Spotlight on Nanaimo

Spotlight on Nanaimo

Spotlight on Nanaimo

Just north of the Cowichan Valley and occupying a prime position on the shores of the Salish Sea along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo stands as a testament to the beauty and charm of the Island’s coastal communities. With its breathtaking natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant community spirit, Nanaimo offers a diverse array of experiences for residents and visitors alike. From its picturesque waterfront to its historic landmarks, Nanaimo captivates the imagination and invites exploration.

Nanaimo is surrounded by lush forests, rugged mountains, and pristine waters. The city provides a wealth of recreational opportunities, from kayaking and sailing to hiking and wildlife watching. Mount Benson rises 1,006 meters (3,300 feet) over the region providing hiking opportunities through its 292 hectares of forest land. Outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to destinations like Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Protection Island, and Neck Point Park, where they can immerse themselves in the region’s natural splendor.

Nanaimo’s History

Far beyond its scenic landscapes, the city boasts a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Indigenous peoples such as the Snuneymuxw First Nation, a tribe of the Coast Salish people, have inhabited the area for millennia. These deep roots are celebrated through cultural events, traditional practices, and the preservation of archaeological sites, ensuring that Nanaimo’s Indigenous heritage remains an integral part of its identity.

European exploration and settlement began in the late 18th century when British and Spanish explorers arrived on Vancouver Island’s shores. Originally founded as Colvilletown around a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, it was named after Andrew Colvile, a Scot who served as governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1852 to 1856. In 1860 the settlement was renamed Sne-ny-mo from an Indigenous word meaning “a big, strong tribe”.

Coal Mining in Nanaimo

The city’s development accelerated with the discovery of nearby coal deposits in 1849 by local Indigenous people. This coal formed the first known large deposits on the west coast of North America. Since the type of coal found here was ideal for steam production, mining provided steady employment and settlers flocked to the area. The first ship to be loaded with coal was the Cadboro in September 1852.

The establishment of mining operations lead to the growth of a thriving community. Coal was mined in and around Nanaimo from 1852 through to the 1950s. During this time, over 50 million tons of coal was extracted from the mines.

Today, remnants of Nanaimo’s coal mining heritage can still be seen throughout the city, from the iconic Bastion, a former Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, to the Coal Tyee Trail, which winds its way through the forested hillsides once dotted with mineshafts and miner’s cottages. These historical sites serve as poignant reminders of Nanaimo’s industrial past and the resilience of its early settlers.

Nanaimo is Hub City

Nanaimo is often referred to as “Harbour City” but it is also known as the “Hub City” as its streets fan out from the harbour resembling the spokes of a wheel.

The city boasts a vibrant cultural scene, including art galleries, theaters, and festivals that showcase local talent and creativity. The Port Theatre, with its striking architecture and diverse programming, serves as a focal point for performing arts in the region, while the Nanaimo Museum offers insight into the city’s past through engaging exhibits and interactive displays.

Culinary enthusiasts will also find much to savour in Nanaimo, with a burgeoning food scene that highlights fresh, locally sourced ingredients and a wealth of culinary influences. From cozy cafes serving up artisanal coffee and baked goods to waterfront restaurants specializing in seafood delicacies, Nanaimo’s dining options cater to every palate and preference. Visitors can indulge in Nanaimo’s eponymous treat, the Nanaimo bar, a decadent dessert consisting of layers of chocolate, custard, and coconut, which has become a beloved Canadian confection.

Gateway to Wine Country

Nanaimo serves as the perfect gateway to explore the burgeoning wine region of the Cowichan Valley, known as “The Napa of the North,” which is just a short drive south along the scenic Island Highway.

Wine Tasting Tours offer visitors departing from Nanaimo a leisurely, scenic journey through the Cowichan Valley, stopping at charming wineries and vineyards along the way. Here, they can indulge in tastings of award-winning wines, including varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Ortega, all cultivated in the valley’s unique microclimate.

