A young Nanaimo family is bringing a dormant winery back to life, continuing on the dream of the man who planted the grapes decades ago.
The Chateau Wolff Estate Winery is glistening with ripening grapes as pre-harvest work gets underway and the Riga family can’t help hoping the original founder of the winery, the late Harry Von Wolff would be proud.
When you’re welcomed by the likes of Tony the panting bulldog and 2-year-old Siena Riga it’s not hard to feel right at home at the Riga family’s Chateau Wolff Estate Winery.
“There’s just something about it, it’s such a magical place,” says Siena’s mom and Chateau Wolff co-owner Natalie Riga.
As the 5 acres of vineyards nestled in a hot valley along Nanaimo’s Maxey Road ripen, it is also the fruition of a man’s lifework. The late founder Harry Von Wolff, who planted it all and cleared the land of trees two decades ago.
“I think everybody that has a dream wants to see it continue,” says Bruce Jansen who works at Chateau Wolff. “And I think Matt and Natalie are just doing a great job doing that.”
“I hope so I actually think about it from time t time you know there’s so much of his history here,” says Natalie Riga.
The vineyard had gone done dormant and overrun when Wolff died in 2005. When Natalie and Matt Riga were looking to relocate from Ontario to start a young family they say this spot chose them as much as they decided on it.
“It’s an absolutely amazing experience to be able to do this, work the land like this,” says Matt Riga.
“Basically taking over a derelict vineyard and you know two years later they’re into their second harvest and third harvest,” says Bruce Jansen.
All while keeping Wolff’s name on the wine and his hat hanging in the tasting room where they found it. But now they are the ones seizing the opportunity that he saw for this area all along.
“It’s one of the warmest sites on Vancouver Island so it does have a lot of potential,” says Natalie Riga.
John Nelder of neighbouring Millstone Estate Winery says Wolff would be proud of his vision of winemaking in this area, coming true.
“Oh there’s tonnes of potential in Nanaimo and we’re growing some great wines around here that I think are very close in comparison to what you get down in Cowichan,” says Nelder. “The weather we’ve had over the last couple of summers have been comparable to Napa valley which is incredible.”
Carrying on a dream planted in this vineyard decades ago, that’s aged to perfection now for this young family to enjoy the spoils of all that work.