Rocky Creek Winery is owned and operated by 3rd generation winemaker, Mark Holford and his wife Linda. As long as they could remember, they talked about starting their own winery. The pair started producing batches of wine out of their basement in Ladysmith, becoming the very first neighbourhood winery in Ladysmith. When they realized their wines were in high demand, they opened a second location in Cowichan Bay. Homegrown down to the grapes, they are passionate about keeping the business local and developing varieties of grapes that thrive naturally in Vancouver Island’s cooler climate. It takes only a quick glance at the wall of medals adorning their tasting room to realize that Mark and Linda are serious about their craft.
The ancient art of wine tasting was one that was foreign to us. Our minds conjured up pictures of balding middle-aged characters swirling wine in a glass before tasting it and promptly spitting it out. In our eyes, wasting perfectly good drinkable wine constitutes alcohol abuse. Our token knowledge of wine was limited to our expertise in consuming cheap bottles of it in vast quantities. We decided to get an education with our first vineyard visit. It would take all of our drinking prowess to avoid making a scene in the wine tasting room. As we pulled up to the wooden welcome sign carved in the shape of a giant wine bottle, one thing was clear. It was wine o’clock.
Our wine tasting started with Jubilee: a blush sparkling wine with notes of strawberries, raspberries and rose petals that pairs wonderfully with prosciutto and brie cheese. It interestingly has the same health benefits as red wine because of the combination of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Next we tasted Ortega, a complex and flavourful dry white with bright acidity, fresh aromas of citrus, gooseberries and a hint of vanilla. This German variety flourishes in the cooler climate and is emerging as the region’s speciality due to its predominance on the Island. Its subtle flavour goes well with oysters and mushrooms.
As the tasting continued we sampled a gold medal winning Pinot Gris, Robin’s Rose, a cherry hued rose named after their daughter. This was followed by Katherine’s Sparkle, a sparkling wine with a fruity finish.
However, if there’s one thing worth making the commute down to Cowichan Bay for it’s this. The wine that makes Rocky Creek Winery a place you just have to visit is their award winning Wild Blackberry wine. The sweetness of this rich red comes from unoaked Trailing Blackberries. Unlike the more common Himalayan blackberries, a species from Asia introduced by the British, they are native to the Island while sharing many of the same characteristics and flavours. When paired with chocolate, the combination can only be described as other worldly! This delightful dessert-style wine has proved its merit having won numerous awards including international medals in California.
Admittedly we were feeling pretty fantastic at this point. Our eyes were cloaked in rosy haze where everything looked pretty and happy.
After the tasting, Linda took us on a tour of the grounds. As we strolled along the vineyard, she explained to us her passion for gardening and the importance of maintaining the natural landscape and preserving the biodiversity that existed on the property. Running an eco-friendly, sustainable business is also something that they strive for. They do so by selecting disease resistant varieties and aggressive weeding to minimize spraying in addition to reducing their carbon footprint in all stages of production.
Rocky Creek Winery recently held their season opener on Mother’s day weekend and is hosting their 3rd annual Father’s day pig roast on June 17th in the vineyard which has been expanded to 100 seats this year due to overwhelming demand. In addition to wine tastings and privately hosted dinner parties in the barn, the winery will be opening its vineyard to outdoor weddings. They have also added a lovely patio area where you can sit back relax, and enjoy a glass of wine as you marvel at the scenery.
Rocky Creek Winery is a wonderful stop along a blossoming Cobble Hill wine route which makes for a nice relaxing afternoon. With exciting upcoming releases such as a Blackberry Sparkling Tempranillo, a bold red wine in July, you can be sure that we will be back for another visit soon armed with friends and an empty box or two.
For more information on Rocky Creek Winery visit their website at www.rockycreekwinery.ca
1854 Myhrest Road, Cowichan Bay