The Cowichan Valley might be best known for is rolling hills and namesake bay, where Indigenous artist Arthur Vickers has his cedar-scented studio and gallery. Now, the picturesque part of Vancouver Island between Victoria and Nanaimo has another feature to mark it on the map: it’s being officially recognized for its grape-growing and wine-making.
The Cowichan Valley has been named a new sub-geographical indication of B.C.’s wine industry by the Government of B.C. “Sub-GI” is a protected and official term under B.C. law that intends to help consumers identify the province’s wine origins.
There are nine official geographical indications province-wide (including the Okanagan Valley, Fraser Valley, and the Kootenays) and five sub-geographical indications, such as Golden Mile Bench, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, and Skaha Bench (all in the Okanagan Valley). The Cowichan Valley is the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan.
Wines that are labelled with geographical indications or sub-GIs must be produced with at least 95 percent of the grapes grown form that specific region.
The Cowichan Valley sub-GI is loosely defined as the area between the Cowichan watershed, the eastern coastline from Mill Bay to Maple Bay, and the western part of Cowichan Lake.
Grapes that thrive in the Island micro-climate include Ortega, Bacchus, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Marechal Foch, and Pinot Noir.
Among the wineries in the Cowichan Valley are 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.
They’re situated in Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, Duncan, Glenora, Mill Bay, and North Cowichan.
“The newly announced Cowichan Valley sub-GI recognizes our unique terroir and solidifies Vancouver Island's position as an up-and-coming wine destination,” Paul Brunner, owner of Blue Grouse Estate Winery, said in a statement. “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.”