It’s All about Fraser Valley Wines

Did you know that the Fraser Valley is home to approximately 30 vineyards and 15 wineries? The rich alluvial soil in the valley makes it the most fertile agricultural region in B.C. and the climate is very similar to Northern France. Cool season white grapes have proven to be successful in the vineyards of the Fraser Valley, but wine is also being crafted from both fruit and honey (known as “mead”).

A day trip to the Fraser Valley wine region is well worth the detour off Hwy 1 either on your way to or from Chilliwack. Let’s start our wine tour in Langley and head eastward through the Fraser Valley community of Abbotsford, on our way to Chilliwack.

Our first stop is at The Fort Wine Company. Located just outside of historic Fort Langley, this fruit winery makes wine from locally grown cranberries, apples, pears, blueberries and raspberries. The quaint wine shop offers tastings, cheese plates and also sells wine and gourmet food items to take home. http://thefortwineco.com/

From the Fort Wine Company, we are heading south to Domaine de Chaberton Winery on 216th St. in Langley. Domaine is the largest and oldest winery in the Fraser Valley, opening for business in 1991- although the first grape vines were planted back in 1983. In fact, when Claude Violet arrived from France in the late 1970’s, purchased the property and shared his plan of growing grapes and opening a winery in Langley, he earned the name “crazy French man” for what was thought to be a far-fetched idea. But he proved everyone wrong and now Domaine de Chaberton produces award winning white and red wines, with 50 acres of white grapes grown in Langley and red grapes sourced from growers in the Okanagan region of B.C. They offer public and private guided tours of the winery that include a walk to the vineyard, a glimpse into the winemaking process, a stop in the barrel room and of course a sample of award winning wine. Be sure to allow an hour at Domaine if you are planning on including a winery tour. http://www.domainedechaberton.com/

Just around the corner from Domaine de Chaberton is Township 7 Winery, on 16th Ave. With a tasting room and a five acre demonstration vineyard, Township 7 produces wine from both Langley and Okanagan grown grape varieties. An original 1930’s cottage completes the pastoral setting. http://www.township7.com/

Now let’s head east on 16th Ave to our next stop, Backyard Vineyards located on 232nd Ave. This Langley winery was formerly known as Neck of the Woods and has been around since 2009. Have a glass of wine outside under their fabulous new gazebo – a great idea! http://www.backyardvineyards.ca/?page_id=1547

Our next stop is all about the honey. Campbell’s Gold is an Abbotsford bee farm and apiary. Here you can learn about bees and honey making, tour the facility and taste a sample of mead, an ancient wine made from honey. An onsite gift shop sells honey, mead and related items such as beeswax candles. http://bchoney.com/

Last on our stop before we get back on Hwy 1 is Lotusland Vineyards on King Road in Abbotsford. This small winery produces organic wines and offers private tours (for a fee) that include barrel sampling.
Lotusland Vineyards also participates in WOOOF (worldwide opportunity to work on an organic farm) so if you are looking for a different vacation experience, contact the winery. http://www.lotuslandvineyards.com/

Yes, there are more wineries in the Fraser Valley worth checking out – that is for another time. So, book a room in the historic Royal Hotel in Chilliwack and round off your trip with a Fraser Valley wine tasting experience. Remember to taste responsibly. Better yet have a designated driver or book a tour with one of the many tour operators offering winery excursions.


thanks for permission from Wine Tours (winetourhandbook.ca) for use of their map

It’s Corn Time in Chilliwack

Corn season in Chilliwack is here! Also known as maize, scientists have determined corn has its early roots in Mexico beginning around 7000 years ago. From Mexico corn was introduced to the United States and Canada about a thousand years ago as the native population migrated north. Corn was an important crop to native Americans. In addition to playing a major part of their diet, the rest of the corn plant proved to be important, as well. Husks were woven into useful items such as baskets, dolls and sleeping mats. Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing corn to Europe after his voyage to the new world.

According to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, B.C. produces an amazing 18 million kg. of corn per year, a mere 5% of the total Canadian production! Chilliwack is well known for it’s corn, with a high sugar content and tender, crunchy kernels. The varieties grown in Chilliwack include the early “peaches and cream” and the later sweet” jubilee” corn, both worth getting stuck in your teeth!

Labour Day weekend marks the first annual Chilliwack Corn and Country Music Festival at Fantasy Farms on Gibson Road. Held at the farm August 31st and September 1st, the event offers something for the whole family to enjoy. While there will be corn (a given) you will also find live country music, bbq food ,corn games, fresh farm produce, a beer garden and a family fun zone. Click on the link for more information. http://chilliwackcornandcountrymusicfestival.ca/

So, pack up the kids and head to Chilliwack Labour Day weekend for corn, country music and friendly folks in the Corn Capital of B.C. Need a place to stay? Don’t forget the historic Royal Hotel in downtown Chilliwack where children are always welcome!

1999.029.013.033

TRIBUTE TO LONG TIME ROYAL HOTEL EMPLOYEE

Anthony John Britton, a long time Chilliwack resident born and raised here, passed away August 1st. Tony, as he was better known as, worked at the Royal Hotel for the Berry Family for a whopping 45 years! Serving in the Royal beer parlour, Tony earned the respect of both customers and fellow employees making many long-time friends during his tenure at the Royal.