Nanaimo Bathtub Races

Yup! You read that right! Ever since the first race in 1967, Nanaimo has been home and host to the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race and Nanaimo Marine Festival. The 58 km race is taken seriously, in a fun way, by bathtub enthusiasts! There is an entire weekend of fun and activities planned each year for all comers.

Bathtubs aside, Nanaimo prides itself on being a gateway to Vancouver Island. It’s an ideal base for exploring the surrounding region. Whether embarking on a day trip to the nearby Gulf Islands, venturing into the rugged landscapes of Strathcona Provincial Park, or taking a scenic drive along the Pacific Marine Circle Route, adventurers will find no shortage of excursions to embark on from Nanaimo’s doorstep.

Whether you are an adrenaline junkie into ziplining or bungy jumping, or just looking to enjoy a day of sipping on wine and enjoying tasty treats, there is truly something here for everyone.

It’s Wine Time: Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s Wine Time: Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s Wine Time: Cabernet Sauvignon

The Cowichan Valley – lush landscapes, spectacular seascapes, and most recently, renowned for its burgeoning wine industry. While traditionally not associated with grape cultivation due to its cooler climate, Cowichan Valley has been making waves in recent years, particularly with its production of Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape variety celebrated globally for its bold flavours and rich character. It’s no wonder it’s the most popular red wine in the world.

The Emergence of Cowichan Valley Wine

The wine industry in the Cowichan Valley traces its roots back to the 1970s when pioneering viticulturists recognized the region’s potential for grape cultivation. Despite initial reservations due to its cool, maritime climate, innovative techniques and dedication paved the way for success. Today, the Cowichan Valley stands as one of Canada’s premier wine regions, celebrated for its cool-climate varietals that exhibit distinctive terroir-driven characteristics.

As the story of Cabernet Sauvignon in Cowichan Valley unfolds, it becomes clear that this region is not merely producing wines; it is crafting experiences, fostering connections, and shaping the narrative of Canadian winemaking. With each sip of Cowichan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, one can taste the dedication of the winemakers, feel the influence of the terroir, and sense the vibrancy of the local community.

Cabernet Sauvignon: A Tale of Adaptation

Typically associated with the warmer regions of Bordeaux and the Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon might seem an unlikely candidate for the Cowichan Valley’s cooler climate. However, winemakers here have embraced the challenge, employing meticulous vineyard management practices and modern viticultural techniques to coax the best out of this noble grape.

The unique microclimates within the Valley offer a range of growing conditions, allowing winemakers to experiment with different clones, rootstocks, and vineyard management techniques to coax the best expression of the grape from their terroir. Sustainable viticultural practices, including organic and biodynamic methods, are increasingly embraced, as wineries strive to preserve the natural balance of the land and minimize their environmental footprint.

The result? Cabernet Sauvignon wines that exude elegance, showcasing a unique expression of the region’s terroir.

Terroir and Flavour Profile

The terroir of Cowichan Valley, characterized by its maritime influence, gravelly soils, and moderate temperatures, imparts distinct nuances to the Cabernet Sauvignon produced here. Moderated by the nearby Pacific Ocean and sheltered by the Vancouver Island Range, the Valley provides an ideal environment for cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that ripen slowly and develop complex flavours while retaining crucial acidity. Cool nights and warm days foster optimal flavour development producing Cabernet Sauvignon wines that boast a balance of ripe fruit flavours, firm tannins, and vibrant acidity, often accompanied by notes of blackcurrant, plum, cedar, and subtle herb-like quality.

Harvest Time

As harvest approaches, anticipation builds among winemakers and viticulturists alike. The careful monitoring of sugar levels, acidity, and ripeness guides the decision to pick, ensuring that the grapes are harvested at the peak of their flavour development. Hand harvesting is preferred, allowing for the selective picking of grapes and minimizing damage to the delicate clusters.

In the winery, the transformation from grape to wine begins with gentle destemming and crushing, followed by fermentation in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. Temperature control is paramount, as winemakers seek to preserve the delicate aromas and flavours of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Extended soaking and softening of the grapes allows for optimal extraction of colour, tannins, and flavour compounds, imparting structure and complexity to the wine.

