For some time now I have been visiting CHABERTON ESTATE WINERY. My friend, Glenn Newby, suggested long ago that since we now have a recipe section, it would be wise to add in a winery review and possibly pair off the recipes with great wines. Well, that is what we did. So again I contacted Jennifer Hill, Marketing Administrator and a team member of Chaberton for 20 years, to go out for a visit. This lady knows as much about the wine industry as anyone you will talk too ... and equally charming.
My interview with her began with the obvious questions that lingered in my mind, how long has Chaberton Estate been here in the beautiful Fraser Valley and who created it? She told me that Claude Violet opened the vineyard in 1981 and began selling his wines ten years later. The estate was later purchased by Anthony Cheng and Eugene Kwan in 2005. They knew a good thing when they saw it and proceeded to invest a great deal of money into refurbishing the property, the vineyard and the tasting room as well as building the Bacchus Bistro (fittingly named after their flagship wine ... but we’ll talk about that in a bit). By this time Glenn had been hoisted up 20 or so feet in the air to get the background shot you see behind these words (in the printed magazine at least!). I yelled to him ‘How far back does it go?’ and he replied with a simple ‘Really far!’. Jennifer chucked and called Patrick Blandin ( Chaberton’s Vineyard Manager) over to join the conversation.
Overhearing this Patrick offered the information I sought with his ever-so-charming French accent (yeah, it was a perfect touch to the beginning of the visit ... and just goes with what you would expect at a vineyard!). Chaberton houses 48,000 plus vines within their 55 acre lot he told me. He then informed me that he came to Canada for an adventure after being a vineyard manager and viticulturist (the science and study of growing grapes) for many years in France. I quizzed him that it must be a huge job to take care of a vineyard this size, but he told me that Chaberton is about a quarter of the size of the vineyards he was used to taking care of, and that this is what he is enjoying. ‘Why?’ I asked him. Then he smiled and responded by telling me that here at Chaberton he can take care of his wonderful grapes much better than being on a European vineyard. Jennifer must have overheard this and repeated what is found on the front of their beautiful labels ‘Chaberton is one of the first and largest estate wineries in British Columbia. We have a legacy of being the oldest in the Fraser Valley, and we are proudly inspired by this heritage.’
On that note Jennifer escorted us to their gorgeous tasting room where we browsed for a moment looking at all of the wines to be tasted and purchased as well as the quaint items available for sale ... and then we indulged in a glass of red wine. My personal favourite is their Reserve Merlot which has a strikingly wonderful dry bouquet and slips down the throat with such ease. She agreed that the Merlot is a popular wine but that they also have a number of other top reds that are made on site by grapes mostly obtained from vineyards in the Okanagan Valley and stored in their ‘barrel room’ (shown on previous page at bottom right on a canvas mounted proudly above the hearth of the rustic fireplace that occupies one wall of the tasting room). Jennifer then led us thru the very cool walkways of the estate to this gigantic wooden door. And when I say gigantic I am being very serious ... the door must be at least 12 inches thick with walls to match. She explained that this is to maintain a perfect temperature so as to have the wine age as it is supposed to. The fragrance in that very large room was unbelievable. There are no words that I can put on these pages to explain the magnificent assault on my senses. This wonderful blend of wine and oak and age that danced around my nostrils was overwhelming. I just stood there for a moment to take it all in.
‘So where do you make these tasty wines?’ I finally asked. ‘Come with me.’ She replied, and we walked to the other side of the property where I could see two very tall buildings. The first building contained the filling, bottling, and labelling equipment necessary for production. How many bottles, you ask? Just over 55,000 cases (containing 12 bottles) per year. That’s a lot of vino! Upon opening that door to the second building I could see why it was so tall. Inside stood 15 tanks with the largest one being 14,000 Litres. But they paled in comparison to the 45,800 litre tanks outside! In total over 30 tanks are used for producing and storing the wines ... mostly the white wines, and of the white wines, mostly the Reserve Bacchus. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Bacchus is Chaberton’s flag ship wine and after tasting it I know why. It is a very aromatic, off dry white that is quite simply delicious. Like their other wines the Bacchus is available in the VQA locations (now including Save-On Foods) but this wine is available in the BC Liquors Stores as well.
Jennifer saved the most recent addition to the estate for last. We turned the corner, opened the door, and walked into the Bacchus Bistro. ‘Wow’ is all I can say. Do you know when you close your eyes and imagine this perfect place to have a gourmet dinner in a stunning bistro, then sip wine on a wooden deck overlooking a gorgeous vineyard while a very handsome staff caters to your every need? Well, my friends that is the Bacchus Bistro! I kid you not. I could spend all afternoon or evening in this space ... and was informed that many do. The only problem that this place has is having to politely ask patrons to leave at closing time. I then had the pleasure of meeting the chef, Ashley Chisham, seen at bottom right sharing a glass of wine with Jennifer. The menu he has created is surprisingly vast for such a quaint bistro, with a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Oh yeah, they also have a great wine selection 🙂
While walking out I noticed a large shelving unit that housed a number of beautiful glass containers with gold foil print on the front. Jennifer informed me that those are just a few of the 1200 plus awards that Chaberton has earned over the years.
Well, unfortunately, it was time for Glenn and I to pack up and head back to the office. We exchanged good-byes with all the wonderful people that work there and started heading toward the parking lot when suddenly a thought occurred to me ... so I turned and said to Jennifer ‘You really should offer tours to this place.’
She just smiled and said ‘We do.’