Recently after a particularly tough week of adjusting to Canadian life, Dave surprised me with a special vacation day. We used to do this for each other from time to time in upstate New York as graduate students. We would plan dates and then whisk the other person off for a day of surprises planned just for them. These were not expensive events, but were carried out on the shoe string graduate student budgets that we had. The very first “Surprise Day” was when we were dating and I took Dave on a mini-golf date. This included a short walk down the street to a local restaurant with a ½ price happy hour. While I remember that we had a good time overall, the most memorable part of this date was the weather. Gale-force winds that literally tore the astroturf off of the course while we were playing; golf ball-sized hail that bounced off the road and off our heads; and rain blown so hard from one direction that we were drenched on one side and bone dry on the other. This made the “short walk” down to the restaurant a bit more challenging (and glamorous) than originally planned. Then of course after our snacks we had to run back up the road through the rain. Later we would learn that our mad dash was more impressive than we had originally thought, since moments after we ran by an electrical pole it was struck by lightning. I just thought the electricity in the air was from being with Dave. 😉
We used to do “Surprise Days” as often as we could, but they have become a bit more infrequent as we have moved across states and international borders, and especially with Little Man’s arrival. So it was extra surprising when Dave said we were having a day off and I wasn’t allowed to know the plans. Heaven to not have to plan anything, not even diapers to bring along! Dave’s “Surprise Day” was a tour of some of the local wineries on Vancouver Island. This was also reminiscent of our time in upstate New York, when we would drive up to the Finger Lakes, visit a couple of wineries, have a nice lunch, and enjoy the scenery while we tried as hard as possible to ignore the pressures of graduate school that were waiting for us back home. This Surprise Day was our first attempt to recreate that experience here on Vancouver Island; and of course it was made a bit more “adventuresome” with Little Man.
Little Man was not as impressed with the beautiful scenery or wonderful wines as Dave and I were. And there was the moment of panic when he had a fleeting moment of freedom from the stroller and made a wild dash for expensive bottles of wine on display. He has fantastic taste in which bottles to grab, but thankfully no damage ensued. It was a fantastic day. We couldn’t ask for better weather. Bright blue sky, warm but not hot, and an amazing view of cedars and ocean at each winery we visited. Dave did good.
I talk about some of the wines and food that we ate on this trip below. Please note that I am not a food critic, but I am sharing and remembering our experience of that day. The preferences are mine and Dave’s alone, and are likely quite different than your’s would be. Please try the wineries that we visited and see what you think. You won’t be disappointed.
This is the order of where we visited:
Averill Creek Vineyard
6552 North Rd., Duncan, B.C. V9L 6K9
This was my first taste of Vancouver Island wines and it was also my favorite winery of the day. The winery itself is gorgeous and has an amazing patio where you can sip wine by the glass or the bottle. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic for the patio, or you can also buy locally sourced cheese and chartecurie from the tasting room. We are definitely bringing a picnic next time!
Foch, Eh! – This is a low-tannin red made from their Marechal Foch grapes. Marechal Foch are apparently a specialty of this region, and this bottle was a great representation of them. We bought a bottle specifically to share with Dave’s parents, and are looking forward to a chance to break it open.
Pinot Grigio – It was a bright, warm day and I truly enjoyed the whites that I tried. This one had a nice, clean citrusy finish. I’m looking forward to going back and having a glass of this on their patio with our picnic.
Cherry Point Estate Wines
Phone: (250) 743-1272
This was our second winery and my expectations were high since we had just come from Averill Creek. Their wines were good, and we had a nice time talking with one of the owners who was justifiably proud of the recent awards they have won. Our favorite part of the visit, however, was their bistro. Dave and I shared their Tapas Plate and Little Man had an amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich. The kiddo food is not listed on the menu, but we asked if they had children’s options and they came up with a couple of options on the fly. The tapas plate included: a fresh beet salad, pickled garlic, mushrooms, mussels, shrimp, pulled lamb shank, olive tapenade, cheese, and an apple compote. This paired excellently with the wine by the glass that Dave and I had. He had the Forte, which was rich and tannic. While I had the Bête Noire, full of fantastic dark fruit flavors with a light finish.
Bête Noire: This was my favorite wine from Cherry Point. It is in a Rioja-style and is almost inky in color, but the finish is light.
Forte: This was Dave’s favorite wine from Cherry Point. It also was a strong, rich red that paired very well with the tapas plate. In terms of comparing this to the Bête Noire, the Forte has a richer overall feeling on the palate and has a strong finish as well.
4235 Vineyard Road, Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L5
Phone: (250) 743-5630
This winery was a bit hard to find, but the search is definitely worth it. They are a “beyond organic” winery and have produced small batch excellent wines for over 20 years. For our visit the daughter of the original vintners was working in the tasting room. We learned a lot about organic wines and their creation that day. It was in this winery that Little Man got loose and things almost turned disastrous. In terms of great wines, this was our second favorite winery of the day. They also produce amazing balsamic vinegars.
Brut Naturel: It was a warm day for our visit and my favorite was their sparkling Brut Naturel. It was not overly dry, and was extremely refreshing after a hot day of touring.
Millefiori: It was hard for Dave to corral himself into admitting just one favorite from this winery. In the end I think that the warmth of the day and the refreshing character of the Millefiori won him over. This is not a sweet white at all, but it also is not overly oaky like some intense (and beloved by me) Chardonays.
Twenty Two Oaks Winery
#1-6383 Lakes Road, Duncan, BC V9L 5V6
While Dave was fascinated by the names of the ex-hockey player owners, I was less impressed with the wines and the story of their ugly bulldog wine labels. This is a relatively new winery, and things could turn around for them quickly. However they are not on my list of wineries I want to visit again, or labels that I will search out in the wine stores.
Favorite Wines: not so much…
Deol Family Estate Winery
6645 Somenos Rd. Duncan, BC, Canada
Deol Estate Winery was our last winery to visit that day and it was one of our favorites, at least in terms of the number of bottles purchased. Do not let the exterior of the winery deter you. The parking lot and surrounding buildings looks more like an area where restaurant delivery trucks should be off loading product. The tasting room itself is nice, but the woman pouring our tastings was nice and knowledgeable. This is a winery that I would love to go back to; I just wish that its surroundings were more inviting.
Blanc de Noir: This was my favorite wine from Deol. The woman running the tasting room said that the wine embodied the flavor of honey; and it did but not in a sweet way at all. It was a light, crisp wine that left the lingering taste of honey without its cloying sweetness. She had me at “honey.”
Somenos Red: This was Dave’s favorite wine from Deol. It is a rich, deep earthy red. Not overpowering, but something very nice to sit back and sip in the evenings on the arbor bench… which is just what we did.
Marechal Foch: This was an excellent example of the Marechal Foch grapes that are characteristic of this region on Vancouver Island. It embodied all of the best characteristics that we were beginning to recognize from our visits to the different wineries.