EAT Magazine May-June 2015_Victoria_56_Layout 1 5/4/15 10:06 AM Page 24
Re-Start The winery’s grand opening will showcase the new owner’s plans to make Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard a destination winery in the Cowichan Valley. BY JOSEPH BLAKE
ey, look at that red-tailed hawk right down there in the stand of trees by the creek!” exclaims winemaker Bailey Williamson mid-sentence as we stand in the sun behind Blue Grouse Estate Winery. “That creek starts at Dugan Lake. The lake is spring-fed and there are no motor boats allowed. The riparian area is very important to us.” Williamson continues while scanning the wooded land below the south-sloping vines. “We want to be good custodians of the land.” Paul Brunner, who bought Blue Grouse in July 2012, has built a large new winery and tasting room not far from the old homestead and tasting room. On the weekend of May 23, the architecturally stunning structure will have its grand opening, and people will be invited to see the retired mining executive’s big plans for Blue Grouse. Brunner grew up in Nanaimo, was educated at Colorado School of Mines and worked in Sudbury, South Africa, Australia and South America before marrying his Peruvian wife Cristina. “My wife and I were looking for a project,” he tells me by phone from Miami last month. “We liked the wine industry and checked out spots in California, Chile, Argentina and France before my wife came across Blue Grouse near where my brother lives. It’s a beautiful spot.” Brunner has big plans, but he’s also realistic. “We’ve got to walk before we run,” he says when I ask him to describe his dreams for the winery. “We’ve got to build our sales up to 5,000 cases. That gives us a profitable footing, and that’s the first step. Once we’re
EAT MAGAZINE MAY | JUNE 2015
Blue Grouse Estate Winery and Vineyard, 4365 Blue Grouse Rd., Duncan B.C., 250-743-3834, www.bluegrouse.ca. The new winery and tasting room will be open to the public starting on May 23rd.
Blue Grouse winemaker Bailey Williamson stands in the mezzanine of the new winery that looks out over vineyards and valley
established as a destination winery, I can imagine selling related products: well water, spirits, more sparkling wine and port-style using our Black Muscat grape, picnic supplies like local-made cheese and prosciutto. Maybe eventually a little bed and breakfast. My 21-year old daughter is in Scotland studying math and physics. Maybe she’ll get interested in the project too.” John Harper first planted grapes at Blue Grouse with an Agriculture Canada grant in 1977. Dr. Hans Kiltz and his wife, Evangeline, bought the property in 1988, rejuvenated what he could from Harper’s experiments with grapes and planted-out the rest of the property with seven varietals. “There’s a deep history of viniculture here,” Bailey Williamson explains. “It’s important to carry on that legacy. Building a facility like this, a real destination winery, is going to benefit everyone in the Cowichan Valley.” Bailey worked as a cook at Herald Street Cafe, Cafe Brio and other Victoria restaurants before moving to the Okanagan to pursue his passion for wine. “I was single and had the luxury to take any kind of work in the vineyards and wineries, any $12/hour job just to learn the craft. By the time I’d worked my way up to assistant winemaker for Road 13’s Michael Bartier, I was ready for this job at Blue Grouse.” Since buying Blue Grouse, Brunner has continued to acquire neighbouring land. Now 45 acres, Blue Grouse currently has a third of the property in estate-grown grapes with plans to plant six more acres next summer. Williamson and his crew also produce 2,000 cases of the winery’s Quill label portfolio from Okanagan-grown grapes. The Blue Grouse estate-grown wines include Bacchus, Ortega, Siegerrebe, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Black Muscat. They are currently for sale at the Duncan Farmers’ Market and after the new tasting room’s grand opening, the Quill and estate portfolios will be for sale at Blue Grouse seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We built the new winery and tasting room from locally sourced materials,” Williamson explains as we tour the new facility. “We also wanted to put as light a footprint on the environment as possible by using geothermal energy. The pond in front of the winery provides irrigation, fire suppression and geo-thermal energy with a system of glycol loops, and there is an artesian well that produces 60 gallons of water an hour.” We walk past the entrance fireplace, long, L-shaped tasting bar and the catering kitchen built for special events like this month’s grand opening. Upstairs is a boardroom and office with a large, wooden wall mount honouring the Kiltz family and a breathtaking view of the southsloping vineyard, old homestead and stunningly beautiful valley It will likely inspire further expansion of his destination location at Blue Grouse and the expanding wine tourism industry in the Cowichan Valley.