Tony, along with his co-worker Jack Pulford also had their “fifteen minutes” of fame in 1952 while working at the Royal Hotel, when their photo appeared in newspapers. What caught the eye of the photographer was the sight of both men, donned in their white shirts and black bow ties wearing roller skates! Yes, they put on the skates as a form of protest – the liquor laws of the time had been changed to allow waiters to serve only one beer at a time per patron. The problem was, after a hard day’s work, patrons were thirsty and often finished their beers in a couple of gulps. The waiters could not keep up with demand. So, in protest Tony and Jack put on their roller skates in order to bring beverages quicker to the thirsty crowds. The roller-skate wearing waiters had to hang up their skates after a few days as their antics caught the attention of the liquor control board who promptly put on the brakes.

Tony is survived by a large family including his wife of sixty-four years Lorena Rose, six children, numerous grandchildren and extended family members. The Royal Hotel extends their sympathy to the family as they mourn the loss of Tony Britton.

1999.27.2 group Royal Hotel

Tony is pictured on the left in this photo from the Chilliwack Archives

Top Five Kid Friendly Activities in Chilliwack

Planning a trip to Chilliwack with the kids this summer? Rest assured there are plenty of kid-friendly activities to keep the younger ones happy, entertained and asking, “when are we coming back to Chilliwack”. I have compiled a list of kid-friendly (and adult approved) things to do while visiting Chilliwack. Keep in mind this list represents just a fraction of what Chilliwack has to offer for the young and young at heart. I invite you to come to Chilliwack, check out these ideas, visit places not mentioned, and compile your own top 5 list!

Cultus Lake Waterpark
Located near Cultus Lake, Cultus Lake Waterpark offers something for kids of all ages – from safe toddler pools to adrenaline rushing free-fall slides for the more adventurous. Located on site are picnic tables and a variety of food and snack options. Check out their website for more information. http://www.cultus.com/rides-attractions/

Blue Heron Nature Reserve
For those seeking a quieter back-to-nature experience a trip to the Blue Heron Nature Reserve will certainly fit the bill. The 325 acre reserve on the Vedder River is home to many walking trails where you can observe a number of heron nests, visit an interpretive Centre, a gift shop and during summer months the Nature Reserve hosts day camps for kids. http://www.chilliwackblueheron.com/

Sticky’s Candy
Ok, so maybe this option is not as healthy as the others but come on, we were all kids once. And who doesn’t remember heading to the candy counter with a dime or quarter in your palm eager to lay it down for something sweet and sticky. This old-fashioned type candy shop, located on Wellington in downtown Chilliwack is sure to bring back those candy shop or corner store memories. Sticky’s stock a great variety of old-time candy treats including candy necklaces that were my personal favourite as a kid. http://www.stickyscandy.ca/

Honeyview Farms
Well worth the short drive to Rosedale, Honeyview Farms offers a fun learning opportunity for all ages. The first thing you will see is their glass observation wall where 50,000 bees can be safely viewed from behind glass. You can watch as honey is extracted from the hives and also learn how important bees are to food production. There is also a gift shop on site selling the many varieties of honey produced at Honeyview Farms. http://www.honeyviewfarm.ca/

Chilliwack Corn Maze
Opening for the season August 16th, what better way to say “agriculture” than a trip to a Chilliwack farm. The Chilliwack corn maze has been around for 14 years offering a 12 acre corn maze to get lost in, hayrides, a corn train and farm animals. Get out to the country for an afternoon and experience Chilliwack farm life! http://chilliwackcornmaze.com/welcome/

Antique Oddities Abound in 105 year old Royal Hotel

IMG_1022Mounted on the wall behind the front desk in the Royal Hotel is an odd devise that attracts attention and puzzled stares from guests. “What exactly is that?” is frequently the question from curious guests. This contraption stirred my curiosity as well – I needed to find out exactly what it was and why it was behind the front desk.

First, let me do my best to describe the oddity. Measuring just over two feet long, 9 inches wide and 5 inches deep, the rectangular shaped oak box has a brass bell mounted at the top, in the centre. Just below the bell is a glass covered middle section. This glass door covers five rows of numbers from 1 to 15, with a metal arrow beside each number. Below the glass door are the same numbers, 1 through 15, a wooden button corresponding to each number. On the bottom of the oak box is a single wooden knob. Inside the glass section I found the manufacturer name inscribed “Cope and Son”, a large Vancouver electrical manufacturing company at the time.

It did not take long to discover that the odd looking oak contraption is called a “magnetic needle annunciator” and was frequently used in hotels and Victorian mansions. Invented sometime around 1870 and mounted behind the desk in a hotel (or in the kitchen of a Victorian home) before the use of telephones, the unit was used for quests (or the lady of the manor) to call for service. A button would have been located in each guest room. Pushing the button would immediately activate the magnetic lever on the annunciator and a clock-like hand would move to indicate which room required service. A bell connected to the wire would ring on the devise at the same time, alerting hotel staff. Once the guest was taken care of, staff would re-set the annunciator by pulling the wood button located at the bottom. Re-setting the unit would return the needle to the neutral position and the devise would be ready for the next guest’s request.

So, next time you are in downtown Chilliwack, drop by to see the annunciator (no, it is no longer in use) behind the front desk and also take a look at an early photo of the Royal Hotel front lobby (you can see the annunciator in the photo).