Forget the Okanogan. forget Napa. We have our very own wine valley right here on the island. The Cowichan Valley. We have made a tour of many of the wineries 4 times in the past couple of years and enjoyed it every time. You can easily do it in a day and include a winery lunch too.
We start at AVERILL CREEK Vineyard on the north side of Duncan. Take a right off of #1 at Somenos Road and follow it for 2 or 3 kilometres until you see the Averill Creek sign. Our first visit was quite a surprise. We were not expecting such a large facility. A modern building with a spacious tasting room and a delightful picnic area outside. A bonus is the spectacular view of Cowichan Bay. If you wish, you can purchase cheese and crackers, a cold white wine and relax on the patio.
The wines here are really very good.Try the Pinot Gris or the sparkling Charme De L’ile. Friends from Ontario had a case of Averill Creek wine shipped home they enjoyed it so much. Their wine is available at SaveOn in Parksville.
Nearby is The Deol Estate Winery, a small funky joint. We have had a great tasting here offered by a very enthusiatic lady. Worth a stop if you have time.
There are a couple of lunch options. One is Vinoteca Zanatta, the oldest winery in the area. The food here is excellent and weather permitting is served outside on a big wrap around porch of the 1903 Zanatta Farmhouse. The chef is a gal from Mozambique, Fatima DaSilva. Go figure! I guarantee you will enjoy the food here. One of the anomalies here is that while noshing in a vineyard, you may see loaded logging trucks going by.
We Have not done a tasting here as the tasting room is very small and often crowded. Reservations for lunch are recommended. Zanatta is just south of Duncan on Marshall Road.
Another worthwhile stop is Blue Grouse Winery on Lakeside Road not far from Zanatta. A really impressive building that reportedly cost a couple of million dollars contains a very spacious tasting room. No restaurant here but a generous tasting experience of some very drinkable wines. I like the ORTEGA and the PINOT GRIS. You will want to take a bottle home from here.
In Cobble Hill, between Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake are two must visits. The MERRIVALE CIDERY is an impressive facility with a tasting room, gift shop, and a very large restaurant. We have not yet eaten here but the menu looks inviting. There is also a Bakery and Deli.
In addition to a range of Ciders, Cowichan Gin and Cowichan Voka are produced here. I bought a bottle of the Gin on our last visit. Is it good? Don’t know. I’m waiting for our friend Joan to try it. She likes gin.
Merrivale’s grounds are impressive and special events like weddings are popular here.
Just a skip down the road is UNSWORTH Vineyards. Another must stop. Although quite new, Unsworth is already producing some nice wines. We have slurped their Pinot Gris, Rose, and Pinot Noir. Spend some time in the tasting room, a separate building beside a pond, waterfall and patio. Since they are into marketing there is an assortment of stuff to buy.
Across the parking lot a restored vintage home contains the restaurant. Great food. The Burger is outstanding and the Moules Frittes looks fabulous. Great service inside or on the patio. You don’t want to miss this winery. Reservations for sure.
Just one more. Rocky Creek Winery is a small place with a tasting room in the basement of a home. Excellent tastings every time we visited. We first visited because we had tried their Pinot Gris at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Victoria. The Pinot Gris is good and the Robin’s Rose is perfect on a summer afternoon on the patio. We always take some home from here.
There are several other wineries one can visit, but in one day that’s enough. Most of them are not open in the winter so it’s a summer / early fall event if you want to partake. Weekdays are less busy and most are open Wednesday to Sunday.
Google maps has all the wineries in the area marked.