Blue Grouse Winery is a Must-Visit this Summer
Vancouver Island’s Pioneering Vineyard Awaits
The historic Blue Grouse Estate Winery, nestled in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, continues its evolution with the opening of a new, modern winery facility and tasting room, set to open to the general public in June 2015. The owners of the winery, the Brunner Family (Paul and Cristina with daughter Paula), have devoted significant investment to bring an exciting new visitor experience to Vancouver Island and are ready to welcome the world.
The sweeping new building was inspired by the winery’s namesake, the Blue Grouse, and was designed by Boxwood Architects in Seattle, who also created the winery’s eye-catching new labels. The shapely curve of the roof line suggests the graceful arch of a grouse’s head and neck. Inside the tasting room, the curved ceiling reminds visitors of a grouse’s chest, while the distinct shade of blue at the entrance is similar to that of a male grouse’s tail plumage.
From the outset, the Brunners wanted the new building constructed in a way that would ensure consistency of high quality wine, while operating in sync with the environment. For example, water treatment systems were substantially upgraded which allow only clean water to be returned to the soil after winery use. Rain water is captured from the roof, directed into a collection pond for irrigation. That same pond is used as part of the tasting room’s geothermal heating system as well. The balance of the facility is built using locally quarried stone, large fir beams, steel, glass and concrete.
Further reducing their carbon footprint, bio-diesel is used in their farm equipment. The winery also uses high-quality and lightweight glass bottles from Olympia in nearby Washington State versus sourcing them from overseas.
The winery is committed to environmentally-conscious vineyard and winery practices, sustainably farming their 45-acre estate, situated on a sunny clay and gravel slope in the Cowichan Valley. The vineyard offers spectacular views of the valley, where it enjoys warm temperatures and an all-Southern exposure, ideal for growing premium grapes. A healthy and abundant population of wildlife, including birds of prey, migrating song birds, deer, Roosevelt Elk, minks, Great Blue Herons, the occasional black bear and a diverse riparian habitat resides on the estate. The Brunners hope to host on-site nature tours in the future, adding to the natural Vancouver Island experience.
Indeed, a local focus has been part of Blue Grouse’s history from the very beginning. Pioneering island viticulturist John Harper planted an experimental vineyard in 1977 on the current Blue Grouse site where 150 different types of grape vines were tested. In 1988, the vineyard was purchased by Dr. Hans Kiltz and his family who released the first commercial wines under the Blue Grouse label in 1990, most of them from rejuvenated vines from the original plantings. The tasting room opened in 1993 and the following year, the vineyard was expanded with imported vines from France. An updated facility was constructed in 2000 and production increased, with most of the wine purchased by Vancouver Island residents, visitors and local restaurants.
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. Williamson moved to the Okanagan and assisted Sumac Ridge for several vintages while studying winemaking at Okanagan College. He next worked a vintage in Australia’s McLaren Vale before returning to British Columbia. 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 along with his wife (Blue Grouse administration manager Jenny Garlini).
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. The blends incorporate fruit from the Blue Grouse estate, select parcels of Vancouver Island vineyards and the Okanagan Valley. A new sparkling wine, ‘Paula’ is set to be released in 2015.
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.