By Nicole Fitzgerald
Winemaker Patrick Bradner chuckles at one row of less than sprightly grape vines growing outside of the Pemberton Valley Vineyard and Inn. Two frosts in May burned grape buds, shrinking them back to a second start.
Bradner didn’t anticipate Pemberton’s spring and early October frosts when first breaking ground, but he hopes a canopy concept will help his Marechal Foch, Pinot Gris and Schonberger grapes thrive.
The hearty hybrid Marechol Foch greens lustfully on one side of the vineyard, while others such as the Schonberger prove more fickle.
But there is always some good in every situation — Pemberton’s cool climate resulted in the vineyard uncorking a local Pinot Gris ice wine.
Win some, lose some; grape growing in Pemberton has become a bit of a science project for Bradner, but his hard work is paying off.
We swished and swirled glasses of the vineyard’s Tantalus wine. Light tannin with only a little pucker, the wine was as easy going as the laidback nature Pemberton is famous for.
Of the 5,000 bottles of wine produced every year by the vineyard, 500 are pulled from Pemberton soil with Okanagan grapes filling in the gaps.
My private wine tasting among the grape vines was part of the grand opening celebrations at The Vineyard Restaurant last weekend.
Guests chatted over glasses of Pemberton Valley Vineyard Chardonnay and Merlot/Cabernet blends on the outdoor patios overlooking Mount Currie, still dressed in snow, rows upon rows of sprouting vines and acres of farmland in the distance framed by sunny blue skies.
The setting and views alone are worth the 30-minute adventure north from Whistler.
Inside, the sold-out party was bustling as guests roamed among local artwork, sampling mini previews of what diners can expect from The Vineyard Restaurant.
Beautiful breads, vibrant grilled vegetables and fresh crab took centre stage. Everything was prepared simply, leaving the fanfare to the product itself as quality ingredients shone through unfussy, down-to-earth preparation.
The modest garden of herbs and vegetables in front of the restaurant is just beginning to take root. Chef Ryan Leitch aims to put one vineyard ingredient on every plate served at the 20-seat dining room. Fruit trees will soon provide filling for summer pastries and vines will produce new grapes for fall crushing.
The menu will revolve around seasonal product. Instead of a la carte, guests will order from a set, four-course menu with three choices under each course, enabling chefs to plate whatever is freshest at the time.
Local is the inspiration behind this successful restaurant recipe, from spring vegetables and a kitchen staff of only three people to the local artwork hung on the wall and the vineyard’s winemaker pouring your glass of wine.
The Pemberton Valley Vineyard and Inn is personable and breathes in like a sunny afternoon after rain.
The fresh getaway is distinctly country with a quaint log-cabin frame work, open-kitchen set up and a warm, unpretentious setting of wood and white linens — but the restaurant leaves the hay bails to paintings hung on the wall.
Original artwork from Pemberton Arts Council members Karen Love, Lynn Pocklington, Vanessa Stark, Lisa Komuro and Mike Tyler adorn the rich wood walls, springing to life with purple orchids, birds flying across sun burnt skies and wolves staring out with yellow eyes.
The vineyard sparkles with charm. A trip to the new hideaway makes you feel as if you were getting to know more than just good food and wine, but Pemberton itself.
Visit whistlerwine.com to make reservations or call 1-877-444-5857.