Winemaking began around 1920 with wines produced from loganberries by the Growers’ Wine Company. The first modern commercial vineyard began in 1970, just south of Duncan.
A provincial government-funded trial, named the Duncan Project, assessed about 100 different varieties between 1983 and 1990, and identified Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega as promising varieties.
The Zanatta winery opened in 1992 and was the first of the modern wineries.
There are wineries spread over the southern half of Vancouver Island. Several wineries are in the Cowichan Valley, close to the town of Duncan. There are also producers close to Nanaimo, as well as in the Saanich Peninsula, with some close to the city of Victoria.
Several areas have local climatic conditions conducive to grape growing. Wineries in the Cowichan Valley are generally shielded from Pacific Ocean storms by nearby mountains, and have a long growing season with low frost risk. Although there are high amounts of precipitation from November through April, the summers are dry enough to require irrigation in most vineyards.
Several wineries source grapes from the Okanagan Valley. Varieties planted on Vancouver Island include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay, Ortega, Muller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and many others.