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Cowichan Valley: A Primer

Cowichan Valley: A Primer

Posted on Nov 18, 2020

cowichan Valley BC wine

Blue Grouse Estate Vineyards.

Vancouver Island is home to British Columbia’s newest sub-GI (Geographical Indication), the Cowichan Valley. Consisting of Canada’s only cool Mediterranean Maritime climate, mild and damp winters and distinct soils, this unique growing area is arguably one of the most challenging in the world pushing the boundaries of where grape growing is still possible.

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With COVID-19 currently keeping us grounded from overseas travel, we’re lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet that includes a world-class wine region. We headed back to the Okanagan Valley at the beginning of Harvest and visited 5 more wineries: Black Hills Estate, CheckMate Artisanal Winery, Phantom Creek EstatesPoplar Grove Winery, and Blasted Church. This video provides a few highlights of our conversations with their winemakers. Click on the individual links for the full story on each…cheers!

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smoke taint

The view from Poplar Grove’s winery in Penticton.

Our first visit to Poplar Grove was back in 2002, when we went up to the Okanagan Valley for a weekend of winetasting with another couple. Our friends knew then proprietors, Ian and Gita Sutherland, and knew they had a guest house on the back of the property that they rented out. We arrived early and went to a local wine store to buy a bunch of bottles of Okanagan wines to try, as at that time we didn’t know a lot about the region and their wines. It was a beautiful afternoon, so we took about 6 bottles out on to the deck of the guest house along with a couple of glasses and opened them all up and started tasting.

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Kismet Wines

Delicious lunch and view at Kismet’s Masala Bistro.

One of the pleasures of visiting a wine region is that wine country is farm country. Farm-to-table eating is the norm and there is always a good array of choices ready to provide the very best that the season has to offer. British Columbia’s wine country is no different. From high end winery restaurants to casual lunch spots, we found something to please every palate, all paired with a stunning view of the Okanagan Valley.

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Okanagan BC Winery

The original OMG Sparkling label.

When Blasted Church Vineyards first burst onto the Canadian wine scene in 2002, the BC winery instantly turned heads with the colourful and irreverent labels that adorned its bottles. From the “OMG” Sparkling Wine to the “Unorthodox” Chardonnay, it was clear from the start that the winery was willing to poke a little fun at themselves. Their wine on the other hand, is no laughing matter.

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The stunning winery at Phantom Creek.

Phantom Creek Estates is the latest name to be added to the growing list of ultra-premium wine purveyors in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. We spent an afternoon touring the amazing facility with their CEO and then tasting with their winemaker. It was a great opportunity to get an inside look at this year’s most talked about winery in the Okanagan.

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Okanagan BC wine

The 100 point Little Pawn Chardonnay.

Just a few years into its relatively short life, CheckMate Artisanal Winery in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley was the first Canadian winery to earn perfect 100-point scores in back to back vintages for one of its Chardonnays. How do they meet the immense expectations from critics and wine consumers as a result? Like any good chess player, it starts with a plan to ensure your always thinking a few steps ahead.

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Winery sign Okanagan BC

Black Hills Estate

Black Hills Estate is one of British Columbia’s most famous wineries having set the bar in terms of quality and consistency in the Okanagan Valley for the past two decades. Their new winemaker is currently harvesting his second vintage with them and already proving that the winery is in extremely capable hands.

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