The Cowichan Valley has been recognized as an official wine-producing region. If the Valley’s picturesque countryside of hills, farms, and charming little bays isn’t reason enough for a fun road trip, this new distinction certainly is. The designation identifies a unique region and puts Cowichan Valley wineries on the map with other popular BC regions like the Okanagan. We should start seeing the words “Cowichan Valley” on wine bottle labels this year.
The designation creates a “sub-appellation,” which is a big deal for grape growers and wine producers. One of the benefits is establishing the region as a wine destination. For Vancouver Islanders, that means we have another reason to get out and discover the island's unique flavours.
The fourteen Cowichan wineries have been family-owned and operated for generations. The owners are proud of their locally grown and owned wines and welcome visitors for tastings. My partner and I recently visited a few vineyards, including Averill Creek Vineyard, Emandare Vineyard, and the Rocky Creek Winery.
Averill Creek is located on the edge of Mount Prevost in a stunning setting of mountains and farmland. The stone patio looks out over rows of grapevines and to Mount Tzoulahem in the distance. The setting and ambiance echo the Bordeaux region of France. Our tasting included the Pinot Noir and the Somenos Tawny, which presented the light, mildly acidic flavours unique to the valley’s geography and climate. You may recognize Averill Creek’s wine labels from the liquor store. The “Joue” and “Charme De L’ile” wines are popular sellers.
At the Rocky Creek Winery, we had the pleasure of chatting with one of the owners, Mark Holford. He told us about a friendly competition that started with his daughter, Robin, to see if she could challenge her dad’s wine talents. The story can be found in the Rocky Creek wines. There is the “Pinot De-Gris,” a play on his daughter’s knowledge from her undergraduate degree, “Robin’s Rose,” also developed by his daughter, and “On The Mark,” a red blend developed by Mark. They are also known for their Wild Blackberry dessert wine.
Other popular wineries in the region include the Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Unsworth Vineyards. The whole area is a short road trip from Victoria or Nanaimo. Although I did not find gay-owned wineries, I did find the owners we met welcoming and inclusive. My partner and I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere, the tastings, and of course, we went home with a few bottles.
To watch for: The Cowichan Valley Wine Festival lasts the entire month of August and offers excellent deals, fun tours, tastings, and complimentary wine glasses. August 1-31, 2021
Rowan Brunet (she/he/they), who identifies as genderqueer, is a writer based on Vancouver Island. Rowan also writes a blog called All Kinds of Mischief.