Looking to tour through the best Cowichan Valley Wineries?
Our guide to Cowichan Wineries features detailed descriptions for the best vineyards within Vancouver Island’s most concentrated wine region.
Plan a road trip to the scenic Cowichan Valley to experience some of British Columbia’s most celebrated vineyards.
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History of Cowichan Valley Wineries
Winemaking on Vancouver Island began in the early 1920’s with wines produced from loganberries by the Growers’ Wine Company.
On Vancouver Island, grape winemaking really began to boom after a provincial government-funded trial – The Duncan Project – identified Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Ortega as promising varieties for this unique seaside environment.
Today, the majority of Wineries on Vancouver Island are located in the Cowichan Valley and Saanich Peninsula. There are additional wineries near Nanimo, Comox and on some of the surrounding islands like Hornby and Denman.
The first winery on Vancouver Island was Zanatta Winery, which opened in 1992. Today, there are 32 licensed grape wineries covering a planted region of 432 acres.
Dobbernatinloves had an opportunity to chat with Vancouver Island wine expert Chris Turyk from Unsworth Vineyards. Turyk explained, “In August, 2020 the British Columbia government officially announced the creation of the Cowichan Valley sub-region on Vancouver Island. This is the first time a wine region outside of the Okanagan has been given such a distinction.”
He continued, “Some of the most planted grape varieties are Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir but there are hosts of others that have become local favourites including Ortega, Marachel Foch, Sauvignette and Petite Milo.”
The Cowichan Valley has Canada’s most moderate climate as it has the highest annual average temperature. Vancouver Island is a result of volcanic origin and ancient seabed uplifting followed by glaciation. This makes the soils of the island extremely diverse even across a small geographical area. Geology nerds will find silt-loams, clay loams, gravel, and other complex soil types.
Best Hotels For a Vancouver Island Wine Tour
The Cowichan Valley Wineries are located between Victoria and Nanimo on Vancouver Island.
Many day trippers book a hotel in downtown Victoria, but we suggest extending your visit to enjoy an overnight at one of two luxurious winery accommodations.
- Fairmont Empress in Victoria: Vancouver Island’s most iconic hotel sits perched over Victoria’s scenic harbour. The 5 star luxury accommodation is an excellent home base for those visiting Victoria who are keen to plan day trips to the wineries in nearby Cowichan Valley and the Saanich Peninsula. The historic hotel offers chic suites, romantic spa, elegant bar and Victoria’s best Afternoon Tea.
- Blue Grouse House in Cowichan: One of Cowichan Valley’s most popular wineries offers onsite accommodation. Book a vineyard retreat at Blue Grouse House and enjoy a two-bedroom suite, gas fireplace, modern kitchen and scenic outdoor patio.
- Emandare Vineyard Guest House in Cowichan: Located in Duncan, this luxurious Cowichan winery accommodation features a fully furnished 950 sqft suite with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, front deck with BBQ and Jacuzzi hot tub.
Best Cowichan Wineries
The majority of Vancouver Island wineries are located in the Cowichan Valley, located between Victoria and Nanimo. The Cowichan Valley wineries are a short one hour drive from downtown Victoria.
While many tourists visit the region on a day trip, we encourage wine lovers to book an overnight stay so you’re not rushing through the wineries and cider houses of Cowichan Valley.
The Cowichan Valley was historically a diary farming community and has been since the late 1800s. In addition there are now smaller diversified vegetable and mixed agriculture operations.
Due to its proximity to Vancouver and Victoria, the booming wine region on Vancouver Island has enjoyed a boost in popularity as a tourist destination and for people looking to relocate from the expensive Lower Mainland.
Visitors to Cowichan can enjoy unique wine tours, scenic biking and hiking trails, restaurant menus celebrating fresh seasonal flavours, kayaking and swimming in the Pacific Ocean and freshwater lakes in the valley and horseback riding.
Wineries in the Cowichan Valley are generally shielded from Pacific Ocean storms by nearby mountains and have a long growing season with low frost risk. The region has some of the best weather on Vancouver Island, known to receive up to 2000 hours of sunshine a year.
