I’m going to start this post by saying that photos are not enough to convey how beautiful Blue Grouse Estate Winery is. Wine lover or not, it is somewhere that deserves a place on your bucket list. To visit Blue Grouse Estate Winery is to enjoy a piece of Vancouver Island that appeals to all senses, and whether you prefer a glass of white or red, you won’t leave disappointed. Thanks to my friend Janette of Ava to Zoe, we recently enjoyed a 2-night girls trip to Vancouver Island, which included a night at the property and I’m sharing about our experience below.
When you first arrive at Blue Grouse Estate Winery– located in Duncan on Vancouver Island- you enter a large door that leads to an open space tasting room that overlooks the vines. Inside and out, it’s a breathtaking location that makes the wine-bearing landscape the star of the show. Whether you come for the afternoon to enjoy a wine tasting or spend a night at the aptly named Grouse House, you’ll find it impossible to ignore the beauty of the location.
There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than sipping on wine and learning about how the glass you’re enjoying was cultivated, and worse ways to wake up than in a beautiful room overlooking the grapes themselves.
I’m still a novice when it comes to wine and my knowledge can at best be described as ground-level, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy learning about wine, the different varieties, and how where it’s grown-the terroir– influences the wines themselves. And of course it’s important not to overlook the winemakers, the individuals who shape each variety produced, and in the case of Blue Grass Estate Winery, that would be the affable Bailey Williamson, whose passion and knowledge are contagious.
After arriving, Janette and I were introduced to Bailey who gave us a tour of the main property, the large building which houses the tasting room, gift shop area, and production area + wine cellars. Outside of the beauty of the location, this was a highlight for me and having the opportunity to speak with Bailey about his winemaking journey and methodology was fascinating. As a former chef, Bailey’s attention to the quality of what he produces is palpable and I enjoyed hearing him speak about the different varieties grown on the property and how they differ from those found in the Okanagan.
If you have a basic knowledge of wine, you’ll know that different grape varieties thrive in different climates. Since Vancouver Island has cooler temperatures than central BC, this influences the wines that are produced on the property. With the grapes grown on location, Bailey’s method is to let the terroir of the location influence the wines he produces, rather than trying to manipulate the grapes into a wine they’re not.
I enjoyed hearing Bailey speak about how he envisions the future of the winery and the wines it produces and learning about the varieties grown on the property was an engaging lesson in winemaking. Having him walk us through a variety of the wines he produces was an enjoyable way to taste the wines themselves while gaining a deeper appreciation for them. I can’t express my gratitude enough to Bailey for taking the time to show us around the property and invite us to share in his knowledge and passion.
Looking for a Vancouver Island getaway? A night in the Grouse House won’t leave you disappointed
Following the wine tasting, Janette and I got to enjoy a night in the Grouse House, a beautiful two-bedroom suite located on the property among the vines. We only stayed for one night and I think it’s safe to say we wish we could have stayed longer; nothing about this beautiful location disappoints. As a ‘bed and bottle’ retreat, this space is perfect for couples or friends looking for a scenic and tranquil getaway.
Complete with a full kitchen and eating area, this suite is modern rustic right out of your Pinterest dreams. Stay cozy inside, tucked away in one of the luxurious beds, or take a bottle of wine out onto the patio to enjoy a breathtaking view of the vineyard and surrounding landscape. It’s hard to say which is more beautiful from the patio: ending the day with a glass of wine as the sun sets, or enjoying a hot cup of coffee in the bright morning sun.
And if a little adventure is something you seek, the winery is just a short drive away from shops, restaurants, and other local attractions. Come for a tasting, or stay for a night (or two!), Blue Grouse Winery embodies everything that is beautiful about Vancouver Island. If you’re a wine lover, this place definitely deserves a place on your bucket list!
Who’s playing host/ess this NYE? I think planning a New Years party can sometimes feel a little hectic since you go from celebrating Christmas to ringing in the new year a week later, so finding simple ideas you can pull together without much time and effort helps (did you see this post from earlier this week on how to plan the perfect quick & simple NYE party?). That doesn’t mean it has to look thrown together, but no- one needs to know you pulled off your new years bash in record time. And that’s where a bevvy like this comes in: dress up your favourite wine and whip up a batch of sangria for your guests to sip before you break out the bubbly. It’s tasty, takes less than 5 minutes to make, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Just think of it as grown- up punch- yum.
