You’ve met my younger sister, and now you get to meet my older brother! This is Mark and his lovely girlfriend Deidra; they drove all the way from Regina to visit family and friends in BC. It’s been SO nice seeing them, and I got to bring them along on one of my Richmond adventures. On yesterday’s agenda? WINE, WINE, and more WINE at Lulu Island Winery.
Lulu Island Winery was founded in 2009 by owners John Chang (also the master winemaker) and Alison Lu. They emigrated from Taiwan in 1998, and first began with Blossom Winery on Minoru Boulevard. The winery is named for the land on which Richmond sits, which was apparently named after a showgirl, Lulu Sweet, by Lieutenant Governor Richard Moody. That’s some juicy history, right there!
After running Blossom Winery, John and Alison graduated to a vast, 7 million dollar building that houses both production, a shop, and three tasting rooms, with 10 acres of Orange Muscat planted in the area behind; when they harvest them, likely later this fall, they’ll be the first ever grape vineyard in Richmond to produce their own vintage. This isn’t an easy task – they had to bring in six feet of dirt to build up the acreage so the vines wouldn’t sit in the area’s boggy soil.
With the exception of imported passionfruits, Lulu Island’s fruit wines are made entirely with local berries, and the frozen grapes for their ice wines come from the Okanagan in the middle of winter. During our tour, we watched as crates of freshly-picked blueberries were unloaded and poured into a crushing machine.
Then the juice + skin + seeds travelled through a tube into a steel vat. There, they’ll ferment together, with the mixture being filtered later.
We also had a chance to see their brand-new bottling machine in action! Here’s a video showing the finished wine travelling from the vat, through a series of filters, to the machine where it’s bottled and corked:
After our tour of the production area, we moved on to the best part: TASTING.
Polly, our wonderful guide for the day, poured us a taste of almost every one of their red and white grape wines, as well as their fruit and ice wines.
Of the whites: the Viognier (2010, $25.95)
Of the reds: the Pinot Noir (2011, $22.95)
Of the fruits: the Cranberry (2007, $20.95)
Of the ice wines (for which they are most known): the Merlot Pinot Noir (2007, $95)
This last wine is especially significant because only Canada produces red ice wines; despite its sweetness factor of 21, it tasted less sweet than even some of the fruit wines, had a pale, rosy colour, and aromas of cherries and red currant. The Merlot Pinot Noir and Riesling Chardonnay ice wines are especially popular in China, which is a huge export market for the winery. Quality ice wines have a remarkable production; the grapes must be picked below -10 and -13 degrees celsius, and have to remain frozen right up to the point when they’re crushed.
Having sat on the vines for so many months, ice wine grapes lose a great deal of their moisture content; there’s far less juice to be pressed from the grapes, but that which is extracted is highly concentrated. This results in sweet, dynamic, and expensive bottles of dessert wine.
After the tasting, Polly poured us each our glass of choice which we took out to an arboured area, where you can bring your own food and enjoy a picnic with wine. On our way to the winery we picked up Vietnamese subs and salad rolls at Hue Cafe on No. 3 Road.
I’d hoped to gather cheese and meats at Gastronom European Deli, but they were closed (darn you, Mondays!) so we went with sandwiches from friendly Hue Cafe instead. The salad rolls ($5.35) were very fresh,
and the sandwiches (ham – $3.50, house special with ham and pate – $4.50, and chicken – $4.00) were good, though the ham and house special were a little bland. They could have used more mayo.
If I went back I’d order the grilled chicken sub, shrimp salad roll, and iced Vietnamese coffee ($3.50, my brother ordered it and I had a sip – so good!)
We enjoyed a lazy picnic in the shade, then headed back inside to pick up some bottles to take home.
I chose the cranberry fruit wine, which I’m going to save and drink in honour of Richmond’s upcoming cranberry harvest!
Thank you so much to Lulu Island Winery and Polly for the tour. We had a wonderful afternoon.
There are only a handful of countries in the world that produce ice wine, so if you’re visiting the lower mainland, I’d highly recommend a visit to Lulu Island. Cheers!
16880 Westminster Highway, Richmond BC
Retail and Tasting Room hours: open everyday, 10am – 6:30pm
Getting there: You can either drive, or take a cab from Brighouse Station (costs about $19 each way).
Cash and cards accepted