1751 Stamps Rd, 250-746-7122
Zac Brown and Julie Powell are the owners of Alderlea Vineyards. The duo purchased the property in 2017 but the vineyard has been growing grapes since 1994. The previous owner, Roger Dosman, had a vision to pioneer grape growing in a new region of British Columbia.
The Cowichan Valley winery is a converted barn featuring a tasting room that has a West Coast Indigenous theme. The winery’s name pays homage to the original name of the town of nearby Duncan.
Zac Brown is Alderlea Vineyard’s resident winemaker and has a penchant for making crisp, aromatic whites and cool-climate reds.
Powell explained, “Alderlea is probably the hottest vineyard site on Vancouver Island with a sloping, south-facing vineyard over a lake, in the rain shadow of Mt. Prevost. The location enables us not only to grow and ripen Pinot Noir, a fairly common wine for the Island, but also Merlot, a varietal not ordinarily found in a cool climate such as ours.”
6552 N Rd, 250-709-9986
Andy Johnston is the founder of Averill Creek Vineyard in Cowichan Valley. The 30 acre vineyard was first planted in 2001, with its first vintage available in 2004.
Averill Creek’s 150-ton capacity winery is built into the side of Mount Prevost. With the help of designer Vasco Pavlov, Johnston embraced the opportunity to work with the inherent landscape, “Guided by gravity and slope, our facility incorporates three buildings structured together, allowing wine to flow down from one stage to the next without the need for pumps. This gravity flow method allows for gentle handling of delicate varietals – helping to retain their elegant characteristics,” said Johnston.
Resident winemaker, Brent Rowland, joined Averill Creek Vineyard in August of 2018. Brent’s focus is on producing quality Pinot Noir, having worked 20 international harvests at many leading Pinot Noir producers.
“The approach to my winemaking career was quite premeditated. I wanted to focus on Pinot Noir but didn’t want to go to Burgundy to learn a recipe. Instead, I chose to work at Estates that I felt were the best at taking the Burgundian philosophy and adapting it to their specific region, make intelligent,” said Rowland.
Averill Creek features a Tuscan-style terrace offering panoramic views of the ocean and the Cowichan Valley. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnic, or grab one of their charcuterie boxes.
2182 Lakeside Rd, 250-743-3834
The Brunner family purchased Blue Grouse Estate Winery in 2020 from the Kiltz family. The Cowichan Valley winery was first founded in 1990 and its tasting room opened in 1993.
Blue Grouse Estate Winery is home to the some of the oldest vines on Vancouver Island. Pioneering British Columbian viticulturist John Harper planted an experimental vineyard on the site starting in 1986 with more than 150 different types of grape vines, some of which are still producing to this day. Some of these plantings are lesser known Vancouver Island Wines such as Bacchus, Müller-Thurgau, Pearl Of Csaba, and Black Muscat. The winery is the only known current producer of a Black Muscat wine in the country.
The current winery was completed in May 2015, constructed with the shape, colours and textures inspired by the blue grouse. The lovely curve of the grouse’s head and neck inspired the roofline. Inside the tasting room, a curved ceiling reminds visitors of a grouse’s belly, and the entrance highlights a beautiful shade of blue from the grouse’s tail feathers.
Bailey Williamson has been the resident winemaker at Blue Grouse Winery since 2012. Bailey guides the estate portfolio that includes Blue Grouse Estate Bacchus, Ortega, Pinot Gris, Siegerrebe, Black Muscat and Pinot Noir.
If you’re feeling hungry on your Cowichan Valley wine hopping adventure, Blue Grouse Winery offers cheese, charcuterie and veggie boards year round. During the Winter and Fall, guests can enjoy Soup Saturday from 12-3pm, where kitchen staff prepare homemade seasonal soups. Diners can enjoy a combination of soup, bread and a glass of wine for just $16.
During Spring and Summer, weekends are busy at Blue Grouse Winery. On Fridays, guests are invited to Friday Night Flights where three, 3oz glasses of wine are offered for $8 with accompanying food options that rotate weekly. On Sundays during the high season, guests enjoy Sunday EATS, lunch specials offered in partnership with local caterers and food trucks.
