“A layer of fog hangs in the air as we drive through the rolling green hills and farmland of the Cowichan Valley. Family farms and vineyards dot our route as we make our way to Merridale Cidery & Distillery in Cobble Hill a few days before Thanksgiving for some fall fun.”
“This week on BC Food + Wine Radio, we head to the exciting culinary region of the Cowichan Valley where we press grapes with Tim Turyk at Unsworth and talk to his winery chef, taste wine with Blue Grouse and count medals at Rocky Creek.”
“With its old growth forests and shimmering river, the area boasts a Mediterranean-like microclimate (with more sunny days each year than anywhere else in Canada), hence why a plethora of farmers, vineyards, artisanal producers and even roadside stands dot the map of this picturesque region.
Here’s how to make the most of your trip to the Cowichan Valley…”
“When we ran our survey, we found two big trends among baby boomers: They love Vancouver Island and they love wine. So it was more than obvious to us that we had to include the wine capital of the area: Cowichan Valley. There are a ton of excellent wineries around here, along with local treats to go with those pretty reds and whites.“
“The area takes its name from the term Quw’utsun’, meaning “the warm land” in the language of the Cowichan tribe, the province’s largest single First Nation band.
Situated north of Victoria and south of Nanaimo, the region is in Canada’s only maritime Mediterranean climate zone, meaning that although it doesn’t get as hot as the Okanagan, it has the warmest mean year-round temperature in the country. No wonder it’s so popular among farmers, growers, cidermakers, and winemakers.”
“They’re apex predators, but in this place raptors capture more than prey. They capture imaginations.
This refuge and attraction in the Cowichan region of British Columbia is devoted to helping people get face to face with big birds that they usually only see from a distance: “So we work with eagles, owls, hawks, vultures, we have some kookaburras,” one-hundred-and-forty birds in all”
“The owner-perfumer at Wild Coast Perfumery in Cowichan Bay, along Vancouver Island’s Pacific Marine Circle Route, creates “scent memories” of British Columbia locations. “I try to paint a picture with fragrance,” she says. With names like Whistler, Sunshine Coast, and Salt Spring Island, the perfumes evoke a definitive West Coast Canadian experience enhanced by natural native ingredients.
Laurie Arbuthnot bottles up her memories. Maybe yours, too.”
“Long gone are the days of underripe grapes that plagued the area when the industry was first starting out. if anything, their focus on low-alcohol, high-acid wines are now far more on point than some of the big hulking reds the South Okanagan is producing. And for the most part these are still owner-operated wineries, meaning that the person pouring you the wine, made the wine, sells the wine, sweeps up the winery, etc.”