June 2002 The Inside Story
The Sue and Ken Houston Vineyard, West Saanich Road
Jenny Hyndman and Judy Smith, VIGGA Roving Reporters
The Houston Vineyard
This Saanich Peninsula is so much fun to explore. The hide-a- ways and surprise spots that are tucked away off the main windy roads are so abundant and rewarding to the senses.
Sue and Ken Houston found such a spot when they fell upon a property that was part of the original 50 acre Rose Hill Dairy Farm. Their hideaway shares a boundary with St.Michaels All Angels Anglican Church on West Saanich Road and has actually been blessed by the former minister. One has to ask how their endeavors could be anything but successful with such a heads up!
Their 24 acre completely fenced property greets you by way of a large, colorful and elegant Hummingbird Hill sign, creatively designed and made by Ken's nephew, Dan, owner of Houston signs.
Once to the "House that Ken built" we see comfy Adirondac chairs and tables on the front patio built by Ken from old growth cedar posts found on the property. From the same wood he has made screen doors with delicate wooden hummingbirds where the screen meets the frames. Is this man handy or not!
While at the house we look west over 1035 grape vines on 3309 rootstock in 26 rows planted with Marachel Foch, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. The row nearest the house are table grapes trellised in the TK two tier system which will give a solid hedge of foliage most pleasing to the eye as the vines progress into the season. The clever signage is continued into the vineyard with oval discs indicating the row number tacked to the beginning of each row. Below these classy discs are copper labels indicating the variety.
Originally a hay field, curtain drain and lateral drainage was done in preparation for their new crop of vines. These young vines are planted at 4-foot intervals in rows 8 feet apart and watered by drip method. Irrigation is supplied from a magic, horn of plenty pond below and east of the house in the forested area of their acreage. Hidden by a giant of an arbutus tree is the 2000-gallon storage tank to which the water is pumped and held. This allows Ken also to fertigate…I hope I haven't said a bad word!
Now here's the kicker to this whole enterprise. Ken and Sue, never a couple to do anything in a mundane, run of the mill way and really liking a party, put their wee baby vines up for adoption. These guys created the "Hummingbird Hill Adopt a Row Club." Not only are all the rows adopted but they have a waiting list to boot. Each "parent " has chosen their own variety of floribunda rose to plant at the beginning of the row to act as an indicator rose for mildew attack.
When summoned, these adopting parents come out en masse for the day, are treated to a workshop session then sent off to do the work before being fed and watered by their hosts who by this time are a few clicks ahead of the rest in the imbibing department. Supervising definitely has its perks!
Ken and Sue have known each other forever. Both lived in Fairfield and went to the same school. Their son Dean, in Victoria, has two children. Their daughter lives south of the 49th in Portland, Oregon. Mac's Heating is a family run company in Victoria originally owned by Ken's dad, passed on to Ken and now to Dean to continue the successful business into the third generation.
Our thanks to you Ken and Sue for the visit, the lemonade, and the tour of your most beautiful Peninsula hide- away. Good luck as you move toward your first harvest.