– 1 cup fresh cranberries (or use another berry if you prefer)
–optional: 1- 2 tbsp white sugar to taste
1. In a pitcher mix the wine, pop, and juices together. If you want it a little sweeter, stir in sugar until dissolved & you’ve reached the sweetness you prefer.
2. Add in the slices of fresh orange and lime, followed by the cranberries on top. Allow to sit for an hour or two (or longer if you have time) for a full- flavoured sangria. Serve chilled or with ice.
This Summer Will & I have been married for 5 years. When did that happen??? A house & mortgage and 2 kids later and here we are, pretending we’re grown ups (who else feels this way?!). As they say, marriage takes effort, and you’ve got to keep the romance alive. We’ve had a lot going on in the past few months so we’ve been craving a chance to unwind and with it being our 5th anniversary I really wanted to do something special. I haven’t been away since having kids and even though Liam is only 3 months old, he takes a bottle well and is in a good little routine, so I knew if I pumped enough milk he’d do ok (I pumped my little heart out for the month leading up to our night away to make sure I had enough- a lot of work, but so worth it for a night away). Even if you don’t have a ton of money and/ or only have a small window of time to work with, you can make the most of it if you plan ahead- and keeping the romance alive is something you can’t forget to make time for. It took us a while to decide where to go. I thought about Paris, LA, Toronto and I even considered RV Rentals Oregon. Eventually, we reached a decision to go to Okanagan. Truth is, it doesn’t matter where you decide to go, it’s just important that you spend some quality time together alone!
I started thinking about what we could do a few months back, but didn’t want to set anything in stone until baby #2 arrived and we knew what we were in for. Once Liam was born and I started to settle into life with 2 kids I felt we could pull off a night away and after thinking through our options decided on a one night getaway to the Okanagan. One of my friends suggested some of her favourite wineries on the Naramata Bench in Penticton and I loved the idea of a getaway that involved wine. We’ve always been keen on wine, and we’d been considering joining a wine of the month club already now that I can drink again, so the idea of going to a winery was near enough perfect for us. Now the trick was finding one that we could stay at that would give us the romantic atmosphere we so desperately needed.
After looking into which wineries offer accommodations & reading reviews I decided on Quidni Estate Winery at the southern end of The Bench. A boutique winery, producing only 1,500 cases of wine every year, Quidni Estate Winery has 3 guest rooms for visitors looking to enjoy a few nights away in the heart of Okanagan wine country. Thanks to this lovely venue our 24- hour mini getaway was everything we hoped it would be, with some fun added bonuses thrown into the mix.
The night before I prepped snacks for the drive up, stocked the kid’s overnight bags, and made lists of last minute things I had to do the morning we left (I can’t function without writing lists!). That way all I had to do when we got up was get dressed, pack the car & go (we actually hit the road on time, when does that ever happen???). Will & I arrived mid afternoon, ready to enjoy a wine tasting and some R&R. Right off the road, the winery is easy to find and when you enter you’re greeted by a 2- storey wine wall that showcases the wineries’ selections (so pretty!). The friendly staff made sure we had everything we needed and got us settled into our room so we could get right to the highlight of the trip: the wine!
We booked the vineyard view room, but enjoyed views of the adjacent farm and Okanagan Lake in the distance as well; who needs TV when you’ve got such natural beauty right outside to enjoy? Our room was beautiful. Clean, cozy, and exactly what you’d hope for when you book a romantic night away. The property has been decorated in a modern rustic style, and it’s exactly what I pictured a winery to be like. It was like a high- end B&B that happened to be perched on a vineyard overlooking the lake- what more could you ask for?
Once we had unloaded the car & settled, the fun began, starting with a wine tasting & tour (we were only away for 24 hours, so didn’t want to waste anytime!). The lovely Ema brought us into Quidni’s wine tasting room and went over the wines we would be tasting. The winery produces 8 varieties of wine, of which we got to try 6 (3 whites & 3 reds). We were treated to a complimentary bottle (I picked their 2014 Viognier) and we bought a few bottles to enjoy during our visit & to take home. At $13- $28 per bottle, these wines are delicious without breaking the budget.
After the tasting, Ema took us on a tour of the wine cellar and told us about the history of the winery and how their wines are produced. We got to sample some wine right out of the barrel (a Port to be released this December- Will loved it!) and check out the grapes growing in the vineyard- I’m a bit of a foodie/ wino at heart and loved seeing the grapes that will be used for future wines.
