Blue Grouse

Blue Grouse All WinesWe’ve been fans of Blue Grouse wines for years, and frequently cross the nearby border to buy bottles. However, in July, for the first time, we visited their classy estate winery. Blue Grouse is an acclaimed Cowichan Valley producer, with one of the oldest vineyards on Vancouver Island. Blue Grouse Estate Winery’s philosophy is “stewardship.” Their vineyards are all sustainably farmed. During our visit, our charming, knowledgeable host Vanessa Wheaton poured five wines for us – three whites, a sparkling rosé and one red. These are just a small sample of many standout Blue Grouse wines.

Blue Grouse Story

Blue Grouse tasting roomIn 1984, John Harper, a respected viticulturist from BC’s Fraser Valley, planted more than 100 varieties of test vines to see what would thrive on what is now the Blue Grouse property. Subsequently, new owners Dr. Hans Kiltz and his wife Evangeline harvested the first grapes three years later, and sold to them to home winemakers. In 1992, Blue Grouse Estate Winery received its license, the second one issued on Vancouver Island.

Fast forward ten years, and Paul (who calls himself the “Blue Grouch”), Cristina, and Paula Brunner fell in love with Cowichan Valley, and bought Blue Grouse Estate. Under their stewardship, the winery was revitalized and the brand soared.

Last December, the Jackson Family purchased the winery property, tasting room, vineyards, and Blue Grouse and Quill brands. The Jackson Family is a prominent group of vintners, with 40 properties worldwide, including California, Washington, Oregon, France, Italy, Australia, Chile, and South Africa.

The family sees tremendous potential in Cowichan’s cool-climate maritime wine-growing region and plans to enhance the successful path established by the Brunner family.

Vineyards

VineyardThe Blue Grouse vineyard sites feature three soil types: Fairbridge (silt loam and clay with marine deposits); Hillbank (similar to Fairbridge, but with better drainage); and Qualicum (very gravelly sand and loam, with excellent drainage).

Blue Grouse now grows Bacchus, Black Muscat, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Muller Thurgau, Ortega, Pearl of Csaba, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Siegerrebe.

These grapes grow well in the mild Mediterranean-like temperatures of the Cowichan Valley. The late Canadian chef and author, James Barber, named the area “Canada’s Provence.” As a result of the climate, and rich volcanic and glacial soil, the wines show a distinct minerality.

Blue Grouse Wines

Blue Grouse Tasting LineupWe met skilled winemaker Bailey Williamson at several Wines of British Columbia events over the last few years. What a talent, and what a warm, friendly guy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t join us at our tasting. But Pamela Sanderson, the welcoming tasting room manager, made sure we had a fun and educational time with our amazing host Vanessa Wheaton. Vanessa poured five outstanding wines for us, thoroughly explaining each wine and making excellent food suggestions.

Blue Grouse Whites

Blue Grouse WhitesFirst, Vanessa poured 2022 Siegerrebe ($27 CAD), an easy-drinking wine with bursts of grapefruit, orange rinds, tropical fruit, melons and stone fruit. Siegerrebe is a cross between Gewürztraminer and Madeleine Angevine, and well-known on Vancouver Island. Serve with sushi, Thai or Indian curry.

Next, 2021 Pinot Gris ($30 CAD) is so unique. The grapes come from three Cowichan Valley vineyards, each with a disparate soil type, combining to deliver a distinct terroir-driven wine. This substantial wine offers a rich, creamy mouthfeel, hints of minerality and bright acidity. Aromas and flavors of apple crumble, spices, butterscotch, lemon and caramel were both surprising and incredible. We loved it. Vanessa suggests pairing it with creamy brie or roasted chicken.

2022 Quill Q White ($24 CAD) is very different than previous vintages we’ve tasted. This blend merges Schönburger, Gewürztraminer, Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Riesling. It does not include the Pinot Gris or Siegerrebe of previous vintages, and is slightly sweeter, with aromas and flavors of peaches, pineapple, lychee and jasmine. Vanessa recommends pairing it with spicy food to balance the sweetness, or serve it with halibut.

Blue Grouse 2022 OrtegaVanessa also happily gave us a pour of 2022 Ortega  ($29 CAD), because it’s our favorite Blue Grouse wine and harder to find in the wild. So, we purchased a few bottles to take home (and wish we had bought more). This refreshing white beauty is 100% Ortega, the flagship grape of Vancouver Island and the signature grape of the Cowichan Valley. We adored the peach and grapefruit notes, and minerality. Open it with crabs, prawns, other seafood dishes or Asian food. Ortega is a cross between Siegerrebe and Müller-Thurgau, developed in Germany decades ago. The grape came to Vancouver Island as part of the experimental planting project mentioned earlier.

Rosé Frizzante and Pinot Noir

Rose Frizzante and Pinot2022 Quill Rosé Frizzante ($20) is 100% Gamay Noir, and slightly effervescent. Think pomegranates, raspberries and citrus, which would perfectly complement a summer salad of strawberries, watermelon and either feta or goat cheese. This fun, bubbly wine joined the Blue Grouse portfolio in 2022, and is now a best-seller.

2020 Pinot Noir ($46) is light and delicate, yet savory and sophisticated. Aromas and flavors of berries, dark cherries, pomegranate, white pepper, baking spices and mushrooms entice. This 100% Pinot is earthy, elegant, complex and balanced. Bring it out for Thanksgiving or with salmon.

Summary: Blue Grouse

In conclusion, we adore Blue Grouse wines. Thankfully, we can easily cross the nearby border to buy some bottles in their awesome lineup. However, you can only purchase others at the gorgeous estate winery. It’s worth the trip.

Meanwhile, find us on Instagram, Facebook and of course, here, at Write for Wine – It’s Wine O’Clock Somewhere.

Cheers!
Margot and Dave