After fermentation, the wine is transferred to oak barrels for aging, where it gradually integrates oak flavours and textures while further developing its bouquet and palate. French and American oak are commonly used, each contributing distinct nuances to the final wine. Winemakers carefully monitor the aging process, periodically tasting and assessing the wine to determine the optimal time for bottling.

The release of a Cowichan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is cause for celebration, the result of years of meticulous effort and unwavering dedication. The wine speaks of its origins, with aromas of ripe blackcurrants, cedar, and graphite, underscored by hints of tobacco and violet. On the palate, it displays a harmonious balance of fruit, acidity, and tannins, with a lingering finish that invites contemplation.

Exploring Cowichan Valley’s Wineries

A journey through Cowichan Valley’s wineries offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s winemaking. Here are a couple of wineries known for their production of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Valley:

  1. Blue Grouse Estate Winery: This pioneer of the Valley’s wine scene is known for their Pinot Noir and Ortega, but they also produce a limited quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernet Sauvignon reflects the region’s unique terroir with a focus on balance, structure, and complexity.
  2. Enrico Winery: This family-owned boutique winery, is another notable producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Cowichan Valley. They are known for their small-batch, handcrafted wines made from estate-grown grapes. Their Cabernet Sauvignon showcases the rich fruit flavours of the grape and reflects the influence of the Valley’s maritime climate.

The tale of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Cowichan Valley is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and the undeniable influence of terroir. It is a story of innovation in the face of challenges and of the enduring spirit of a community united by a shared love for exceptional wine. As the region continues to carve out its place in the world of wine, one thing is certain – the journey of Cabernet Sauvignon in this remarkable region is only just beginning.


Exploring the Grapevine: Cowichan Valley Wine Tours from Nanaimo

Exploring the Grapevine: Cowichan Valley Wine Tours from Nanaimo

Exploring the Grapevine: Cowichan Valley Wine Tours from Nanaimo

The Cowichan Valley may be the newest destination in the world of wine tourism, offering a delightful escape for enthusiasts seeking a unique and immersive experience. Just a short drive from Nanaimo, this picturesque region boasts a growing number of wineries and vineyards, each with its own distinct character and charm. Let’s take a virtual journey through the Cowichan Valley wine country and explore the flavours, landscapes, and stories that make this destination a must-visit for wine aficionados.

The Cowichan Valley’s Wine Renaissance

Traditionally known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor activities, the Cowichan Valley has undergone a wine renaissance in recent years. The combination of a favourable climate, diverse soil types, and passionate winemakers has transformed the region into a flourishing wine destination. In 2020 the Cowichan Valley was recognized as an official wine producing region in BC, a protected designation under BC law. Local vineyards are interspersed among the lush valleys, rolling hills, and pristine lakes in the valley, creating a picturesque setting that adds to the allure of the wine tours.

Departing from Nanaimo

Nanaimo, with its convenient location on coastal Vancouver Island, serves as an ideal starting point for a journey into the Valley’s wine country. A short drive south takes you through scenic landscapes, passing quaint towns and dense forests before unveiling the verdant vineyards of the Cowichan Valley. A wine tour shuttle bus means no designated driver required. Everyone can enjoy the fun and savour the fermented fruits of the region!

Enchanting Vineyards and Wineries

As you approach the Cowichan Valley, the landscape changes, giving way to neatly arranged rows of grapevines. The valley is home to a growing number of wineries, each with its own story to tell and a diverse selection of wines to offer. A few notable stops on your wine tour might include:

  1. Blue Grouse Estate Winery: Set against the backdrop of the mountains, Blue Grouse Estate Winery is known for its commitment to sustainable and organic practices. Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and savour a tasting of their award-winning wines.
  2. Merridale Cidery & Distillery: While not a traditional winery, Merridale Cidery & Distillery is a must-visit for those seeking a unique tasting experience. Apart from their renowned ciders, they also produce brandies and fortified spirits. The picturesque orchards and rustic ambiance make it a delightful stop.
  3. Averill Creek Vineyard: This family-owned winery is perched on the sunny slopes of Mount Prevost. Averill Creek Vineyard is known for its cool-climate wines, especially Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The tasting room offers panoramic views of the valley, providing a perfect setting to enjoy their elegant wines.
  4. Unsworth Vineyards: Spread across the heart of Cowichan Valley, Unsworth Vineyards is celebrated for its commitment to crafting wines that reflect the region’s unique terroir. With a beautiful tasting room and a restaurant serving farm-to-table cuisine, it’s a place where wine and gastronomy come together seamlessly.

