Blue Grouse Estate Winery Offers Bed & Bottle Retreat

Client News

Grouse House now open for reservations

Blue Grouse Estate Winery announces the highly-anticipated opening of Grouse House, an exclusive ‘Bed & Bottle’ retreat for wine lovers, exquisitely set within the heart of the historic estate vineyard.

Grouse House at Blue Grouse Winery

The panoramic outdoor patio space offers a barbecue and a place to lounge and relax while enjoying a complimentary bottle of wine from Blue Grouse Winery. Leanna Rathkelly photo.

Located within minutes from the quaint seaside community of Cowichan Bay and less than an hour from downtown Victoria, the Cowichan Valley wine experience has never been better.

The two-bedroom suite sleeps four, making it ideal for couples or a small family. A modern kitchen is the perfect place to create meals made from the treasures picked up at the Duncan Farmers Market. The panoramic outdoor patio space offers a barbecue and a place to lounge while enjoying a complimentary bottle of wine from Blue Grouse Estate Winery.

Other amenities include luxurious linens and towels, a gas fireplace, air-conditioning and complimentary WiFi. The Grouse House is perfect for wedding and honeymoon stays, family adventures, or small corporate retreats. Escape today and enjoy the very best that Island wine country has to offer.

For available dates and rates, email stay@bluegrouse.ca

Book online at www.vrbo.com/997490

Photos of the Grouse House for media found here.

Grouse House accommodation on Vancouver island

The Grouse House offers a two bedroom suite, each with an en-suite bathroom (this one is wheelchair accessible). Leanna Rathkelly photo.

About Blue Grouse Estate Winery:

Family-owned, sustainably-farmed and award-winning, Blue Grouse Estate Winery is located in Duncan, in the heart of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The winery and surrounding vineyards are a sought after destination not only for sampling the winery’s portfolio of award-winning wines, but also for evens, picnics, and family adventures.

The inspired winery facility was but with many sustainable elements including locally-sourced construction materials, the use of geothermal energy, onsite water collection and treatment, as well as other features that reduce energy consumption.

The Blue Grouse tasting room is open year round with season hours. For the hours when you plan your visit, visit bluegrouse.ca.

If you have any additional questions about Grouse House, please feel free to contact us at Town Hall Brands. 

 

 

2016 BC Grape Harvest In Full Swing

 

Would you like images, an interview, or to learn more? Contact Sujinder Juneja for assistance.

According to the BC Wine Institute (BCWI), BC’s cool-climate grape crop is on track for another excellent vintage this year. Hot and dry conditions in the spring led to the earliest bud break on record and the earliest harvest ever for some wineries in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. The low average temperatures and high rainfall allowed BC grapes to have more time to ripen on the vine and to accumulate flavour and aromatic compounds. This contributes to wines that are fresh, complex and balanced with higher acidity that make them versatile food pairings.

On Vancouver Island

Bailey Williamson, winemaker for Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan on Vancouver Island, is expecting another excellent harvest at the Cowichan Valley estate. A strong growing season in April and May, followed by a cooler June and July than the previous year, led to an elongated flowering and fruit set cycle and allowed the grapes to mature and ripen to classic levels. The Blue Grouse harvest started on September 10, beginning with the popular Siegerrebe, an aromatic white varietal which tends to ripen earliest. After that, there will be a break in harvest until the end of September, when the rest of the grapes will be harvested in earnest. Compared to all the vintages since 2012, this year’s harvest started within a week of normal.

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Blue Grouse Estate Winery in Duncan.

In the Fraser Valley

Conditions on the mainland were similar to Vancouver Island. Andrew Etsell, GM and viticulturist of Singletree Winery in Abbotsford notes that with the warm and dry August, the grapes developed beautiful flavours with balanced acids and sugars. Singletree began its harvest on August 25 – one full week earlier than 2015, and the winery’s earliest harvest on record. “We started with our Siegerrebe, which is evolving into one of our most popular wines,” Andrew shares. “We’re also keeping a close eye on our estate Pinot Noir, which we have just harvested for our first-ever estate sparkling wine. Other estate varietals, such as our Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc, will follow after that. This year’s harvest will not yield as much fruit as 2015, yet the fruit will be clean and very high quality.”

