Fruit wines used to be the unloved siblings of BC’s celebrated grape-based wine sector. But times have changed. In recent years, a golden age of fruit wines has spread across the province. And one of the best places to discover just how delicious fruit wine can be, is right here in Richmond.
Located in east Richmond’s productive farmlands, Canada Berries is all about changing perceptions and introducing Canadian fruits abroad; and has spent almost two decades honing its craft and perfecting its processes. Focusing on fine berry wines, it has won kudos and accolades across the industry—especially for its signature, top-selling blueberry wines.
But it’s not all about blueberries here. The company also makes wine from raspberries, cranberries, blackcurrants and more—along with some elevated premium wines and three tempting icewines. The company’s berries are grown right here in BC, carefully sourced from farms in Richmond, the Okanagan, the Fraser Valley, and on Vancouver Island.
There’s more than just blueberry wine in the line-up at Canada Berries. | Photo: Canada Berries
With time to spare on a recent afternoon, we planned a visit to the winery’s wood-lined tasting room. Filled with wine bottles and wine accessories to buy, it’s like a boutique version of an Okanagan estate facility. There’s a warm welcome from the smiling staffers at the counter—and two main ways to try the wine.
Walk-ins can sip five one-ounce fruit wine samples from the Canada Berries range for just $5; but in-the-know wine lovers often track down an even tastier experience via the Groupon website. A $29 Groupon deal covers two people and includes an educational one-hour hosted tasting—complete with an informative wine talk, up to 10 wine samples, and a nibble plate of cheese, crackers, chocolates, and more. There’s also a four-person version of this deal for $49.
Keep in mind that after purchasing your Groupon, you still have to call the winery and book a time slot for your experience. Weekends are often very busy, so weekday visits are recommended. We were keen to try a diverse array of wines on our visit, so we took the Groupon route.
The Prince Blackberry is rich, bold wine. | Photo: Canada Berries
Sitting at the bar, we were hosted by Mynor, one of several friendly Canada Berries guides. A twinkle-eyed pourer with an array of entertaining stories, he provided lots of advice on how to taste wines effectively and what to pair each libation with. But it was the wines themselves that were the stars of the show.
We sampled the six berry wines that comprise the company’s core selection, starting with the flagship Blue Queen Special. This top selling blueberry wine made from hand-picked berries is smooth, fruity, and subtly sweet; the kind of multi-occasion bottle worth having on-hand for any meal. In contrast, the rosé-hued Princess Cranberry had both sweet and tart notes.
Next up, the Princess Gooseberry was a surprise. A white wine combining earthy undertones with tropical fruit flavours, it would be ideal with fish dishes. It was followed by the bold Prince Blackberry, a full, nicely rounded red. Then came the Princess Raspberry. With unabashed fruitiness, it would be a perfect sangria base, advised Mynor.
But my favourite was the aromatic Prince Blackcurrant. An intense, silky wine that perfectly balances its sweet and fruity notes, it transported me to the berry harvests of the Fraser Valley—and made me seriously consider a full-pour glass.
Friendly guides like Mynor make all the difference at a Canada Berries tasting. | Photo: John Lee
We moved on to the next set of samples. Sold in slender, icewine-style bottles, Canada Berries’ Royal Series takes the tasting session up a level. There are three wines in this premium group and although each is blueberry-based, there’s a surprising diversity of flavours. More complex than the core wines, they also invite slow, contemplative savouring.
We tried two of the series. The Blue King was a richly hued fusion of blueberry and merlot with a toffee-like aroma. And while we missed out on the Blue Queen Dry—it’s reportedly well-balanced blueberry wine with pleasing acidity—we loved the Blue Queen Gold, a delicious blend of sweet blueberries and tart cranberries. Both fruits are sourced from city farms, so this is arguably the ultimate Richmond wine!
Don’t miss the Royal Series, including the Blue Queen Gold. | Photo: Canada Berries
By this stage, we were slightly merry (this is your reminder to make sure you have a designated driver). But our lovely host, Mynor, poured us a sample of dessert wine—a rich, port-like libation that would be the perfect finale to any meal. He also offered us a bonus sample of icewine. Keep in mind this is not usually included with the Groupon deal, although you can pay to add it to your experience.
Both Ontario and BC are globally famous for their icewines, which are harvested from the vine when temperatures reach -8 degrees Celsius. And Canada Berries makes three flavourful versions of these decadent drinks. The Icewine Merlot is rich and sweet; the Icewine Blueberry/Merlot is smooth and lusciously fruity, but the Icewine Riesling—the one we sampled—was aromatic, honey-smooth, and wonderfully fruity. It was also the perfect way to toast our afternoon out at the winery.
Three different kinds of icewine are available at Canada Berries. | Photo: Crystal Solberg
If you go:
Open daily from 11:00am to 6:00pm, Canada Berries is located at 12791 Blundell Road in east Richmond. Wine is available for purchase from the Tasting Room (with discounts for case purchases), along with a few local products such as honey and honeycomb. You can also buy frozen and in-season fresh blueberries here, and later this year (possibly in time for Christmas) chocolate-covered blueberries and cranberries will be on offer.
Details on the Canada Berries Groupon deal can be found here; make sure you call ahead to book a tour time (48-hour advance notice is recommended during the summer).
Learn more about wineries and breweries in Richmond here.