Wine Tasting Experiences

The wine tasting experiences in Cowichan Valley are diverse, catering to both novice tasters and seasoned connoisseurs. Many wineries offer guided tastings where knowledgeable staff provide insights into the nuances of each wine, from the aroma to the palate. Some vineyards even offer unique experiences like barrel tastings, blending workshops, or vineyard picnics, allowing visitors to deepen their understanding of winemaking.

Scenic Beauty and Outdoor Activities

Beyond the wine, the Cowichan Valley is renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. A wine tour in this region provides the perfect opportunity to explore hiking trails, take a leisurely bike ride through vineyards, or enjoy a picnic with a backdrop of breathtaking landscapes. The combination of wine and nature makes for a holistic and rejuvenating experience.

Culinary Delights

The Cowichan Valley’s culinary scene is a delightful complement to its wines. Many wineries have on-site restaurants or partner with local chefs to offer wine-pairing menus that showcase the best of the region’s produce. From artisanal cheeses to fresh seafood and farm-fresh vegetables, the culinary offerings are as diverse as the wines themselves.

Community and Culture

One of the distinctive features of the Cowichan Valley wineries is the strong sense of community and culture. Many wineries actively engage with the local community, sourcing ingredients from nearby farms and supporting local artists. Visitors can immerse themselves in the region’s cultural events, farmers’ markets, and art galleries, creating a well-rounded experience that goes beyond the wine glass.

Starting a wine tour from Nanaimo to the Cowichan Valley is a journey of discovery, where each vineyard tells a unique story and each glass of wine reflects the terroir of this flourishing region. From the enchanting landscapes to the diverse flavours and the warm hospitality of the winemakers, the Cowichan Valley promises a memorable and enriching experience for all who venture into its wine country. So, pack your bags, raise your glass, and get ready to savour the essence of Cowichan Valley wine!


Merridale Cidery: Christmas at the Farm

Merridale Cidery: Christmas at the Farm

Merridale Cidery: Christmas at the Farm

Merridale Cidery, located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley’s scenic landscapes, transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season. This charming cidery, known for its artisanal ciders and picturesque orchards, becomes a magical destination where locals and visitors alike gather to celebrate Christmas in a unique and memorable way.

As the holiday season approaches, Merridale Cidery undergoes a stunning transformation. The orchards, once bursting with the colors of fall, take on a serene winter coat, creating a serene and enchanting backdrop for the festive celebrations. Tall evergreen trees, adorned with twinkling lights, line the pathways, guiding guests through the orchards and setting the stage for a truly magical experience.

Light Up

The festivities kick off with the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a community event that brings together friends and families from near and far. The main courtyard, decked out in festive decorations, serves as the focal point for the ceremony. A towering Christmas tree, sourced locally and adorned with ornaments handmade by the cidery’s staff and local artisans, takes center stage. The excitement builds as the crowd gathers, eagerly anticipating the moment when the tree will be illuminated, marking the official start of the holiday season at Merridale Cidery.

As the sun sets and the sky darkens, the cidery’s staff dressed in festive attire lead the countdown, and with the flick of a switch, the Christmas tree comes to life in a dazzling display of lights. Cheers and applause fill the air as the cidery officially transforms into a winter wonderland, welcoming the Christmas season.

The illuminated orchards take on a magical glow, inviting guests to explore the grounds and take in the beauty of the season. Twinkling fairy lights are strategically placed among the apple trees, casting a warm and inviting glow. The crisp winter air is filled with the sweet aroma of mulled cider, wafting from outdoor stations where guests can warm up with a cup of this seasonal delight.

