Have you heard? BC has a new wine region on Vancouver Island. Canada’s only ‘Maritime Mediterranean’ climate has been quietly nurturing wine production for the past 30 years. It is now home to a multitude of established wineries making it the perfect new hot spot for your annual getaway, family trip or bachelorette weekend.
Typical island wines are young, light and fresh but you’ll be surprised by some of the bold and complex wines that come from this coastal valley. In case you need more convincing, check out this list below of reasons why you should make Cowichan your next winery tour destination.
1. Charme de L’Île
For the past decade Vancouver Island wineries have been producing their own distinctive style of sparkling wine called Charme de L'île, or Charm of the Island. The style was federally trademarked in 2019 and must adhere to the following: be made from 100% island grown grapes and produced in the Charmat method. This fruit-forward, sparkling wine can be made with any grape varietal giving each winery the opportunity to put their own twist on it.
You’ll be hard pressed to find many of these wines off of the island so your best bet is to come for a visit, book a winery tour and try each one from the source.
For more information on Charme de L’Île, check out this great article from Edible Vancouver Island
2. Support Small Businesses
Cowichan wineries have proven that you don’t necessarily need to be big time to produce great wines. You’ll find many of the wineries here on a countryside property with the tasting room an extension of the family home. But don’t let the small scale fool you, these wines win awards year after year for a reason. The owners of these smaller wineries in particular are deeply involved, pouring their heart and soul into every phase of the process from planting to production. The results are complex and characteristic wines that represent the best of what the land produces.
Come find them in the tasting room where they will tell you their story.
3. A Local Escape from the Mainland
As popular as Cowichan is becoming, it still does a good job of flying under many people’s radar making it an ideal getaway destination. This unassuming little valley is located just 50 km north of Victoria making it an easy trip from the mainland. It’s an equal distance from Nanaimo, BC Ferries’ other major island destination.
Wine isn’t the only worthwhile reason to visit. Outdoor recreation in the Cowichan Valley is abundant and includes countless trails for hiking and mountain biking. The Cowichan River and Lake Cowichan offer swimming holes that will make you feel like you’re in the tropics. Downtown Duncan is an easily walkable 2 square km packed with over 300 businesses including restaurants, bars, cafes and vintage clothing stores to name a few.
Cowichan is also an oceanfront community. Check out the charming village of Cowichan Bay or book an Airbnb with an ocean view in Maple Bay. What more could you want from a local destination?
4. Blackberry Dessert Wine
Step outside in mid-August and it’s hard not to see a bush packed with blackberries. The delicious fruit can be found in about every outdoor corner including backyards, trails, and roadside ditches; Cowichan hosts the perfect climate for them to thrive.
A few wineries have utilized these wild and abundant berries by producing a dessert wine, similar to port or sherry. These flavour packed sweet wines taste like a warm summer's day and are quite often the star of the show at tastings. It’s common for guests to leave with a case full if they haven’t already sold out for the season. A bottle of blackberry wine makes a great gift for loved ones back home. Or keep them for yourself, we’re not judging.
5. Fourteen Wineries Within 25 km
Within the hub of wineries located in the Cowichan Valley, each has their own unique character and varies from state of the art venues like Blue Grouse Winery to smaller tasting rooms like Damali Winery. What makes a winery tour so interesting is not only the wine tastings but experiencing the unique characteristics each one has and hearing the different stories they each tell.
In summary, there is not only unique wine to taste in the Cowichan Valley, but also great small businesses to support just a ferry ride from Vancouver. Plus, it’s the kind of place that has something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for your next wine trip.
Our winery tours run from March - November and are easy to book online here. Have you visited any Cowichan wineries? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.