It’s harvest time at Abbotsford’s Singletree Winery.

In the Okanagan – Naramata Bench

After an unseasonably warm spring, followed by an early summer, Serendipity Winery’s Katie O’Kell was concerned that the harvest would take place much earlier than normal at her estate Naramata vineyard. However, the cooler, wetter weather moved in, which allowed the grapes to mature a more moderate pace.

Serendipity’s harvest started on August 29 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and continued on August 31 with Viognier. With a dry and cool climate, the phenolics (flavour and aromatic compounds) will eventually catch up to the brix (a measure of potential alcohol) that is currently sitting in the low 20s.

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Serendipity Winery’s estate vineyard in Naramata.

Okanagan – South

Likewise, Lawrence Buhler, director of winemaking for ENCORE Vineyards, which produces wines under the TIME Winery, Evolve Cellars and McWatters Collection labels, is also in the middle of an active harvest. Compared to last year, Buhler and his winemaking team saw a two-day early start to the season on August 17. Harvest has almost been completed for the still whites, with additional harvests to take place in the next two to four weeks for red varietals.

Regarding the balance of the 2016 harvest, Lawrence says the reds are maturing well and the cooler weather is excellent for proper fruit development and sugar accumulation in the berries.

Harry McWatters, president and CEO of ENCORE Vineyards said recently to Global Television, “we had record-breaking temperatures in April and the earliest bud break that I’ve seen in my history in British Columbia. This is my 49th vintage in the wine business and I’ve never seen a harvest this early. What it does is even in the fringe areas, where the grower may be pushing their limit as far as what they’re growing or the amount of crop they’ve got, it gives them a bit bigger window to mature that fruit to its optimum level. It’s a good thing.”

Indeed it is, Harry. And although the wineries – from Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan – are right in the middle of an exciting harvest, we already can’t wait to taste the finished wines starting next spring.

evolve-vineyard

A view towards the lake at Evolve Cellars in Summerland.

 

Town Hall Brands: Specializing in wine, food and hospitality

Town Hall Brands, based in Vancouver BC, build brands and promotes them. We offer marketing strategy, graphic design, packaging, promotional campaigns and PR, and social media outreach.

Can we help you with a story? If it comes to a story in need in wine, we can help or send you to the right place.

Compare and contrast: Finger Lakes Wine and BC Wine

by Sujinder Juneja

#TownHallOnTour

#FLXWine vs #BCWine

We have been lucky enough to attend the 8th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of bloggers (naturally), industry professionals and wine lovers. This year, the event was held in Corning, New York with a focus on the great wines, producers and the people of the Finger Lakes AVA.

FLX_Vineyard

The view from Ventosa Vineyard in the Seneca Lakes AVA.

A diverse, progressive and passionate industry, the Finger Lakes wine region shares many similarities with that of British Columbia, where we are happy to call home. Here are a few of our observations on the connections between the two regions, for your reading pleasure:

Cool Climate Viticulture

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia are both described as ‘cool climate’ wine regions and on average, share a similar amount of degree growing days. However the Finger Lakes region experiences a highly variable climate, with cold winters, cool to warm summers and a short growing season. While there is diversity of climate within the five main BC wine regions (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands), the climate is less extreme overall and degree days are higher on average.

FLX_Traminette

Traminette is a French-American hybrid varietal favoured by producers throughtout the Finger Lakes AVA.

Planting Grapes To Site

The most established wine regions in the world plant grape varietals that are best suited to that particular site or climate. The most planted grapes in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc along with a selection of lesser known Vitis vinifera (Blaufränkisch, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni), native Vitis labrusca (Catawba, Niagara) and French-American hybrids (Traminette, Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Valvin Muscat) that suit the climate and produce balanced and delicious wines. By contrast, the top white grape varietals in BC are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. Other crosses and hybrids such as Ortega, Marechal Foch and select Blattner Hybrids are also planted to produce successful wines. The Finger Lakes and BC wine industries began with native and hybrid varietals with the belief that they would better suit the climate, but consumer preferences in the Fingers Lakes and British Columbia are favouring the more popular vinifera varietals.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

What’s Wrong With Hybrids Anyway?