Festive Market

One of the highlights of Christmas at Merridale Cidery is the festive market that springs up in the courtyard. Local artisans and vendors set up stalls, offering a diverse array of handmade crafts, ornaments, and holiday treats. Visitors can meander through the market, discovering unique gifts and treasures while sipping on warm cider and enjoying the festive atmosphere.

Dine in Style

The cidery’s restaurant, known for its farm-to-table philosophy, curates a special Christmas menu featuring seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms. Guests can indulge in a festive feast, with dishes that showcase the flavors of the region. The cozy interior, adorned with rustic decorations and a crackling fireplace, provides the perfect setting for a warm and intimate holiday meal.

The sounds of holiday classics and cheerful tunes fills the air, creating a festive ambiance that resonates throughout the cidery. Grab a warm mulled cider or their new seasonal ciders and enjoy the lights as you bask in the joyous spirit of the season. Got some last minute gifts you need to find for those hard-to-buy-for friends and family members? Merridale’s gift shop has you covered: unique ciders, apparel, and pre-packaged holiday kits that come with recipes and all the ingredients!

Family Friendly

For families, Merridale Cidery’s festive display of lights ensures that children have a magical experience. The cidery’s commitment to creating a family-friendly environment ensures that Christmas at Merridale is an inclusive and joyful experience for guests of all ages.

As the evening progresses, the cidery comes alive with the soft glow of candlelight. The outdoor spaces are lit with an array of lanterns, creating a romantic and enchanting atmosphere. Couples and friends can be seen strolling through the orchards, hand in hand, taking in the beauty of the season and creating lasting memories against the backdrop of Merridale Cidery’s winter charm.

The cidery’s unique blend of natural beauty, artisanal offerings, and festive activities creates a holiday experience that is truly one-of-a-kind. As visitors depart, they carry with them the magic of the season and memories that will last a lifetime. Christmas at Merridale Cidery is not just an event; it’s a tradition that brings people together, fostering a sense of community and joy that lingers long after the holiday lights have dimmed.

Mulling It Over: A Deep Dive into Mulled Wine

Mulling It Over: A Deep Dive into Mulled Wine

Mulling It Over: A Deep Dive into Mulled Wine

As the days grow shorter and the chill of autumn sets in throughout the Cowichan Valley, there’s no better way to embrace the season than by indulging in a steaming, aromatic glass of mulled wine. This timeless beverage, steeped in tradition and history, has been warming hearts and souls for centuries.

A Journey Through Time and Tradition

The origins of mulled wine can be traced back to ancient times when spices and herbs were used not only for their flavour but also for their medicinal properties. The concept of warming wine with spices and herbs, combined with the warming effects of alcohol, became a practice that spanned cultures and centuries.

The Renaissance and “Hippocras”

During the Renaissance, mulled wine was often referred to as “hippocras,” a nod to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who was a proponent of using spices and herbs for their health benefits. Hailing from the 14th and 15th centuries, recipes for hippocras often included an array of ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and grains of paradise. The wine was warmed and then infused with these spices, making it a potent and flavourful concoction.

Victorian England

The Victorian era in England was a time when mulled wine experienced a resurgence in popularity. The British had a penchant for throwing elaborate holiday parties, and mulled wine became an integral part of these celebrations. It was often served as a warm, comforting drink on festive occasions. The spices added to the wine were seen as a way to enhance the flavour and fragrance of the wine while keeping the drinkers warm and cheerful.


Today, mulled wine is still cherished and enjoyed, with various adaptations that reflect regional and personal preferences. Recipes often include a base of red wine, which is warmed and infused with a variety of spices, citrus fruits, and sweeteners. While the core ingredients remain similar, the specific spices and flavors can vary widely, allowing for a creative twist on this classic beverage.

