulder, pairs flawlessly with Canoe Cove Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot

- Events like BBQ picnic on August 5 and September 2

- Over 20 wines all 100% BC VQA, daily complimentary tastings, winery tours

- Boxed wine sets, large selection of quality stemware, decanters and wine-related items plus elegant gift baskets from $29.99

- Customized private labels (including wedding labels), personalized with names, dates, logos, drawings, and photos

Krause Berry Farms & Estate Winery

6179 - 248th St, Langley; 604-856-5757

Ted Bowman, resident winery manager at Krause Berry Farms & Estate Winery, invites us to saddle up (truly, bar stools are reclaimed saddles) to the tasting bar, pours sparkling strawberry wine into a cowboy boot tasting glass and says "drink up — it goes down easy." After all, there are no preservatives in their fruit wine, the gist behind his remark — "we're here for a good time, not a long time."

Their Story

Owners Alf and Sandee Krause have been growing some of the Fraser Valley's best strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries since 1974 — berries that now produce their refreshing fruit wine (plus apples they source from neighbouring farms), for their Estate Winery, which opened in late May.

Highlights

- The slushy winerita: blended ice with your choice of fruit wine

- Western themed tasting room and wine-related gift shop with items both functional and fun (think cocktail napkins with sayings like "My book club only reads wine labels")

- Production total is approximately 10,000 cases: table, dessert, and sparkling wines

- Plans to open winery cooking school in the fall

- Events like wine tasting and dinner from Cookies Kitchen, Thursdays til 9 p.m. with live entertainment in the KB Corral

- SKY Helicopters "flightseeing" adventures at 1,000 feet, $29.95

- The Big Blue Market with the famous "Wall of Pies" and signature sweets/savouries

- U-Pick flower garden, $9.99 includes takeaway vase

- Custom-made, painted cowboy boots tell the story of the farm

Vista D'oro Farms & Winery

346 - 208th St., Langley; 604-514-3539

Marketing ploy aside, as their 2008 Murphy's Law label suggests, Vista D'oro owners Patrick and Lee Murphy's attempt to turn the law on its head (complete with upside down printing) to prove once and for all that "everything that can go right, will go right," has prevailed.

Their Story

The Murphys relinquished the corporate grind to follow their passion — provide an ultimate agritourism experience, grow culinary grapes and herbs, make small batches of handcrafted wines with traditional techniques and old world values, and carry that method through to create seasonal artisanal preserves. (Lee is a culinary diploma certified Jam Master).

Highlights

- Top varietals include: Schonburger, Siegerrebe, Marechal Foch, Ortega, Pinot Gris

- Flagship wine 2007 D'oro: a fortified Bordeaux-type blend walnut wine

- First estate grown wine: 2011 Marechal Foch; 100% BC/VQA wines

- Heritage variety of orchard fruits, apples, pears, plums and cherries

- Versatile seasonal line of artisanal preserves: Think plum with vanilla and star anise to dress up grilled chicken

- Events like the Campbell Valley Wine Route Festival on August 10

- Farmgate shop and tasting room (original farmhouse); picnics on the deck with wine pairing menus