Nothing. If a hybrid grape is grown on a site which allows it to mature to full ripeness, and in the hands of a talented winemaker, they can produce wines that are both balanced and delicious. It’s worth noting that hybrids sell for significantly less by the ton, compared to vinifera varietals, which can affect a winery’s bottom line. Add to that the fact that hybrids are generally less well-known and often hard to pronounce, and therefore market to consumers. One of the most vocal debates during Friday’s Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country panel discussion swirled around the contentious use of crosses and hybrids in the region. Consider this: if a hybrid varietal, developed specifically for a particular climate, can produce tasty wines, should they not be celebrated, granting uniqueness to the wine region as a whole? Not all winemakers are convinced. But if you ask someone like Art Hunt at Hunt Country Vineyards, he’ll tell you that his varietally-labelled Seyval Blanc and Valvin Muscat are among their most popular wines. “Millennials want to try new things,” he says. “You can taste 100 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, but wine drinkers want experience something unique.”

Judy Wiltberger at Keuka Spring Vineyards is proud to show off her Vignoles, a French-American hybrid that sells out every year. In her experience, the key is to market regionally, get people into the tasting room where people can try the wines in person. 70-75% of her sales are through her cellar door and challenging her guests with distinct varietals is a way to excite their palates with something new.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A Sense of Community

Unlike other more competitive regions in the global wine world, the Finger Lakes and British Columbia both enjoy a strong sense of community and partnership. I know firsthand that winery owners and winemakers in BC regularly collaborate and share information and ideas that make the region stronger as a whole. The same is absolutely true for the wineries of the Finger Lakes. If you had the chance, for example, to taste the Tierce Riesling, made by Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, you’ll know that the wine – and the wine region – is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Window to the World

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia wineries both face the double-edged sword that most of their wine is consumed in their local areas. The challenge offered by the locavore movement in North America means that major cities such as New York and Vancouver consume most of the wine produced in each respective region. Add to that the high tourism rate that each region enjoys means that most wine is sold via the cellar door, limiting the chance for export and global distribution. What this means is that fewer consumers internationally have the chance to taste the wines and understand what the region is all about. At this point, allocation to outside markets becomes a critical path to increasing the prestige and recognition of the regions as a whole.

Fox Run  Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall's Sujinder Juneja.

Fox Run Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall’s Sujinder Juneja at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

With Open Arms

At the end of the day and at the end of this conference, the greatest impression left on us about the Finger Lakes wasn’t the wine. It was the people. It wasn’t just the wineries and winemakers that opened their arms to welcome us, but also the restaurants, shops, hotels and the community at large. From our first day in Keuka Lake, throughout the expertly-organized pre-conference excursion and to the last day of the conference itself, there was an excitement and overall warmth that was impossible to ignore, and wonderful to be a part of. When the wine bloggers visited Penticton, British Columbia for #WBC13 it was a similar experience as well. Community, a sense of place, and the celebration of diversity were as much a part of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference as they are in 2015.

See you in 2016 in Lodi, California.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

Looking Ahead to the Grape Harvest in BC

By Leeann Froese

As we ease back into our work week after a long weekend to celebrate this great province, we reflect on how it has been a long, warm spring and summer across BC.

Weather, growing conditions, watering restrictions and threat of fire all could impact the upcoming grape harvest, depending on which grape growing region you are in.

Could this be one of the earliest harvests on record in BC? How are things looking so far?

Laura Kittmer, media relations manager at the British Columbia Wine Institute states “It’s been a very hot summer in BC this year; many wineries are reporting their grapevines to be about two weeks ahead right now, which could mean early wine harvest.”

We checked in with our clients in different parts of the province for an update, which follows.

Let us know if you need more info, photos, or wish to interview anyone quoted below. Amy @ townhallbrands.com / 604-321-3295

 

Okanagan – Summerland – Okanagan Crush Pad – Christine Coletta, owner

OCP-Christine-Coletta-4-Credit-Lionel-Trudel“At Okanagan Crush Pad we are more than half way into yet another great season in the Okanagan. But as we like to remember, it isn’t over until it’s over, and the next three months are the most crucial to shaping vintage. Will we get those cooler fall days with cold nights that allow for hang time that creates the phenolic* ripeness and natural acidity that we all crave? Or will there be a quick, sharp finish to the growing year that leaves us with high sugars, resulting in wines with higher than normal alcohol levels? Time will tell.