The Taste of Tradition

Want to try it out? Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Red Wine: To start, choose a good-quality, dry red wine as the base. Cowichan Valley varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Shiraz are good choices.
  2. Spices: Be creative! Although common spices include cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, star anise, and nutmeg, some recipes also call for cardamom pods, allspice berries, or even black peppercorns.
  3. Citrus: Orange and lemon slices or peels are often used to add a bright, citrusy note to the mix.
  4. Sweetener: Sweeten your mulled wine with sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Use as much or as little sweeter as you like.
  5. Optional Spirits: Some recipes incorporate a splash of brandy, rum, or even orange liqueur to add depth and complexity.
  6. Extras: You can customize your mulled wine with additional ingredients like vanilla extract, dried fruit, or a dash of apple cider.

Now Begin!

  1. Pour the red wine into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. You can adjust the quantity depending on the number of servings you desire.
  2. Add the spices, citrus slices or peels, and sweetener to the wine. The quantity of each ingredient depends on your preference, but a common ratio might be 2-3 cinnamon sticks, 6-8 whole cloves, and 1-2 citrus fruits.
  3. Gently warm the mixture over low to medium heat. Be cautious not to bring it to a boil, as boiling can evaporate the alcohol and affect the flavor.
  4. Let the wine simmer and infuse with the spices for at least 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally to keep the ingredients equally distributed.
  5. If you wish to include spirits, add them a few minutes before serving, ensuring they are well incorporated.
  6. Taste the mulled wine and adjust the sweetness or spice levels to your liking. If you desire a sweeter taste, add more sweetener. If you’d like more spice, you can steep the mixture for a longer period.
  7. Strain the mulled wine into glasses or mugs, garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick or a slice of citrus, and serve while it’s still warm.

Cultural Variations

While its exact origins are difficult to pinpoint, mulled wine is known by various names in different countries. Try these out:

  1. Glühwein (Germany): German Glühwein is typically made with red wine, sugar, and a blend of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. Served at German Christmas markets, it is usually garnished with a slice of orange.
  2. Vin Chaud (France): French vin chaud leans more towards the addition of orange zest, which provides a citrusy twist. It’s perfect with a side of roasted chestnuts.
  3. Glögg (Scandinavia): Scandinavian glögg incorporates additional elements like almonds and raisins. It is sometimes made with aquavit, a Scandinavian spirit.

Add a Little Something Extra

Mulled wine pairs wonderfully with an array of fall and winter dishes. Consider serving it with:

  • Cheese Platter: A selection of cheeses, such as brie, cheddar, and blue cheese, complements the rich, spiced flavours of mulled wine.
  • Roasted Nuts: The warm, earthy notes of mulled wine harmonize beautifully with the crunchy, nutty goodness of roasted nuts.
  • Desserts: Serve alongside apple pie, gingerbread, or any dessert with warm spices to create a delightful pairing.
  • Savoury Bites: No sweet tooth? Mulled wine is yummy with roasted meats, hearty stews, or even a charcuterie board.

This autumn and winter, enjoy a feast for the senses. Feel the warmth of the wine, breathe in the aromas, and savour the rich flavours of mulled wine on your tongue.

Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

Autumn in a Glass: Fall-Themed Cider, Beer, and Wine

The days are growing shorter in the Cowichan Valley, and the colourful flowers of summer have given way to the colourful leaves of fall. We’re sitting in that time between cold frosted beer mugs and cold frosted window panes. As the leaves crunch beneath your feet and the air takes on a refreshing chill, fall-themed cider and beer offer a delightful way to embrace the season.

Fall-themed cider and beer offerings are becoming a seasonal tradition here capturing the essence of fall. It’s time to get out those chunky knit sweaters and embrace the cozy and heartwarming flavours of autumn bonfires and brisk walks in the cool, crisp air.

Cider: It’s Autumn’s Brew

Cowichan Valley cider has a time-honoured history as one of the quintessential fall beverages. It’s a versatile and diverse drink that encompasses a wide range of flavours and styles. Autumn is the time when apples are harvested. Their flavours are at their peak, so it’s the best time to craft a delicious brew.

Spiced Apple Cider, a Good Book, and a Crackling Fireplace 

Apple is most certainly the most well known and common form of cider as apples come in an amazing number of varieties. Each brings its unique characteristics to the table, from sweet and juicy to tart and crisp. This versatility allows cider makers to experiment with different combinations. Crafted with warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, spiced cider is like a cozy blanket for your taste buds.