Under the new owner the winery has been transformed into what it is today, complete with its renovated facilities and guest accommodations. Quidni’s wines are produced by award- winning wine maker Todd Moore, who combines traditional & modern techniques to produce the winery’s 8 varieties (see more about him at the end of the post). And while you can’t purchase their wines in BC liquor stores given their limited production runs, you can purchase them from the winery’s website (I’m a fan of their Gewurtztraminer & Viognier and love that they’re an affordable way to enjoy BC wines). Yum!
After the wine tasting and tour we were off to enjoy some relaxing ‘us time’ on the shore of Okanagan Lake. It was a quick 10 minute walk to the beautiful & quiet 3 Mile Beach (where we got the bonus of seeing a gent rockin’ his birthday suit and later learned it’s home to a nude beach!), and enjoyed a lakeside siesta complete with wine (hey, we only had 24 hours, so we had to make it count!). It had been a long time since we’ve enjoyed some time with just the two of us, and we relished the chance to relax on the beach and go for a swim without the distraction and noise of having the kiddos in tow. It was blissful.
The nice thing about where we were is that you’re far enough away from the busy- ness of Penticton’s touristy spots to relax, but still close enough to drive to anything you need. For dinner we headed into Naramata (about a 10 minute drive from the winery) and did it in 2 parts (not on purpose, but let me explain…). The first place we tried ended up being a bit of a dive; the service was slow and the food and drinks weren’t great. The winery staff had recommended trying the local pizza place (Real Things Pizza– if you’re ever in Naramata I totally recommend it) and since we’d been planning on ordering some as a late night snack anyways, opted to pick some up to enjoy back at the winery as dinner attempt #2. All I can say is this: oh. em. gee. I picked the ‘Traindock Loaded’ pizza and it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted (sorry there’s no photos, we ate it that fast).
Thanks to that pizza, dinner was salvaged and then some; we took it back to enjoy for a late sunset dinner on the winery’s large patio with wine (what else??) and followed that with a twilight walk on the nearby trail & enjoyed more beautiful views of the lake before turning in for the night. Because we had to pack up and come home the next day, we didn’t have a lot planned for the following morning; we had thought of going paddle boarding but opted not to to avoid feeling rushed. We just enjoyed the view from bed with a cup of coffee and the ability to relax and chat without having to hop out of bed to tend to the kids. Ah, how you enjoy things so much differently after you’ve had kids! 😉
We came home feeling de- stressed, calm, and relaxed thanks to our little getaway. And of course, as soon as we picked up the kids it quickly shifted back to reality, but we were happy and grateful for the time together to reconnect. If you & your hubby are trying to carve out some alone time in the chaos of family life, I hope this shows you that it’s not how much time you’ve got together, but the quality of the time. Will and I have both been reflecting on our little getaway and are so glad we jumped at the chance. The chaos & craziness of daily life can be tough on a marriage, and it was nice to remove all that temporarily just so we could reconnect and feel like ‘us’ again.
A huge thank you to Quidni Estate Winery & it’s wonderful staff for making our 5th anniversary getaway so wonderful. We have some beautiful memories to look back on.
For anyone passionate about wine, here’s more about Todd Moore, the Wine Maker behind the delicious wines at Quidni Estate Winery:
– Began his nearly three- decades career making wine in 1987 at Lewis Brothers Winery in Grande Prairie, Alberta
– Has worked at several wineries, including Quail’s Gate, Cherry Point Vineyards, and Quidni Estate Winery over the course of his career and has earned awards for vintages he helped produce, including a Gold Medal at the LA County Wine Competition for Quail Gate’s 1993 Gewurtztraminer
– Has worked with respected wine makers including Elias Phiniotas and Jeff Martin
– Learned hot climate techniques from esteemed Wine Maker Colin Glaetzer at Barossa Valley Estate Winery where he travelled to work during his time at Quail’s Gate
– Joined Ian Mavety at Blue Mountain Vineyards for the 1994 Harvest & helped process the grapes in what has become one of the best vintages on record in BC
– Became a member of the VQA Tasting Panel in 1995, where he has become one of the most experienced tasters on the panel given the duration of his participation
– Took a position in 1998 at the BC Wine Institute Technical Committee (responsible for determining VQA standards in BC) and was elected Chairman of the Technical Committee from 1999- 2000 where he was instrumental in developing the Ice Wine Standards that are in place today
– Todd turned to consulting following his role as Wine Maker at Cherry Point Vineyards & has helped new/ struggling wineries establish cost effective production facilities based on their winemaking style and transform them into respected, prosperous operations (most recently winning Best of Category at the All Canada Wine Championships & Pinot Noir Gold at the North West Wine Summit)
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