840 Cherry Point Rd, 250-743-1272
Cherry Point Estate Wines was originally established on Vancouver Island in 1989. The 34 acre property is currently owned and managed by Xavier and Maria Bonilla.
The Cherry Point vineyard in Cobble Hill became a licensed winery in 1994. The Bonilla’s adopt their wine philosophy using best practices from Europe. The 12 wine varietals produced are solely dictated by the land with respect to its soil qualities.
Cherry Point produces all estate wines, best enjoyed on its sun-soaked outdoor patio. The Cowichan winery’s scenic pastoral ambience and bistro double as a venue for weddings and special events year-round.
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3500 Telegraph Rd, 250-743-4100
Husband and wife team, Kennedy and Christine Saville manage Damali Lavender & Winery.
The Damali vineyard was originally planted in 2006. After converting the original barn into a winery, their first wines were released in Spring 2011. The vineyard contains varietals such as Cabernet Libre, Castel, Siegerrebe, and Pinot Noir.
Damali winemaker Kennedy Saville is currently working on his 5th vintage. Saville shared, “with combinations of estate grown fruit, grape, and flower, our wines are certainly unique and we’re not afraid to break the molds of traditional wine-making.”
In the orchard they also grow blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb and black currants for the purpose of wine making.
The Cowichan Valley winery is unique in that it is the only vineyard on Vancouver Island also growing lavender. Damali also produces fruit and grape wines, some of which are even flavoured with lavender!
Visit Damali Winery and you’ll find a farmstead-style building constructed with rustic wood, built in part with lumber fell from the land.
Over the years the winery has evolved to offer a range of activities including a vineyard, tasting room, gift shop, labyrinth and orchards. Lavender remains a key facet of the business. With over 25 lavender varietals, guests are encouraged to take a self-guided tour.
Guests are encouraged to bring your own picnic which you can enjoy in our licensed picnic area.
6645 Somenos Rd, 250-746-3967
In 1999, the Deol family made the decision to move their wine operation from the Okanagan to Vancouver Island.
What was originally a 32 acre dairy farm located in North Cowichan has been transformed into a 20 acre vineyard. The family’s passion and focus is primarily on agriculture and cultivating the land using the experience and expertise they acquired in the Okanagan.
The Deol family originally launched their winemaking business to supply grapes to local wineries. In 2008, they expanded their operation, releasing their first vintage estate wine and opening their doors for public wine tastings.
A variety of vegetables and fruits are also grown and sold on the property, as well as the nearby Duncan farmers market.
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1500 Freeman Rd, 250-743-2311
Divino Estate Winery’s owner Joseph Busnardo started planting vinifera in the Okanagan Valley in the late ’60s. His 70 acre vineyard fed the winery that opened in 1982. He relocated the entire operation to a 40 acre spot in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island and had the vineyard replanted by 1996.
Busnardo described the process of opening one of the first wineries on the island, “The drama of starting an industry in British Columbia that has just gone crazy and fighting the government at all levels makes for a good story. Ask the right person in the Okanagan where all the Merlot came from and the answer should be Busnardo. Right now we can boast having 25+ year old wines that are just wonderful that not just anyone get to have and soft light island wines that dance on your tongue!”
The Divino Estate Winery was constructed using the wood from the trees felled to plant the grapes. Today, the vineyards original barn is its warehouse.
Busnardo most enjoys producing traditional Italian-style wines with no added sulphites. Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Castel, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio form the core of the mix of varietals on the Busnardo Vineyard.
6798 Norcross Rd, 250-597-4075
Emandare Vineyard is owned and operated by Mike and Robin Nierychlo. The couple purchased the 21 year old vineyard in 2013.
Mike explained, “We built the winery in 2014 and launched our first wines in 2015. Previously the vineyard had a very high quality reputation as a grape grower that supplied other wineries in the area. It didn’t have a winery itself. After searching for a place to live out our dream of growing wine and raising our family, we found this place that we now have to privilege to call home.”
Emandare Winery was built entirely by the Nierychlo family. It is close to 5 feet under ground, which keeps the temperature in the building very consistent. The A-Symmetrical roof line facilitates convection in the ceiling which sucks out hot air and pulls in cool air.
