Stewardson winery produces exceptional wine

Hidden among a collision repair shop, a marine outboard sales and repair place, and an ICBC claims centre is New Westminster’s only winery. When you visit Pacific Breeze Winery, you won’t find grapevines snaking over a landscape of rolling hills, but you will meet some of New Westminster’s most passionate oenophiles, and taste some truly exceptional wine.

Pacific Breeze started five years ago, and today employs about 15 people including the two original partners – Frank Gregus and Maurice Hamilton. Frank and Maurice’s passion for wine was kindled years earlier with the purchase of a basic winemaking kit, and the discovery of a lively local wine community. Today, their wines have won an astonishing 34 awards at some very prestigious international competitions, including three “Best of Class” wines. 

Frank recently invited Will, Jen and I down to the winery for a private tasting and tour, where we not only got to taste Pacific Breeze’s distinctive wines, but also learned something about the business of wine and winemaking.

Inspired by the French Garagiste movement, which prizes bold flavours over less distinctive, more traditional flavours, Pacific Breeze makes “winemakers’ wine.” Garagiste-style vinters coax unique tastes from meticulously selected, high-quality fruit from noted vineyards. This is boutique wine, not your average mass-market liquor store fruitbomb.

You won’t find Pacific Breeze wines at your local BC Liquor Distribution Branch, but you can purchase it from the winery itself, and you can taste it at a few restaurants – notably La Rustica and La Lorraine locally and  Hart Houseand Horizons in Burnaby. It’s also available in New Westminster at Moonraker’s Beer and Wine, River’s Reach Beer and Wine, Queensborough Landing Beer and Wine, and Quayside Wine Cellars. 

Pacific Breeze hosts monthly wine tasting events, as well as private tasting parties at the winery. 

We tasted a variety of Pacific Breeze’s wines, from a sharp Chardonnay with an ambrosial scent to a stunning ‘Rhone Style’ red with hints of butterscotch. We loved the 2006 GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) and the Vins de Garagiste so much that we bought half a case on impulse. A sales model built on first plying customers with wine is rather effective!

Note: Thanks to Jen Arbo for contributing to this post.

Wine appreciation courses at Pacific Breeze Winery

New Westminster has a winery. I had no idea.

Pacific Breeze Winery, on Stewardson, is a small operation run by a couple of passionate oenophiles who began making wine in their basement with the support of a local wine club.

Here’s how Frank Gregus and Maurice Hamilton describe their work in a recent Province article:

We like to call ourselves a garage winery. We produce big, bold and powerful wines in our commercial warehouse in New Westminster. It’s high-end, high value, unique, handcrafted wine we make in small lots.

 – via Garage winery is revving up | The Province.

Pacific Breeze may be small (producing 3,000 cases a year) but they have won more than 30 medals and three “best in class” honours. Forty-five local restaurants have their product on the wine list.

But what’s really exciting to me is that Pacific Breeze also offers wine tastings and special teaching events. The next one is coming up next Wednesday (Jan. 14), about wine and cheese pairings. Only eight seats remain. The next event, Wine for Lovers, is on Feb. 11 – just in time for Valentine’s Day.