Meghan and Harry will have fine wineries aplenty on their doorstep when they retreat to Vancouver Island.

For the last few years I have had to explain carefully where my son moved to after his marriage to my lovely Canadian daughter-in-law.  First they lived in Vancouver, which most people know is a busy, beautiful city, and then they moved to Vancouver Island, where Victoria, the capital of British Columbia is a small, quiet, historic city.

Now that Harry and Meghan have moved to Canada the whole media world has descended on Vancouver Island.  Most residents hope that the excitement will soon disappear although there is a great interest amongst young families in the possibility of play dates with Archie.

Apart from the stunning scenery and lovely remoteness of Vancouver Island there is a definite British feel to the place and there are several Yorkshire connections to Victoria.

On a plinth overlooking the harbour is a statue of Captain James Cook who landed on the island in 1778 to take on supplies and repair his ship during his search for a Northwest Passage to the Atlantic.  Then there is the magnificent Parliament building, designed and built by Francis Rattenbury who was born in Leeds in 1867, trained as an architect and at the age of 24 headed to the new province of British Columbia. He entered an architectural competition to build the new legislative building and won.  Seven years later and greatly over-budget, the impressive domed building that has a distinct look of Castle Howard about it, was opened.

He went on to build various monuments and grand hotels including the chateau-style Empress hotel, right next to the parliament building.

Another connection with Yorkshire is the Diamond Jubilee window installed in the Parliament building in 1897, designed and made by Powell Brothers of Leeds.

Meghan and Harry were on the island when I was there for Christmas but no one was really bothered by their presence.  While they may be happy holed up in a luxury mansion they might want to get out and about and there are plenty of wineries that they could visit.

Vancouver Island is almost three times the size of Yorkshire, with a population of just 800,000 people, which leave a lot of space for trees, mountains and wilderness. This really is the place to get away from it all, although Vancouver is just a 20 minute float plane ride away, harbour to harbour, while the ferry takes a couple of hours, but it is a stunning route and provides the chance to spot orca whales alongside the boat.

Most vineyards on Vancouver Island are on the eastern side of the island, protected from the Pacific winds and rain by high, wooded hills.  Winters are moderately cold, usually with some snow, but summers are long and warm, never hot.  The proximity of the sea moderates day to night temperatures, so grape flavours are soft and rounded, with good ripeness and balance. The main grapes grown on Vancouver Island are Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Maréchal Foch. Much of the production stays on the island or ends up in Vancouver restaurants with only a tiny amount being exported although one of the best producers on the island, Averill Creek Vineyard is making a determined effort to export to the UK.  Owner Andy Johnson is originally from Wales and would love to see his wines on UK shelves.  He makes a seriously good Pinot Noir with gentle, strawberry fruit and pronounced aromas and a creamy rounded Pinot Gris.

Most vineyards are around an hour’s drive from Victoria in the Cowichan Valley, but there are some right on Meghan’s doorstep.  The closest to the royal retreat is Church and State, which not only grows grapes and makes wine, it also does yoga sessions in the vineyards and has a splendid bistro overlooking the vines.

Also close by, Marley Farm Winery, originally owned by a second cousin of legend Bob Marley, makes fruit wines as well as grape wines on their 5-acre plot and Archie might like an outing to see their geese and sheep used to keep the vineyard grass and weeds under control.

Further afield Blue Grouse Estate Winery offers a range of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines, with some sparkling wine also in production.  Just a short ferry ride away on Salt Spring island, even more remote than Vancouver Island, but a popular holiday island, Garry Oaks winery is planted on terraces in a beautiful location and makes soft, elegant Pinots and some sparkling wine.

Just an hour’s flight away by scheduled plane or private jet, the main wine production region in British Columbia is the Okanagan Valley.  This is centred around the long, deep, glacial Okanagan Lake which never freezes and has a direct influence on the local climate.  Lying east of the coastal mountain range this is a region with low rainfall and long sunny days and winegrowing is a developing business.

Here there are many large mansions occupying lakeside plots which give privacy along with great views.  I was allowed to stay in one last summer and I must admit the millionaire lifestyle is tempting.

While there Harry and Meghan could eat at some of the best winery restaurants in the area.  Mission Hill, Home Block at Cedar Creek, Quail’s Gate, Burrowing Owl and Terrafina at Hester Creek are all recommended.

Vancouver Island may make a perfect quiet retreat for Harry and Meghan and the locals have certainly welcomed them.  The main problem will be if Canadians end up footing the bill for their security.  Meanwhile if the youngest member of my family gets invited for a play-date with Archie, I’ll let you know.

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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