Vancouver Island’s Pioneering Vineyard Awaits
When visiting Vancouver Island, its unique and beautiful wineries are on a must-see list, with Blue Grouse Estate Winery leading the way.
This September, Blue Grouse celebrates local wine and food at the Savour Cowichan festival, with complimentary tastings at the winery from Sept 26 to Oct 5; and do not miss the FREE pig roast at the winery on October 4 featuring live music with Genevieve and the Wild Sundays.
Old Island Vines Lead to Today’s Classic Wines:
For the uninitiated, the history of Blue Grouse is a living and ever-evolving celebration of grape growing and winemaking in BC’s Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Keeping the legacy and tradition of the winery alive, Blue Grouse is now owned by the Brunner Family, with wines made by Bailey Williamson, formerly of Road 13 Vineyards in Oliver. A new wine visitor centre is under construction.
Pioneering island viticulturist John Harper planted an experimental test vineyard in 1977 on the current Blue Grouse site with 150 different types of grape vines. In 1988, the vineyards were purchased by the Kiltz Family who released the first wines under the Blue Grouse label in 1990, most of the wines from rejuvenated vines from the original plantings. The tasting room opened in 1993 and the following year, the estate was expanded with imported vines from France. An updated facility was constructed in 2000 and production increased, although almost all of the wine was purchased by Vancouver Island residents, visitors and local restaurants.
Today, the 45-acre estate is situated on the sunniest slope of the Cowichan Valley and features clay and gravelly soil. Seven of said acres are planted to Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Müller-Thurgau, Ortega, Siegerrebe, Bacchus, and the rare Black Muscat, varietals identified as best suited to the Island climate. The vineyard has been sustainably farmed since first planted, with the grapes hand-picked and the vines hand-pruned. The vineyard offers spectacular views of the valley, where it enjoys warm temperatures and an all-Southern exposure, ideal for growing premium grapes.
The winery currently produces four estate whites (Pinot Gris, Ortega, Siegerrebe and Bacchus), two estate reds (Pinot Noir and Black Muscat), along with three blends (white, rose, red) under the new Quill label, which incorporates fruit from the Blue Grouse estate with select parcels from Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley.
The winery is owned by the Brunner Family (Paul and Cristina with daughter Paula), passionate wine lovers who have travelled to wine regions across the world, including South America, the USA, South Africa, Australia and more, before deciding to be closer to their family on Vancouver Island.
After falling in love with and purchasing the winery in 2012, they set about updating the wine labels, creating a new website, hired Bailey Williamson as winemaker and began planning a new winery building with the help of Boxwood Architects in Seattle, who also designed the new labels. The new building, to be completed in Spring 2015, was inspired by the winery’s namesake, the Blue Grouse. The shapely curve of the grouse’s head and neck inspired the roof line. Inside the tasting room, a curved ceiling will remind visitors of a grouse’s chest, while the new entrance will suggest that distinct shade of blue from the grouse’s tail feathers. With an eye towards sustainability, the facility will be built using locally quarried stone and will incorporate a geothermal heating system in its construction.
Bailey Williamson has been the winemaker and vineyard manager at Blue Grouse since 2012. Born and raised in Vancouver, Williamson worked as a chef at several restaurants in Victoria before changing direction to launch his wine career in 2000, moving to the Okanagan and assisting at Sumac Ridge for several vintages while studying winemaking at Okanagan College. He next worked a vintage in Australia’s McLaren Vale before returning to Victoria. Shortly thereafter, he landed the job of assistant winemaker at Road 13 under the direction of Michael Bartier. After five years at Road 13, he was chosen to lead the renaissance at Blue Grouse and moved his wife (Blue Grouse office manager Jenny Garlini) and two children to the gorgeous Cowichan Valley.
Visiting Blue Grouse:
Family-owned, sustainably-farmed and award-winning, Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard is located at 4365 Blue Grouse Road, Duncan, BC within the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
The winery and surrounding vineyards have become a sought after destination not only for wine tastings, but also picnics and family adventures. The current tasting room, known affectionately as ‘The Manor House’ is the former home of the Kiltz Family and its warm and welcoming spirit is evident to anyone that enters the building.
Visitors can enjoy delicious snacks and unique local art hanging on the tasting room walls, while sampling the winery’s award-winning portfolio of Island wines.
A perfect visit to Vancouver Island might include a morning hike across the historic Kinsol Trestle (part of the Trans Canada Trail) a quick stop for snacks at The Creamery at Cheese Pointe Farm, followed by a picnic and a glass of wine overlooking the Cowichan Valley at Blue Grouse.
The Blue Grouse tasting room is open Daily from 11AM to 5PM from June to October. Call 250-743-3834 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for winter hours, group bookings or just to say hello.
The public can join the winery’s Fan Club to receive quarterly wine shipments including hand selected wines such as award-winners, pre-releases, limited releases and library verticals as well as reduced prices and complimentary tastings.