The largest of all the Gulf Islands, the more I got to see of Salt Spring, the better I liked it. Not so small that you’d feel isolated, yet spacious and wild enough to let you feel that you’d got away from it all – and best of all – packed to the gills with exceptional small-batch businesses making lovely things. Each Saturday from Easter weekend through till the last week in October, you’ll find them – and many others – at the weekly market.
Mt Maxwell Coffee
When life points you towards a hippy in a yurt, roasting coffee beans, only a fool does not visit…. I had an excellent coffee at the lovely Auntie Pesto restaurant down on the boardwalk in Ganges village. Turns out it was blended specially for them by John over at the Mt Maxwell Coffee Roasters. I drove up to see him, tucked away on his farm up on Mount Maxwell. Trying hard to not run over the chickens scurrying around, I parked up and ventured inside the yurt for a tasting. I’ve written before about my frustration finding coffee that’s to my taste in Canada (not over-roasted and burnt) and this is perfect – a mellow, medium roast that has me cheering every morning when I make it.
Must have: The Black Crow espresso blend.
You can hear the Jersey cows moo-ing when you arrive at the Moonstruck Cheese farm. I must confess a love of Jerseys; their milk is so rich and fat it always makes the best butter and ice cream, which is why Julia Grace uses nothing but her own herd’s milk to make her award-winning organic cheeses. “Jersey milk is complicated,” she explained to me, “It’s so fat you need to gently blend it, it’s really a milk designed for small producers but it gives cheese with a sweetness and wonderful mouth feel.” Julia makes hard cheeses, French-style succulent soft cheeses and creamy blues too.
Must have: The Tomme D’Or somewhere between a Parmesan and a Cheddar and absolutely delicious.
When it comes to beauty products for me the more natural the better and if it’s organic and hand-made then I’m in heaven. So no wonder I flipped for these guys. The SaltSpring Soap Works began as a kitchen table hobby back in 1979 has grown into a family business creating everything from body gelato and lip balms to bath bombs and ultra-moisturising body souffle. I love that it’s a family concern; founder Linda still creates her skin-loving products, alongside her son Gary, who makes soap every day, daughter-in-law Amber and also her grandson Owen who’s begun experimenting with making bath bombs.
Must have: the Rose d’Amour soap. Creamy with a gentle petal-soft fragrance.
Garry Oaks winery
OK, so you can’t buy wine at the market, but you have to pop along to their tasting room and buy some at the source instead. You can see the vines lined up on the hillside as you drive towards the winery on the slopes of Mt Maxwell. After quitting the corporate world 15 years ago to live their dream of making wine on the island, Elaine and Marcel founded Garry Oaks on a 100-year old farm. Growing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Zweigelt and Leon Millot varieties, Elaine creates award-winning blends and varietals. I adored their 2010 Pinot Noir, which was unusual as I’ve not been too excited by BC reds so far, “It’s very Burgundian,” explained Elaine, “Elegant and complex, it’s not a big wine, it’s more European.”
Must have: The Pinot Noir – it’s a wonderful French-style red.
I whizzed about visiting everyone in a car from Salt Spring Island Car Rental. LOVE that they are an independent not a chain. So – leave your car at home, chill and enjoy the view from the BC ferry and support ‘em.