An early spring and unseasonably warm summer has challenged viticulturists throughout the valley. We did not get the typical rainfall we expect in June and the rest of the summer has been dry and hot. A careful watch on irrigation levels has been required.

Bountiful crop sets with large cluster formations and small berry size should result in some excellent wines next year. The early spring start will guarantee that most crops will finish on time and viticulturists will surely be pleased about that. With veraison** starting we anticipate a late September /early October harvest. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that the weather continues to co-operate as we eagerly anticipate yet another outstanding year.

As far as water use goes, vineyards used significantly less water than tree fruits, and vineyards with drip irrigation, even less than vineyards with overhead irrigation. Our home organic vineyard, Switchback Vineyard, used seven inches of irrigation water a year compared to the standard 19 inches. At this point the Okanagan is on water restrictions, but this is an annual occurrence and nothing out of the ordinary as is being experienced in the lower mainland.

From the forest fire situation, there has been absolutely zero impact from fires and smoke in our area. A few people have said on social media that they are concerned that the smoke can impact the harvest. This kind of talk is a little on the sensational side as smoke would have to be within close proximity (not 50 km away) and for an extended period of time (not a day or two) to have any impact on grape quality.”

 

Vancouver Island – Blue Grouse – Bailey Williamson, winemaker

_DerekFord_BlueGrouseportraits1505218765“Many in the Cowichan Valley have long stood by the ideology of dry farming, and this year they may reconsider this dogma.

At Blue Grouse we hope to have drip irrigation throughout the whole vineyard by next season; we have been irrigating where we can, and it shows a marked difference in the vine health.

Smoke has not been an issue for us as the fires are not burning close by or the smoke is blowing the other way.

Our issue is that vineyard labour has always been a huge issue and will be for the foreseeable future. In a small grape growing region it is even more of a challenge because there is no labour pool to draw from: seasonal, foreign or otherwise.

Very often we pick the grapes based on disease pressure, and hope for phenolic ripeness. At this moment the extreme heat has given way to more seasonal averages which could very well have us harvest a bit early, but not super early. If the rain holds off and the grapes are a week ahead of usual we could be picking in the sun rather than the rain. This would be a great boon for both quality and morale.

I generally don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch, and Mother Nature always has a trick or two up her sleeve, so I am cautiously optimistic, and hopeful.”

 

Okanagan – Naramata – Serendipity Winery – Judy Kingston, owner

Serendipity-Judy-Kingston-6

“At Serendipity we are lucky that there are no water restrictions on agricultural properties in the Naramata bench.

The smoke cover here was far less than in most parts of the province, almost to the point that it was less than normal. We had maybe five days of smoke, and the kind of smoke damage that CedarCreek and St Hubertus had in 2003 is not anticipated at this time. That was a rare occurrence.

We have seen few if any 40 degree days on the Naramata bench, we had a few that were kissing 40 degrees. The south valley has seen a few. We haven’t seen the vines shut down yet, but we have in past seasons. At this point, veraison is just kicking in, showing up in our Pinot Noir field and our Syrah field. Southern regions have veraison in full-swing.

Everyone needs to take a reminder that grape vines are one of the most adaptive species out there. They can withstand stress or difficult conditions.

This year’s harvest looks great. We knew at the beginning of the season that it was going to be an early start to the growing year and a hotter year, so we have taken measures to make sure that the grapes mature properly and not too quickly. Without careful farming practices, there could be a risk that the brix*** accumulate in the berries faster than the phenolics do. This year’s harvest could be fantastic, but it is impossible to say how the harvest is going to be until the grapes are in the press. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

We look forward to picking the Pinot for bubble in the last week of August. Katie is looking forward to harvesting in shorts and a tee shirt, as we anticipate harvest for our regular table wines to start in early September, well ahead of schedule.”