The wine shop, which stands in front of the Cowichan Valley winery was an old workshop. Mike commented, “We stripped it right back to the slab and re-built it to look like it had always been there. We lined the feature walls with the old white cedar siding that used to be on the exterior. Our logo was laser burnt into old fir gate panels that previously hung just outside the building. Our bar was created by using the previous owners solid fir work bench. Our crush pad converts into a glass walled private tasting lounge during the summer months where we conclude private tours with a lovely sit down tasting.”
Mike described his Cowichan Valley wines as “Bright, fresh, crisp, juicy and clean. You could call our wines natural, but we much prefer to say that we just steward the wine and happen to do it naturally.”
Mike loves working with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, which are best enjoyed on the winery’s patio during the warm summer months. Guests can pair their wine with a locally produced cheese and charcuterie platter.
3280 Telegraph Rd, 250-733-2356
The current owner of the Enrico Winery is Jim Smith. He acquired the Vancouver Island winery from his dad, Harry Smith the original owner.
The 54 acre property was originally purchased in 1999, when the land was used as a livestock farm. The slow conversion to a winery began in 2003 with land clearing and prep for the planting soon to follow. Posts, drainage, irrigation and field layout for the first 11 acres started early 2004.
Enrico Winery’s original planting consisted of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Ortega, Cabernet Foch and Cabernet Libre. The first harvest was celebrated in 2009. Today the winery tends to over 23 acres acres of vineyards.
Enrico Winery’s General Manager Lorin Inglis explained, “In 2009, we converted one of the original buildings into our tasting room. Our tasting room is a favourite on the island for visitors as it offers a warm and friendly feel. We also have live music on Saturdays and Sundays staring early May and ending middle of October. Our small kitchen, which serves basic light meals keeps a smile on each customers face while they enjoy a wine tasting.”
Enrico Winery’s resident winemaker Daniel Cosman’s understanding of hybrid grapes has proven to be rewarding for the winery. Inglis added, “Many medals from Canada and United States adorn our shelves, including the prestigious Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. Enrico winery is the only recipient of this award on Vancouver Island.”
3897 Cobble Hill Rd, 250-743-2330
Glenterra Vineyards, a popular Cowichan Winery, maintains 5 acres of sustainably dry farmed vineyards. No chemical herbicides, systemic fungicides or pesticides are used, only natural fertilizers with organic ingredients and composted pomace for the vineyard.
Additional grapes are purchased as needed from vineyards that use similarly responsible farming methods. Glenterra Vineyard’s farming practices include extensive canopy management to create airflow through our vineyard, which greatly reduces mildew and botrytis pressure, mechanical weed control under the vine rows to create a mulch which suppresses the weeds and creates organic matter and moisture as it breaks down.
Glenterra Vineyards is proud to have been farming Cowichan Valley Winery property in this eco-friendly manner for over 20 years.
Since their 2010 vintage, Glenterra’s winemaking has emphasized a minimalist and natural approach. There are no enzymes used at crush, indigenous yeast fermentation is utilized and no animal based fining products. So yes, these Vancouver Island wines are vegan friendly!
Popular Glenterra wines include Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and several beautiful blends featuring Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muller Thurgau, Ortega and Bacchus.
If you’re feeling hungry, Glenterra’s Vineyards is one of our favourite Cowichan Valley Wineries offering an onsite restaurant. Thistles Cafe offers indoor and outdoor patio dining. Its menu features West Coast Asian vibes such as soba noodle salad and prawn cakes.
1854 Myhrest Rd, 250-748-5622
Mark and Linda Halford first opened Rocky Creek Winery in 2005. The winery originally started on Rocky Creek in Ladysmith, British Columbia as the first home based winery in Canada.
The winery building is a former home, which was redesigned a few years ago to increase the spacing in the tasting room.
Linda shared, “Mark has always been making Cowichan Valley wines but started originally producing with his grandfather and father. While working on the island in pulp and paper he saw the island was a growing wine region. We didn’t see the longevity of the pulp and paper industry so we decided to start our own winery.”
