Column: New look for Cowichan Valley’s Blue Grouse Estate winery

Under Paul Brunner’s ownership, Blue Grouse Estate Winery in the Cowichan Valley has engaged in a series of evolutions from major upgrades to the winery and vineyard, including going organic and green. Now the evolution of Blue Grouse includes a label refresh with a more authentic looking Grouse graphic by Joe Chauncey of Boxwood Creative, who also designed the winery building.

I was fortunate to attend the label reveal in Vancouver and the release of their 2018 vintage. Winemaker Bailey Willamson, has two wine lines: the estate grown wines are produced from transitional organic vineyards and Quill, their second label, incorporates Vancouver Island and Okanagan fruit.

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The Quill 2018 Pinot Gris is 100 per cent Cowichan Valley from purchased fruit. It enjoys the aromas of pear and honey with apricot and tropical fruit flavour. Like most Vancouver Island wines, there is higher acid and it’s leaner than Okanagan wines.

wine bottle
The new look for Blue Grouse Estate Winery’s wines. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Grouse

On the other hand, the 2018 Estate Pinot Gris is smoother and less tart with more fruit character. Twenty per cent is done in oak and goes through malolactic fermentation, which adds a creamy mouthfeel. The vines are 25 to 35 years old, among the oldest on Vancouver Island, if not BC, and that also contributes to the richness of this Pinot Gris.

The 2018 Quill White ($22) is made from 100 per cent Island fruit: Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Siegerrebe, and Schonberger. This is fruit salad in a glass with aromatic peaches, tropical fruit, and lemon zest in a vibrant blend.

Williamson’s love for experimentation is displayed in the Amphora Collection Ortega. It receives minimal hand pressing and is aged on the skins for a month in a clay amphora. The result is a perfumed pink wine with strawberries, rose petal, and guava personality. A unique wine that is really appealing. Available only in restaurants.

Also wearing pink is the 2018 Quill Rosé ($21). Produced from Gamay Noir grown in the Cowichan Valley, the juice was fermented on its skins for almost a day to extract colour and complexity. This is Winemaker Bailey Williamson’s favourite wine, which boasts of aromas and flavours of strawberries, cherry, and rhubarb with crisp acidity characteristic of Island wines.

Blue Grouse’s 2017 Quill Red ($26) is made from Okanagan Cabernet Franc and Merlot, from a CC Jentch vineyard along with Marechal Foch from Vancouver Island. As owner Paul Brunner explains, “Because of global warming, in decades to come we will be able to do the bigger reds, but today we aren’t able to do it so we buy grapes from the Okanagan. We always put some island in so we put some Foch in there. And I think that’s a lovely wine.” Perfect with barbecued steak or lamb burgers.

Finally one of my favourites was the Quill Pinot Noir ($26). Brunner reveals, “There’s not a lot of Pinot Noir grown on Vancouver Island so we’ve been buying fruit from the Okanagan and the Cowichan Valley. Last year it won a Gold Medal in One Line and it earned a Double Platinum Medal at Wine Press. The bolder Pinot Noirs of the Okanagan are blended with the light, good acidity of Vancouver Island just makes a stunning Pinot Noir.”

Enjoy the Pinot Noir’s vanilla and cranberry bouquet and cherry flavour with barbecued salmon, rack of lamb, or hearty pasta.

Currently Blue Grouse has an 8 1/2 acre vineyard with nine different varieties, most of which you couldn’t pronounce. In the near future, there will be an evolution of the varieties they plant. Brunner explains, “We’re now starting to work with Pedro Parra, terroir expert and we’ve become very focused. We’re currently expanding 26 acres. Those acres have five varietals on them: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and some Gamay Noir.”

You can purchase Blue Grouse wines at Everything Wine in Surrey and Vancouver.

Ehanson0705@gmail.com

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