Nothing says autumn more than wrapping your hands around a hot spiced apple cider and breathing in the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pumpkin Spice: It’s Not Just for Coffee Anymore

Not into pumpkin spice lattes? Me neither! But it seems like the world goes crazy for them at this time of year. Try this fall favourite instead: pumpkin cider, which takes the essence of pumpkin pie and infuses it into a crisp, apple-based brew. This cider boasts flavours of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and tastes like a delicious autumn dessert in a glass. Skip the calories in that piece of pumpkin pie and enjoy the season’s signature flavour without the guilt!

Beer: Crafting Fall’s Magic

What says “fall is here!” more than the celebration of beer that is Oktoberfest? This festival is a beloved tradition that originated in Munich, Germany. It marks the arrival of autumn with the tapping of the first Oktoberfest beer keg. This style of beer is characterized by its rich, amber colour and a medium to full body. It has a balanced maltiness, with a clean, dry finish, making it perfect for pairing with hearty German fare.

Craft breweries and microbreweries in the Cowichan Valley have embraced the challenge of brewing unique beers that evoke fall. Taking inspiration from the spirit of the season, beer makers have introduced a variety of fall-themed brews that capture the spirit of autumn in a glass.

Pumpkin Ales: Brewing the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin ales are a quintessential fall favourite. Crafted with real pumpkin and a blend of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, these ales are reminiscent of pumpkin pie in a glass. A variety of pumpkin beers embody the cozy essence of pumpkin carving and bonfires.

Harvest Ales: The Bounty of the Fields

Harvest ales celebrate bringing in the harvest and season’s agricultural abundance. These beers often feature ingredients like fresh hops, barley, and wheat, giving them a rustic, earthy quality. They are a perfect way to connect with the agrarian roots of fall in the Cowichan Valley and honour the hard work of the harvest season.

Brown Ales: Embracing the Essence of Cozy

Brown ales are another popular choice for the fall season. They have a rich and malty profile, with a flavour that has been described as toasty, chocolatey, caramel-like, or toffeeish. The nutty undertones and smooth finish make them a warm, inviting choice, perfect for chilly autumn evenings.

Pairing Fall-Themed Cider and Beer with Food

Fall-themed cider and beer are versatile beverages that can be enjoyed on their own, but they truly shine when paired with the right foods. Here are some delectable pairing suggestions:

  1. Cheese and Charcuterie Platter: A selection of cheeses, cured meats, and crusty bread is a perfect accompaniment to both cider and beer. The salty and savory elements of the charcuterie complement the sweet and spiced notes of the beverages.
  2. Roasted Root Vegetables: Fall is the season for hearty, earthy vegetables. Roasted root vegetables, seasoned with herbs and drizzled with olive oil, make a wonderful pairing with the malty richness of brown ales or the spice-infused notes of pumpkin ales.
  3. Apple Pie: What’s fall without a slice of warm apple pie? Pair it with a spiced cider or a pumpkin ale to create a heavenly combination that celebrates the quintessential flavors of autumn.
  4. Sausages and Bratwurst: For those enjoying Oktoberfest beers, sausages and bratwurst are the classic pairings. The beer’s maltiness and clean finish complement the savory and slightly spicy notes of the sausages.

Autumn’s Elixir: Fall-Themed Wines

As autumn paints the Cowichan Valley red and gold, winemakers craft a symphony of flavours that harmonize with the season’s essence. It’s the perfect time for rich, velvety reds to take center stage.

Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots offer robust notes of blackberry and cedar, evoking cozy evening by the fireside. Pinot Noirs dance with delicate hints of cranberry and spice, a perfect accompaniment to harvest feasts and festivals.

Crisp Chardonnays with apple and pear undertones bring to mind orchard wrapped in early morning mist. Finally, sweet dessert wines, embody the apple pies topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

So, gather your loved ones, savour the flavours of this wonderful time of the year, and toast to the magic of autumn with these delightful seasonal offerings.