Linda added, “We took over vineyards that had many varietals because the farmers that planted them at the time didn’t know what would harvest. We also have one unique vineyard that has Spanish varietals such as Tempranillo and Albarino.”
Rocky Creek Winery produces wines on the dry side. They planted the estate vineyard primarily experimental to try for bolder reds. The Cowichan winery has a picnic licence and offers locally produced snacks to purchase such as an artisan meat packs, candied local salmon and local cheeses.
2915 Cameron Taggart Rd #1, 250-929-2292
The Turyk family first opened Unsworth Vineyards in 2010. The Cowichan Valley winery would be Tim Turyk’s retirement project from the fishing industry.
Tim described the winery’s construction, “We wanted functionality for the winery. Purpose built and simply designed with some room to expand if necessary. Coming from the commercial fishing industry we wanted the production area to be simple and functional. The restaurant is in a 100 year old farm house that we thoughtfully restored into Unsworth Restaurant as a venue to showcase our wines with delicious local food.”
So what inspired the winery’s name? Unsworth is Tim’s mom’s maiden name. She was a local resident of Victoria and Shawnigan Lake and introduced the family to the area.
Unsworth Vineyard’s resident winemaker is Dan Wright, who joined the Cowichan winery in 2015. Dan was inspired by working at Beaux Freres Winery in Oregon, which makes some of the best Pinot Noir in the world.
Tim said, “Unsworth strives to make unmistakable high quality, cool climate coastal wines from Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and a small handful of other varieties that are grown and produced with upmost quality in mind. As a young region we still have much to explore and dial in.”
Unsworth Vineyards offers visitors various tours, from self guided to private tastings. Guests are invited to enjoy the winery’s beautifully landscaped tasting room patio as well as a pizza patio with a vineyard viewing area.
4235 Vineyard Rd, 250-743-5630
Giordano and Marilyn Venturi first established Venturi-Schulze Vineyards on Vancouver Island in 1988.
Marilyn explained, “Our homestead was one of the first in the area, having been built in 1893. Portions have been cleared and allowed to regrow over the years. The previous owners for 30 years never sprayed, so the property has been at least 62 years an oasis free of chemical pesticides and herbicides.”
The wee tasting room was designed by Victoria-based architect JC Scott and features locally salvaged maple and arbutus counters and windowsills created by local artisan Joe Gelinas.
The Venturi family share a passion for Pinot Noir, dry bottle-fermented sparkling, racy whites, and a unique process to create naturally sweet wine, the Brandenburg No.3.
Beyond wine, Venturi-Schulze Vineyards also produces balsamic vinegar using an ancient method from Modena, Italy. Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting and purchase the families vinegar and house-made jams in the retail shop.
5039 Marshall Rd, 250-748-2338
Vigneti Zanatta (now called Zanatta Winery) was the first grape winery to open on Vancouver Island. The Zanatta family began experimentation of vinifera varieties in 1981. The winery is currently owned by Jim Moody and Loretta Zanatta.
Owner Loretta Zanatta explained, “We participated in a provincial trial of grape varieties called the Duncan Project. Dionisio Zanatta, my father, was very enthusiastic and believed in the Cowichan Valley as an optimal location for certain styles of wine.”
Dionisio planted 5 acres in 1985 before the wine regulations had formally been rewritten to allow boutique wineries. In 1989, Vigneti Zanatta was created and licensing was finally issued in August of 1992. Their first bottle of wine sold was Ortega.
Zanatta Winery is now located on a 27 acre vineyard. Visitors can skip into the retail store and wine bar, which is located in the original home of the Zanatta family. The 1903 farmhouse features a wrap around verandah, where wine lovers can sit and sip their glasses.
Jim Moody is the resident winemaker, joining the business when he married Loretta in 1992. Jim took over winemaking from Loretta and quickly became the chief winemaker sometime in the late 90’s. He has a strong affinity for traditional method sparkling Cowichan Valley wines.
Peckish guests can enjoy Italian nibbles at the Zanatta Winery Lounge. The onsite restaurant highlights wine tastings and food pairings, which can be enjoyed in the dining room or scenic verandah.
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