On Friday August 24th the Cowichan Valley Wine Festival kicked off at the Shawnigan Lake School with all participating wineries present. Unfortunately we did not attend this event but we started the tour on Saturday full of energy! The cost for the two day festival was $15.00 per person and includes a passport and a wine glass each. The wine glass is your proof of purchase and the passport becomes an entry into a raffle for 13 bottles of wine! Shelagh had planned a route to take us most strategically through the valley so to limit fuel consumption. First up was Emandare Vineyard. emandarevineyard.com
This winery, run by a young couple, is a homey set-up and the product is excellent. Mike and Robin Nierychlo have that special drive and enthusiasm that is required to run a successful winery. We departed with a delicious bottle of their Rosé wine. Robin gave us our wine glasses and passport to take along to the participating wineries along our route. The reason for starting our tour at Emandare Winery is because they are closed on Sundays…
Next up was Unsworth Vineyards. unsworthvineyards.com This beautiful property has a modern tasting room with patio and a very successful restaurant. At times the patio by the tasting room has a food truck serving up delicious bites to go with your choice of wine. Reservations are recommended for the restaurant. Unsworth Vineyards is located near Mill Bay and is at the most southern location on our route. We left Unsworth with two bottles of wine, a Sauvignette and a Gewürztraminer.
Then on to Venturi Schulze. venturischulze.com A proudly pure organic winery and balsamic vinegar producer. Giordano Venturi grew up in the Modena region of Italy and Marilyn Venturi (nee Schulze) was born in Queensland, Australia. We were hosted by their very knowledgeable and enthusiastic son in law and we tasted their wines and vinegars. Their prices were a bit beyond our budget so we decided to come back another time to buy some wine.
On to Blue Grouse Estate Winery. bluegrouse.ca This winery is remarkable in its architecture and setting. The building is all steel, wood and concrete with demanding views over the vineyards. We enjoyed our wine tasting here and left with a nice bottle of Siegerrebe. A new wine for me, I had not heard of it before so now it is on the rack for a special occasion, like Saturday 3PM! They also offer a cheese and charcuterie platter to accompany your wine selection to enjoy outside on the patio, or if freshly shucked oysters are your thing then that is also available.
Then we left Blue Grouse for Rocky Creek Winery. rockycreekwinery.ca We love this place, having been there once before, we knew we would want to spend some time there. We got the car parked in a field full of cow pies and zigzagged to the backyard of the house that is home to Mark and Linda Holford, who left the oil industry rat race in Alberta for the peace and tranquility of the Cowichan valley to grow grapes and make wine. Their daughter Robin is studying the fine art of viticulture and hopefully she will continue the family estate. As we entered the back yard we saw that Scott McGill was entertaining with his unique style of guitar and vocals. We have heard and loved his music all through the summer months and it is a delight. We enjoyed our wine tasting and decided to buy a bottle of their TLC white wine paired with a cheese and cracker platter while sitting under the variegated maple tree listening to the music. Mark had two cooking demonstrations, one for a Tuna and Beurre Blanc dish and one for Marinated Prawns on a skillet. Both were super tasty! Both daughters Robin and Katherine have a wine named after them.
Next on the list was Cherry Point winery, where complementary Paella and Sangria was on offer, but when we arrived both these offerings had been consumed. We vowed to return the next day to have a taste and continued on to Averill Creek Vineyard for our last stop of the day. averillcreek.ca Their tasting sheet always changes and this day we decided on a Prevost to go with a pizza from VIPizza! vancouverislandpizza.com The pizza is always delicious and pairs perfectly with a nice Pinot Noir, Gris or Grigio. The views from the terrace are stunning and this was a great place to wind up the Saturday of our two day wine tasting adventure. We came home satiated and tired. We simmered a while on the back porch and slithered into bed for a good long sleep after a day of busy wine tasting. Hey, somebody has to do all the hard work right??
Sunday morning dawned cool and cloudy. After a hearty breakfast of fruit and yoghurt we headed to Deol Estate Winery. deolestatewinery.com The proprietors started in the vine growing business in 1984 in the Okanagan and moved to the Cowichan valley in 1999. They purchased a 32 acre dairy farm and converted 18 acres to a vineyard with a selection of eight varieties of grapes. Six wines were on offer for tasting and the bar tender poured generously! We left with two bottles of delicious wine, a Marechal Foch and a Blanc de Noir. The property once had a nice old farm house but sadly it burned to the ground recently. Plans are in the works to build a new wine store. Currently the store is in the barn…
Cherry Point Vineyards was next on the list. cherrypointestatewines.com We had planned to go there on Saturday for the complementary Paella and Sangria but when we arrived there they had run out! So we decided to return the next day. So here we were and had a taste of their delicious wines. We already have two bottles of this estate on our rack so we did not purchase any this time. The Paella was tasty, but our friend Paul Jans' dish can not be bettered! We sat on the terrace enjoying this treat for a while and did some people watching. There is also a Bistro with an impressive menu.
Next up was the Zanatta Winery and Restaurant. zanatta.ca Vignetti Zanatta purchased a dairy farm in the Glenora region of the Cowichan Valley. He then transformed the farm into a winery and was the first on Vancouver Island to do so. They produce bubbly wines as well as stills. We started with two bubbly wines, Glenora Fantasia Brut and Allegria Brut Rosé. The rosé was amazing with a nutty finish on the palate so we bought a bottle of that. Then also a white, Damasco, a blended wine of four varieties, light and easy, perfect for a hot afternoon on the porch… The restaurant has a home style menu that changes with the seasons and we plan to have a meal there someday. On their website, you can read about the history of the Zanatta family's involvement in creating the wine industry on Vancouver Island.
With our passport all stamped, we submitted them at the Enrico Winery, now all we need to do is to win the 13 bottles of wine!
Finally to Enrico Winery. enricowinery.com A beautiful property with a tasting room and patio overlooking a pond with ducks and the vineyard. Their wines are good with some names taken from medieval times. Names like; Fair Maiden, Jousting Knights and Red Dragon. Four wines were on offer, all of them delicious and priced within our budget of between $20.00 and $30.00. Again we did not purchase any wine because we already have a couple of their wines on the rack and the rack holds only 24 bottles.
Quite a few of the wineries also have a line of clothing for sale in the wine shop so you can get a tasting and get the tee shirt!
Here is the final haul of our weekend. Two bottles are missing; the TLC that we drank at Rocky Creek Winery while listening to Scott McGill sing, and the Prevost that we enjoyed with our pizza at Averill Creek Winery. Ten bottles in all, the wine rack is full and the Allegria Rosé is chilling in the fridge…