My most recent excursion took me to Unsworth Vineyards just minutes away from Mill Bay in the Cobble Hill area. The surrounding countryside is serene and beautiful as is the setting for their Tasting Room, open daily year round.
Since my last visit they have changed management and chef at the Restaurant which is open Wednesday thru Sunday for lunch and dinner. The setting is rivalled only by the cozy interior of the restaurant housed in a century old house. They have successfully blended the old with the modern for a comfortable ambience.
For this time around my main focus was just slightly north for my first visit to Blue Grouse Estate Winery. The setting here is impressive and they save the best for last. Everything is to the south of the property and the newly constructed two level tasting room shows the touch of the Seattle architect who is also responsible for their attractive wine labels.
There appears to be no expense spared in both the construction and design of the building. A lot of thought went into every corner. The lengthy bar that dominates the Tasting Room is actually on casters allowing the main floor room to be cleared for other events to take place. With two large patio spaces it would be an ideal spot to host tastings in the warm summer season.
Upstairs a large meeting room anchored with a beautiful, locally sourced Arbutus wood board table. Stepping out to the balcony you capture a view of the entire vineyard that slopes away to the south and west. The closest part of the vineyard is planted with the oldest vines on the estate. Planted by the former owners in the 1970’s. To the west are the newer vines, and yet to come on the flats at the very bottom of the property, future plantings. This area will definitely be challenging in terms of weather conditions where it is prone to more fog and dew than the upper south and west facing sections of the vineyard.
All in all Blue Grouse is a beautiful spot to visit and we were lucky to enjoy warm, sunny weather so late in October. Just beyond, the far off vistas were shrouded in mist giving you the feeling of isolation and serenity.
Bailey Williamson, their winemaker, was the consummate host. We enjoyed learning more about the process of wine making, his aspirations and plans for the future of Blue Grouse.
We tasted most of the wines they offer and, as often happens, my companion and I both chose our own favourites to purchase. I couldn’t resist the bubbly, a 2012 Blue Grouse Cowichan Station Methode Champenoise and a 2014 Quill vin blanc. My tasting companion selected the 2014 Quill Rosé and Quill Riesling.
Next stop was to our favourite mid Island restaurant Hudson’s on First. Handy how we always seem to be in the Duncan area around lunch time whether heading south or, this time, north.
I can’t say enough about how good and consistently delicious the food is at Hudson’s. The service is attentive and never cloying. We enjoyed wines by the glass, that perfectly complimented each dish, recommended by our knowledgeable server. Kudos to Hudson’s for their excellent wine list which features a number of BC and local wines. They have recently modified their menu to encompass both the lunch and dinner offerings to allow guests more choice. At this time all but one of the items is available from lunch through closing.
We started with a flavourful Chicken Liver and Morel Parfait accompanied by a Beaumont 2014 Trio for me and a Sage Hills Pinot Gris for my companion.
For a main the Fish and Chips. Don’t blanch, not your typical fish and chips by any means. A delicate tempura batter that allows the flavour of the fish to take centre stage, joined by an apple, fennel slaw and some of the best frites I’ve had (I couldn’t resist diving in). For those of us with a love of a true frite these were heavenly. I opted for the Seared Humboldt squid which was tender, slightly spicy with tangy lemon marmalade. With my main I enjoyed a Clos du Soleil Rosé.
Reservations are recommended.