It’s trips like these that make me happy to be a wine blogger.
On May 22, Blue Grouse Winery threw a grand opening of their new tasting room and cellar, and they schlepped me to it.
Not just me, but also some of Vancouver’s top palates were bussed and ferried to Vancouver Island to inaugurate the new Blue Grouse.
What kind of wine blogger could say no?
The New Blue Grouse
I had never been to Blue Grouse before, but on the way over I heard about the old tasting room in the valley among the vineyards. What I found was a wine monument inspired by the shape of a bird, and built with the area’s own natural ingredients, overlooking the old building.
In 1977, the property was planted by viniculturalist, John Harper, as a test vineyard funded by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The winery was built by Dr. Hans Kiltz and his wife Evangeline in 1988 who brought the abandoned vineyard back to life.
The Kiltz’s and nearby Zanetta both received retail liquor licenses in 1992, launching the nasicent Cowichan Valley wine country.
The Kiltz family was on hand for this event, and the Brunners invited the them to cut the ribbon to the mezzinine named for them.
Paul Brunner even brought out a framed arrangement of Blue Grouse wine labels made by Dr. Kiltz who said these were some of their first labels and they were glued on by hand.
After that, it was speed tasting time. We were sent to five stations around the property.
Being in the “2” group, I started on the crush pad where the competent staff were pouring the second label Quill red, white and rosé blends. These were paired with wild salmon tartare on wonton crackers as well as thin-cut grilled flank steak with cauliflower puree and roasted mushrooms.
Best pairing of white wine and steak I’ve ever tasted.
Out in the vineyard near the old tasting room, we were treated to the Blue Grouse Pinot Gris and Siegerrebe where Brunner and Vineyard Manager Paul Biffin, held forth.
Both wines were perfect with the pulled chicken in sesame cones and the scallop mango ceviche martinis. Very innovative caterers, these Truffles Catering.
Back in the tasting room, the grapey Blue Grouse Black Muscat – the only Black Muscat in Canada – awaited with charcuterie and local cheeses. But first, refreshing muscatinis made with black muscat, lime juice and sparkling wine.
Up on the mezzanine overlooking the valley were fresh shucked raw oysters and spot prawns.
It goes without saying how the Blue Grouse Bacchus and Ortega were made for seafood, so I won’t.
As we savored the seafood and white wines, we listened to architect Joe Chauncey describe the design and construction of the winery, based on the blue grouse. Inspired by the back of its neck curving up to the head, he created the arch forms of the roof cubbied together to became one, two, three grouses with backs arched. The black siding, buff concrete, and greys of the roof and back walls are inspired by the bird’s feathers. When the male is courting or angry he ruffles his feathers to show a flash of blue, which is represented at the front door.
From the side you can see what Joe meant about the wing shape and the spot of blue.
Down in the cellar, winemaker Bailey Williamson poured the hearty Blue Grouse 2012 Pinot Noir from the bottle and the fruity 2013 from the barrel. Those were paired with spiced pork bites in flaky pastry that were excellent with the wines.
As we were getting ready to get back on the bus, it was time to buy and the checkout counter enjoyed a rush. I snagged bottles of the Blue Grouse Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Ortega and headed to the vineyards for a few parting shots.
The whole afternoon we enjoyed the snappy picking and sweet harmonies of the celebrated trio, The Sweet Lowdown, and there they were!
On the bus/ferry ride home with the staff of Town Hall Brands, the recurring question was, “why don’t we have any beer”!
It was that kind of day.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard is at 2182 Lakeside Road, Duncan, BC. Tasting room is open Daily from 11-5pm, and at the Duncan Farmers Market every Saturday from 10-2pm. Tastings are $5 per person which is waived with a purchase. Call: (250) 743-3834, Visit: www.bluegrouse.ca