The Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival Sept. 7 to 15

The ninth annual Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival will take place September 7 to 15, with tempting events at numerous venues in the beautiful Cowichan Valley. The enthusiastic owners of 12 regional wineries are participating in this year’s festival. It promises to be a memorable experience, a showcase for the Valley’s wine, food, music and art in luscious locations. The festival is the grand finale of the area’s summer season; however there are many reasons to visit this bountiful destination and its hospitable vintners all summer and throughout the year.

 

The festival kicks off with the annual Grape Stomp on Saturday afternoon, September 7, at the Cowichan Exhibition Fairgrounds. “Winery teams compete to see who stomps grapes the fastest. A soft foot crushes grapes more gently than a steel press,” explains Linda Holford, festival planning committee member and co-owner of Rocky Creek Winery. If your experience of this old-fashioned maceration method has been limited to watching the classic black and white I Love Lucy grape-trampling episode, you won’t want to miss this messy, entertaining event in living colour. At 6 p.m., enjoy live music, lavender mojito sangria and paella made over an open fire at Damali Lavender Farm and Winery’s Sangria Fiesta. On Wednesday, September 11, tipple, mingle and “Meet Your Maker” at historic Providence Farm while dining on brick oven pizzas made by Vancouver Island University culinary students. “This is a great opportunity for visitors to experience a farmer’s market type of meet and greet with winery owners,” says Holford. On the evening of Friday, September 13, dress up for “Savour!” a food and wine tasting event with a cocktail party atmosphere. Winemaker Mark Holford presents cooking demos and wine tastings at Rocky Creek Winery on September 14 and 15.

Cow Fest Pic

 

A two-day Wine Festival package, including accommodations, breakfast, lunch and dinner and a tour of the vineyards, is offered from September 10 to 12. Consult the festival website—wines.cowichan.net—for information on the package, venues and updates on other events.

 

A map and printable brochure on the website outlines a wine-touring loop of the wineries involved in the festivities. Almost all the wineries are within 10 minutes of each other along scenic country roads. Wine loop participants include Twenty Two Oaks Winery, Averill Creek Vineyards, Blue Grouse Vineyards, Damali Lavender Farm, Winery and B&B, Deol Family Estate Winery, Enrico Winery & Vineyards, Glenterra Vineyards & Thistle Café, Merridale Ciderworks, Bistro & Bakery, Rocky Creek Winery, Silverside Farm & Winery, Unsworth Vineyards and Amusé on the Vineyard, and Vigneti Zanatta Winery, Vineyard & Vinoteca Restaurant. These dedicated winemakers have produced many impressive, award-winning wines. Glenterra’s Thistle Cafe, Merridale’s Bistro, Unsworth’s Amusé and Vigneti Zanatta’s Vinoteca restaurant have garnered rave reviews for their excellent cuisine.

 

“The winemaking process is very much like cooking as an executive chef,” Holford confides. “Each winemaker has their own recipe. It is also like a work of art: the winemaker decides how much colour they put in each wine, according to the skin contact—the length of time the grapes are soaked with their skins on.”

 

Andy Johnston of Averill Creek Vineyards calls Cowichan the home of the best pinot noir in Canada. “We produce world-class pinot noir and pinot gris. These two vinifera are most suited to this climate and environment,” Johnston explains. The region’s wineries also have a unique take on fruit wines, such as blackberry and rhubarb lavender, and are well-known for their sparkling wines. Some wineries also produce vodka, brandy and artisanal vinegars.

 

“The Cowichan Valley has become a foodie destination,” Johnston observes. It is noteworthy that Cowichan Bay became the first North American Cittaslow town in 2009. Cittaslow (“slow city” in Italian) originated in Italy in 1999 as an offshoot of the Slow movement, which supports slowing down the pace of every aspect of life. (See cittaslow.org) “In the Valley, we can grow everything we eat and the wine to go with it,” says Johnston.

 

This vibrant wine and gastronomic destination is 45 minutes north of Victoria and 45 minutes south of Nanaimo. Meet the passionate winemakers and chefs of the Cowichan Valley, savour their expertise, enthusiasm and the fruits of their labours, and celebrate the bounty of our Island paradise.

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