The Cowichan Valley – Napa Valley North?

Anyone who has ever driven around the Cowichan Valley admiring its natural beauty (and who among us hasn’t?) has seen the vineyards that are tucked around corners and sprawled across hillsides. There are more than a dozen, after all!

This has led to the Cowichan Valley being called “Napa Valley North”, but is it really? The Napa Valley is a region of California that has a Mediterranean climate while the Cowichan Valley, here in British Columbia, has a maritime climate. However generally speaking, both have warm summers and mild winters – the perfect conditions for growing grapes.

Growing Grapes

The type of grapes grown on a vineyard depends on the climate of the region and the soil that feeds them. While the Cowichan Valley’s climate helps produce some wonderful grapes, it’s cooler than California having fewer sunny days and definitely more rain than the Napa Valley.

The Cowichan Valley grows cool climate grapes that thrive in the sandstone, glacial till, and granite soil mixture of the area. These grapes produce the wines that the region is known for: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer.

The soil of the Napa Valley is made up of volcanic ash, alluvial deposits, and sedimentary rocks which provide the basis for Napa’s high end Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot wines.

New Kid on the Block

Both Napa Valley and Cowichan Valley have seen the numbers of wineries and vineyards increase and both regions have a reputation for the production of high-quality, award-winning wines. The Napa Valley is a well established wine making region with a long history of producing high quality wines.

The Cowichan Valley is much younger and not as large or deep rooted in the wine industry. The unique flavours and characteristics of the wines grown here are leading to an increasing presence in the world of wine.

Cowichan Valley Wineries

The culture of the region has seen the rise of smaller, often family owned and operated vineyards and wineries. Using traditional methods, Cowichan Valley wineries often focus on the production of artisanal wines made of grapes or fruit. Many are increasingly using sustainable practices.

In addition, many of the wineries are “estate” wineries. This means their wines are created using grapes that are predominantly grown on the winery’s land or estate. A small quantity may be sourced from outside the winery. Quality control is tighter and there is more control over the entire wine making process from growing the grapes through harvesting to production of the wine.

Cowichan Valley region wineries such as these below offer unique wines and picturesque surroundings. Some have scenic tasting rooms and relaxed outdoor seating areas that take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us in the here in the Valley.

    • Alderlea Vineyards – one of Vancouver Island’s oldest and most respected vineyards with a commitment to sustainable practices
    • Averill Creek Vineyard – specializes in cool-climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris
    • Blue Grouse Estate Winery – sustainable farming practices create a variety of red, white, and rosé wines
    • Cherry Point Estate Wines – produces a variety of wines made from estate-grown grapes and has a tasting room with scenic views
    • Damali Lavender and Winery – offers lavender-infused wines as well as artisan lavender oils and soaps
    • Deol Estate Winery – white and red wines made from 100% estate-grown grapes
    • Enrico Winery – produces award winning range of red and white wines and has a rustic tasting room and outdoor seating area
    • Rocky Creek Winery – offers a variety of red, white, and fruit wines and has a tasting room with a patio overlooking the vineyards
    • Unsworth Vineyards – hand crafted wines and an outdoor terrace
    • Venturi-Schulze Vineyards – prodeces pure and natural wines and balsamic vinegar
    • Zanatta Winery – Vancouver Island’s first estate winery