It’s another blistering hot summer day in Greendale, but at Willow Creek Vineyard a calm breeze is cooling the air.
Butterflies flit around the grapes that hang in tightly-packed clusters from their vines. There are 12 rows of cabernet foch, and the grapes are a deep indigo already.
Cabernet foch is a less common, older variety, Cindy Stiffon explains on a slow meander through her property. They’ll be ready for harvest soon, but aren’t quite sweet enough yet. For now though, they create the perfect backdrop for a summer’s day in the country. And that’s exactly what the public is invited to do on Saturday, as they take part in the Greendale Country Sampler.
Like all the stops on the annual, self-guided tour, the offerings at Willow Creek Vineyard are diverse. The vineyard recently has branched out to host weddings and other gatherings, and the property will be staged on Saturday to give an idea of what they can offer.
At the end of the rows of grapevines, for example, stands a silver cottonwood tree that’s at least a century old. Guests can sit in the natural shade of the tree, while rustic barrels, stumps, and items like an old decorated door, have been strategically placed to add to the country charm. Private garden spaces dot the property, as guests are invited to stroll around, take photos with the lilies, dahlias and other flowers Stiffon grows there. And as the name implies, a creek running behind the vineyard is lined with massive, drooping willow trees.
This summer, Willow Creek hosted its first few weddings, as one of the newest venues in the Fraser Valley.
“Our first bride, she really took a leap of faith,” Stiffon says. When she booked her wedding, the property seemed far from ready. The main building that houses small dinners, a dance floor, a bar and kitchen, didn’t even have siding on it yet.
But there was no reason to worry. By the time her big day came around, Willow Creek was more than she had ever expected.
Stiffon is an interior designer by trade, and her skills are evident everywhere.
“We’re girls, we’re all about the pretty,” she says, peering into the bathroom of the indoor venue. This bathroom (which is wheelchair accessible) is for the brides and other women, she says with a giggle, while the men get relegated to porta-potties.
They’ve also built a full industrial kitchen, with an inviting bar that adds to any social gathering. And this bar has a special touch.
As can happen with large trees, one of the willows came down in an ice storm. A friend of Stiffon’s turned a slab of that willow tree into a beautiful, raw edge bar top.
She has also had cutting/serving blocks made out of the willow’s wood, and they will be available to purchase during the sampler, along with walnuts, sunflowers, and other goodies.
“We use everything that grows here,” she says, adding that they’re also certified organic. “We can pick an apple and just eat it.”
While Stiffon will be leaving the venue partly staged from the most previous wedding — her neice’s — she will also be hosting Susie Quilts, whose beautiful creations will be on display inside.
This wil be the 10th annual Greendale Country Sampler. It was started as a way to promote businesses in the rural, light traffic area. It offers Greendale residents a chance to get to know their neighbours, while drawing in visitors from all over the valley.
“Originally when we started it was a lot of local Chilliwack people that would come out,” says Tawnya Walsh, owner of Rustic Soap Co. and one of the event organizers. “Now we get a lot more from places like Langley and Vancouver.”
Being on the Circle Farm Tour has really boosted Greendale’s profile. But so has the growing list of high-quality specialty businesses in the community.
From artisan goat cheeses to an internationally-known quilt shop, and farms that offer products straight from the field, shopping in Greendale is a memorable experience.
Each of the stops on the tour will have a Greendale Sampler Sign, and each location will have a map visitors can take with them to guide them through the community.
“There’s going to be a lot of tours and demos and sampling,” Walsh says. “Local Harvest is offering free u-pick raspberries that day which is pretty cool, also fresh fruits and veggies.”
Many places will have a shady spot to sit and enjoy a picnic of goodies found along the way.
Of special mention would be the Five Acres Ranch, Walsh adds.
“It’s the one garden that’s not actually open to the public,” she says. “It’s just their personal home and gardens, and they do such a lovely job.”
So, choose a location to start at, pick up your map and wind through the pastoral area, visiting farms, stores and attractions along the way.
Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey Ltd.
Offering bee demonstrations at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and honey and product sampling throughout the day.
Willow Creek Farm
Tour their vineyard, building and gardens. Items for sale, and Susie Quilts on site.
Local Harvest Market
Take a ride on their barrel train (no fee) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free u-pick raspberries and other samples throughout the day.
Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve
Enjoy self-guided walks, remember to bring your binoculars for a better look. Take a stroll along the paths or discover the Rotary Interpretive Centre
Enjoy a peaceful stroll through their gardens, with some new additions and forested property. Bring a picnic lunch or purchase a healthy snack and take a quiet break.
Anita’s Organic Mill
Learn about fresh, organic, whole grain flours and enjoy food sampling throughout the day.
Rustic Soap Co.
Hear about the soap making process, sample handmade lotions, and check out their supply of herbal saps, bath and body care products, including soy candles.
Chilliwack Corn Maze
View the farm’s animals, enjoy the hay bale maze, and take a Corn Train ride.
Smits & Co.W
This family owned and operated dairy farm and processing facility will be holding dairy and barn tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Pottery by Kelly
See Greendale’s artistic side with wheel throwing demonstrations at this hobby potter’s home studio and kiln.
Happy Days Dairy Heavenly Cheese
Visit this goat milk and cheese processing plant to enjoy samples, and tour the plant.
Get a closer look at this successful working family farm. Sample their delicious cucumbers (while supplies last), and pick up freshly harvested vegetables.
Hamels Fabrics is a truly “Quilting in the Country” experience. Look through 5,000 bolts of fabric, quilt kits & lots of other wonderful treats for the quilters. More than 150 quilt samples hang in the shop.
For more information, visit the Greendale Country Sampler website.