It is home to over a dozen wineries, and now it has been given an important stamp of approval by the British Columbia Wine Authority.
The Cowichan Valley has been recognized as an official wine producing region, with a new sub-geographical indication (sub-GI), an official and protected term under B.C. law used to help consumers identify BC wines’ origins.
The BC Wine Authority manages wine standards established under the Province’s Wines of Marked Quality Regulation and oversees the BC Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA) program, ensuring that wines produced across B.C. are of marked quality, meet the labelling regulations and use the correct geographical indicators for wines made from grapes in the different regions of the province. Wines must be BC VQA certified in order to display the geographic and sub-geographic indications in B.C.
Wineries in the Cowichan Valley include Alderlea Vineyards, Averill Creek Vineyard, Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard, Cherry Point Estate Wines, Damali Lavender and Winery, Deol Estate Winery, Divino Estate Winery, Emandare Vineyard, Enrico Winery, Glenterra Vineyards, Rocky Creek Winery, Saison Market Vineyard, Unsworth Vineyards, Venturi-Schulze Vineyards, and Vigneti Zanatta Winery.
The wineries are in Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, Duncan, Glenora, Mill Bay and North Cowichan. Economic Development Cowichan, the economic development arm of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, provided a grant for an initial study of the region as a sub-geographical indicator in 2018.
Paul Brunner, owner, Blue Grouse Estate Winery says, “The newly announced Cowichan Valley sub-GI recognizes our unique terroir and solidifies Vancouver Island’s position as an up-and-coming wine destination. Bailey Williamson, Blue Grouse’s winemaker, led the initiative, but it would not have been possible without the enthusiastic co-operation of every winery and grape grower in the valley. We are proud to be part of such a cohesive group of wine lovers and look forward to being part of an exciting future.”
Defining geographic zones on wine labels connects consumers with the unique geographic area the grapes are grown, and the wine is made, in and increases exposure to the region for both wine and tourism businesses. Popular varieties grown in the Cowichan Valley include Ortega, Bacchus, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Marechal Foch and Pinot Noir.
Jill Nessel, executive director, Tourism Cowichan, says the designation is meaningful in many ways. “This is an exciting opportunity for the Cowichan Valley to again be recognized as a top-quality wine-producing region. Wine enthusiasts can now add Cowichan as an area to explore wines produced with this unique terroir. While the award-winning wines and beautiful vineyards draw thousands of visitors to Cowichan every year, it is the extraordinary people behind the wines that create memorable wine-tasting and tour experiences for locals and visitors from across the globe.”
She says the good news comes as they announce the dates for this year’s Cowichan Valley Wine Festival, which takes place August 1 to 31, with tickets available at www.tourismcowichan.com/wine-festival. It will be held with proper health and safety protocols in place.
British Columbia is home to 929 vineyards, with over 60 different grape varieties grown in the province. There are nine official geographical indications in the province and five sub-geographical indications. The Cowichan Valley is the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan and joins the Golden Mile Bench, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls and Skaha Bench in the Okanagan Valley.
Miles Prodan, president, BC Wine Institute says, “Having Cowichan Valley officially recognized as a distinct and unique wine grape growing region in B.C. is testament to the maturity of the wine growers and producers in the region. To put it simply, when you now see Vancouver Island, Cowichan Valley, BC VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) on a bottle, it is your guarantee that you’re sipping a wine that is 100% grown and made in this particular terroir of British Columbia.”