 

Fraser Valley – Singletree – Andrew Etsell, viticulturist

View More: http://typeaphotography.pass.us/onetree

“This year has the potential to be the best year I have seen in a decade. The grapes are 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. At Singletree our Siegerrebe is already at verasion and the lack of rain has made mould a non-issue. This is the first year I have seen the Fraser Valley grapes keeping pace with the Okanagan. The only issue I foresee is that with so little rain our tonnage will be down from last year, but the quality of grapes will be far superior to what we have seen in the past from the Valley.”

 

Kamloops – Monte Creek Ranch – Galen Barnhardt, winemaker
DSC_8036 copy“The 2015 at Monte Creek Ranch season got off to a roaring start, bud break arrived 10 days early and an unbelievably hot start to the summer has pushed us 2.5 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule at veraison. The period between veraison and harvest is the most crucial by far, we are hoping for more moderate temperatures so that phenolic ripeness will occur before sugar levels get too high.

Though there have been many water restrictions in the province, we are fortunate that grapes are quite drought resistant. We practice deficit irrigation within our own vineyards and typically only use 20% of our water license in any given season. We have also been quite lucky and have avoided any smoke taint so far – a bit of recent rain should help matters. If Mother Nature can play nice for another six weeks then we should have a phenomenal harvest.”

 

So there you have it; no one has a crystal ball, but things are looking good so far for the 2015 BC grape harvest.

 

*Phenolic – are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in grapes, which give a wine its profile; includes tannins that occur in grape skins, seeds and stems as well as other complex chemical compounds that will help to define a wine’s character

**Veraison – a grape-growing term meaning when the grapes change colour – the onset of ripening in the grapes.

***Brix – the measure of sugar

 

Meet Jeremy Schacht with Town Hall

By Leeann Froese

It’s Saturday – that means it’s time to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Jeremy Schacht.

IMG_0222

I was happy to meet Jeremy last year when Sujinder and I visited Ampersand Distilling.

Ampersand Distilling Company is a new, family owned craft distillery located on a five acre organic farm in the Cowichan Valley.

Those who know me know I love #gttime, so when Sujinder and I were on Vancouver Island working we made a detour.

We were impressed by Jeremy and his talents with distilling, and the gin is delicious. Check it out at the Duncan Farmer’s market or schedule a visit the next time you are visiting Blue Grouse Estate Winery.

Please help us and say a big hello. Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Meet Blue Grouse Estate Winery With Town Hall

By Leeann Froese

It’s Saturday – that means it’s time to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall for something a little different, we introduce you to Blue Grouse Estate Winery.

We do this because today is their grand reopening!

Paul Brunner of Blue Grouse

Blue Grouse winery owner Paul Brunner

 

A selfie with Blue Grouse

Of course I need to grab a selfie! With winemaker Bailey Williamson, owners Paul and Cristina Brunner, and our team’s Sujinder Juneja

Family-owned, sustainably-farmed and award-winning, Blue Grouse Estate Winery is located at 2182 Lakeside Road, Duncan, BC within the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

The new winery and surrounding vineyards are a sought after destination not only for sampling the winery’s award-winning portfolio of Island wines, but also for picnics and family adventures.

The inspired new winery facility was built with many sustainable elements including locally-sourced construction materials, the use of geothermal energy, onsite water collection and treatment, as well as other features that reduce mechanical heating and cooling.

The new Blue Grouse tasting room is open daily from 11AM to 5PM from June to October. Call 250-743-3834 or email tastingroom@bluegrouse.ca for winter hours, group bookings or just to say hello.

Please help us congratulate the team on their new winery opening and say a big hello. Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Meet Paul Brunner of Blue Grouse With Town Hall

By Leeann Froese

It’s Saturday – that means it’s time to introduce you to a new personality #withTownHall.  This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are). We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them.

This week we introduce you to Paul Brunner aka The Blue Grouch – owner of Blue Grouse Estate Winery. Can you please say hello?

Paul Brunner of Blue Grouse

 

Paul and his wife Cristina purchased Blue Grouse, a beautiful Vancouver Island winery, in 2012. He calls himself ‘The Blue Grouch’ but we think he is a friendly, funny and welcoming man, who isn’t fooling us with talk of being grouchy.

The winery was originally established in 1992. But in 2015, plan your visit: a beautiful new winery building will be open to welcome you. And you will have to come and see for yourself if Paul really is a grouch.

Can you please say hello to Paul with a comment – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter.