We labour through the long ferry lineups and spend hours to get to Vancouver Island for what? The answer is quite simple, and one that British Columbians should be proud of. Blessed by Mother Nature, the charm and beauty of Vancouver Island is unparalleled! We may whine along the way, but once there, we praise ourselves for making the trip – yes, it’s worth it!
Whether or not you are there as a tourist, visiting friends or families; there are lots of things to do to resonate with canvases of natural settings. While doing nothing is not a bad way to take in the tranquilizing beauty; exploring other parts of the Island will make your stay more fulfilling. For me and many like-minded Island visitors, it’s the vibrant food and wine scene that calls us there. The Slow Food movement and the Farm to Table initiatives are only some of the concepts that Vancouver Island has progressed soundly. Local farmers, artisan cheese makers and specialty food producers have no doubt been one of the top reasons foodies cross the strait. Do not forget about the wines and wineries there! Go to Cowichan and you know what I am talking about.
Island wineries do not take a back seat to those in Fraser Valley and Okanagan anymore at all. The total acreage of vineyards might not compare to the Okanagan but the quality is definitely on the upswing. Some plantings on the island dates back to the seventies so wineries have been able to work out the kinks to make the necessary improvements. So what’s the verdict?
Located in Duncan in Cowichan Valley, the Blue Grouse Winery has vineyard operation dating back to 1977. Current owner the Bruner Family shifted in 2012. They did not come from the farming industry but their love and passion of wine, their adoration of the majestic landscaped Cowichan, along with their determination and full-swing dedication in making great wines are solid foundations to build on. “Old Island vines, new classic wines” is the vision and description of this 45- acre winery. The site currently has 7 acres of vineyard in operation. Winemaker Bailey Williamson is a local British Columbian who grew up in Burnaby. He moved to Victoria in 1993 and began pursuing a serious career in the food and wine industry. His wine-making path started with entry-level jobs at several wineries. Bailey was the assistant winemaker at Road 13 Vineyards before coming over to Blue Grouse as the winemaker.
2013 Pinot Gris - I like the freshness and fruity note of this Pinot Gris. 100% harvest from Cowichan Valley, the green apple, Asian pear and hints of pomero aroma is enticing and the juicy finish refreshing. A bit on the lighter side, this wine is no doubt versatile enough for a variety of Asian appetizers such as cold plates, warm salad and crunchy tempura.
2012 Quill Red - A blend of 47% Cabernet Foch, 21% Marchel Foch, 21% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Libre sourced from both the Cowichan Valley vineyards and Okanagan vineyards. This red is barrel aged which provided the smoothness and smokiness for a medium bodied finish that is fun to drink. Easy enough for sipping on its own, but with enough substance and character to pair with Antipasto as appetizer, Tomato-based pasta, wok-fried roots and squash, baked pork chops and ribs.
2012 Pinot Noir - 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Cowichan Valley. Plum and cherry made up the predominant aroma laced with soft tannins and a lingering finish. Enjoy it with roasted lambs, beef stews and braised ox-tails. This nicely-done Pinot expresses the terroir of the Island wine region fully.
By the look of things and their wines, the future is promising for Blue Grouse whose acres of land are suitable for planting selected qualitative grapes. They have the capacity and strong potential to increase the vineyard acreage, which will surely raise the over all profile of Vancouver Islands as a prominent wine region in Western Canada.