Vancouver Island is an island off of southwestern British Columbia; Victoria, the provincial capital, is on its very southern tip, Vancouver to the north-east, Seattle and Puget Sound to the south, and the Olympic Mountains in Washington stretching off to the southwest, dying away into the open Pacific. This is where I live.
The view from home.
Off of Vancouver Island, there are many other smaller islands; some of them are in Canada (the Gulf Islands), some in the US (the San Juans). One of my favourite is called Saltspring. It is fairly easily accessible from the city (just one short ferry, as opposed to two or even three), and is definitely a destination for those who enjoy good food. All manner of organic and biodynamic farms, bakeries, dairies, wineries, herb gardens, and more.
I’ve made a few trips there the past few years, always aiming to discover new places and revisit old favourites. Last summer, after returning from Summer Tour with the Cats and before heading back to New York, the family took a little island trip while we were all together at home.
We head straight to the Bread Lady to get there early while the selection is full.
Technically called Saltspring Island Bread Co., the Bread Lady is the renowned resident wood-fired-oven breadmaker. She makes all manner of loaves, levain boules, pizzas, pies, turnovers, and other pastries, on her property on a ridge commanding a wide view of the strait. It is worth a trip just for the view. But for goodness’ sake stay for the bread.
Unfortunately (and I should have checked up on this) she is closed on Sundays.
Luckily, we stumble upon a self-service roadside home-baked confectionery.
This is not a joke.
Why, don’t mind if we do. Honour system, of course.
Enjoying our pastry picnic in the party caravan, we continue onward to Salt Spring Island Cheese. They specialise in goat’s cheeses (their chèvre is truly something) but recently have been branching out into cow and sheep.
And what an opportune time for a family portrait.
This is the island life.
We walk around their facilities, peering in on the magic.
Then we go and buy a lot of cheese. A new development: truffled chèvre. That is definitely happening.
And the only thing to do after getting a bunch of cheese is to go get more cheese. So we head over to Moonstruck Cheese, where we sample some delicious aged hard cow and sheep’s milk cheeses, and settle on an alpine style and a blue.
Flushed with our prizes, we head to the south arm of the island to check out Sacred Mountain Lavender farm.
It was only mid-June so the season had just begun a few weeks prior. But already the air was like some diaphanous slip; English, French, Spanish varieties, sixty all, layered on each other, their relative depths shifting wherever you walk.
We talk with the owners for a while. The wife tells me she always thought the Spanish varieties look like ‘little knights’. I like that.
The wineries can wait no longer.
Salt Spring Vineyards (I swear not all businesses on this island are eponymous).
After exploring the rows of vines we head to the tasting room for a bit of fun.
They make some pretty interesting stuff. We start with a 2009 Aromata, made with a blend of auxerrois, sylvaner, and bacchus. It tastes like pear, bitter greens, and green apple.
Then is a 2010 Rosé – a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. It’s very light, and not sweet. This climate does wonders for drier, tarter profiles with subdued fruit aromas and vibrant acidity.
2007 Millotage. A blend of merlot and Marechal Foch. Spicy, cakey, almost like a tomato, with a lighter colour.
And then their Blackberry Port. It is made from just blackberries and boy can you taste it. They paired it with espresso Saltspring Island Chocolate.
We pick up a bottle each of the first two.
I wanted to go to Hastings House, a famous old inn on the harbour, for dinner, but it is a bit prohibitively expensive for five. Plus, we have all our cheese to eat! So we drive around a little more and head back to the ferry docks.
There are many more places we didn’t get to: Apple Luscious Organic Orchard grows incredible varieties of heirloom apples (and the owner is old friends of my dad, who knew); Stowell Lake Farm, this beautiful organic farm near the lake; Bigfoot Herb Farm, where they have all manner of herbs and aromatic plants, including some pretty rare and bizarre varieties; Salt Spring Gelato (just like it sounds); Artspring, an awesome gallery for island artists (there are many); other wineries like Garry Oaks and Mistaken Identity; and oh there are many more.
Can’t wait to get back here.