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Column: Blue Grouse Estate Winery celebrates a decade making everything better than when they found it

Owners Brunner family made several important changes in the past decade.

One of the most charming BC wine regions is the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, sometimes called “The Tuscany of Canada.” And this year, Cowichan Valley’s Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard is celebrating their tenth anniversary under the ownership of the Brunner Family.

A decade ago, Paul Brunner along with his wife Cristina, and daughter Paula purchased the property and have made several important changes including a beautiful modernized tasting room, vineyard expansions, and a celebrated visitor experience.

Along with this progressive winery’s anniversary are some recent releases. The Quill 2021 Pinot Gris ($23.99, 91 points, Outstanding) is a perfect wine for summer enjoyment. The Quill label is for wines made from grapes off-site and   allows winemaker Bailey Williamson to source the best grapes grown in BC to make distinctive wines.

The 100% Pinot Gris grapes came from three Cowichan Valley vineyards, each with a different soil type producing a unique terroir driven wine. It was fermented in three separate stainless steel tanks before blending. Only one went through malolactic fermentation.

Medium straw in the glass the Gris has a generous citrus, tree and tropical fruit nose. On the palate expect mouth-watering flavours of ripe mango, pears, and lemon. This medium bodied white has the characteristic crisp backbone from the Valley’s cool climate. There’s also a rich creamy texture and a medium body due to the natural malolactic fermentation, which ended on a lengthy tree-fruit dry finish.

The Quill Pinot Gris was superb with Bobby Flay’s Chili Sockeye Salmon recipe I prepared. Winemaker and former chef Bailey recommends enjoying his tasty white as a sipper or with Manchego cheese or halibut.

The Quill 2021 Pinot Gris is available by the glass at all Tap and Barrel Restaurants in BC.

Next is the Estate 2021 Ortega ($25.99, 86 points, Very Good) produced from 100% organically farmed grapes from mature vines that are mainly 25 years old. Ortega is a cross between Siegerrebe and Muller-Thurgau and considered Vancouver Island’s signature grape, reflecting the best that the Cowichan Valley’s warm summers can deliver.

The Ortega has an attractive onion-skin colour and a ripe peach aroma with a savoury flavour with earthy and buttery hints in its medium body. It has less acid than the Pinot Gris and therefore has a softer mouth feel. It finishes on a slightly bitter note. Enjoy with oysters, prawns, or halibut.

The stretch of sunny warm weather we’re now enjoying is perfect for a rosé, and The Quill 2021 Rosé delivers! ($24.99. 89 points, Very Good.) The goal is to achieve a balance between the more fruit-forward Okanagan grapes and the high-acid Vancouver Island grapes.

Produced from Gamay Noir from the northern part of the Cowichan valley, the grapes were crushed and left on the skins for 24 hours before being pressed. With the higher acid from the northern Cowichan grapes, fermentation was stopped to allow more sweetness thus achieving a better balance.

The Rosé displays a dark rosé colour with a generous aroma of ripe cherries. Expect tart cranberries and a kiss of cloves with a lengthy sweet and sour cherry finish. This begs to be served with barbecued sockeye salmon or a watermelon and feta cheese salad.

And last but certainly not least, is the 2020 Quill Pinot Noir ($28.99, 91 points, Outstanding.) It's a blend of 37.5 % grapes from Oliver and 62.5 % grapes from the Cowichan Valley. The two Pinots went through wild fermentation separately before blending. After pressing, the wine was moved into French oak to complete malolactic fermentation followed by twelve months in French and American Oak.

The Quill Pinot Noir appears as a medium burgundy with a pale rim. It enjoys a seductive vanilla oak aroma with black cherries and red fruit and baking spices. On the palate there’s delicious rich strawberry, cranberry, forest floor as well as cloves and cinnamon. It displays velvety tannins and a mild creaminess in its medium light body plus refreshing acid from its Cowichan grapes.

It would also be a welcome partner with barbecued salmon as well as grilled lamb chops or burgers this summer.

All the wines are available online or at the winery as well as at some private stores. To celebrate the 10th Anniversary there is complimentary shipping on 12+ bottles in BC and 10% off any mix and match case of 12 bottles. Use the code CELEBRATE.

Visit Blue Grouse’s website for online orders of today’s wines as well as a flight of tasting reservations at its beautiful Cowichan Valley location. Happy Anniversary Blue Grouse!

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