Mike Rathjen of Rathjen Cellars answers some questions about his connection to Fernwood and his winemaking

›› Lauren Gaultier

Mike Rathjen of Rathjen Cellars has called Fernwood home for a decade; we caught up with him to learn more about why he chose Fernwood to call home and how he got started in winemaking.

What made you choose Fernwood to call home?
We moved to Victoria in 2011 from Vancouver after my wife landed a job here. We didn’t know much about the ­neighbourhoods, but stumbled across Fernwood Square and it looked like a cute little village in Europe. We loved that it was a short walk downtown and had all the history, culture, and community vibes we were looking for.

Tell us a bit about your wine journey in Fernwood?
I had been winemaking for a few years before moving to Victoria, but really started to narrow in on my winemaking skills in the unfinished basement of our house on Grant Street using Vancouver Island grapes I sourced from local ­vineyards. My little basement production area got named the “Wine Bunker” and I would host release parties to share my experiments with friends and family.

Was there anything about Fernwood that inspired you to start your winery?
The neighbourhood has an Old-World sensibility when it comes to the integration of community, culture, and food which I found inspiring. As I tinkered away in the Wine Bunker I formulated a business plan for a winery that would simply make local wine for local restaurants, shops, and citizens.

From a culinary perspective, what more would you like to see in Fernwood?
More of the good things that are already happening! In the last 10 years things have only gotten better. I’m hoping the street-side patio space on Gladstone is here to stay.

Where are some nearby places that we can find your products?
Our wines have frequented the list at Stage, as well as Agrius, Part & Parcel, and Saveur to name a few. Vessel Liquor Store, on the corner of Fort and Oak Bay, has been a huge supporter and carries almost all our products.

Rathjen Cellars tasting room is now open at 334 Walton Place in Saanich, or you can visit them online at rathjencellars.com or through social media @­rathjencellars to learn more about where to taste, try, and buy.