Vacation Lessons #3 – take a chance, make the call

After our Tofino accommodation debacle, Neil and I changed plans abruptly, deciding to make our way down island to the Cowichan Valley and check out some of the wineries that have sprung up in the area over the past decade or so.

Grapes at Venturi-Schulze

Late August is a bit of a dodgy time to visit wineries. Their previous year’s best releasesare most certainly sold out, and that year’s releases won’t be out for another 4-6 weeks.

That said, we did find an absolute gem of a winery that we’d never have thought twice bout had we not phoned.

Many wineries offer tours and tastings throughout the Spring and Summer months, though there are quite a few that will only accommodate visitors on an appointment-only basis.

And so, armed with our Wine Islands brochure, and a cell phone, Neil and I made our way around to do the circuit of North and South Cowichan wineries.

After visiting most of the more well-known wineries, such as Zanatta and Cherry Point, we decided to take our chances with a call to Venturi-Schulze Winery & Balsamic Vinegary – which only holds 2 or 3 tastings a year, and does tours rarely, and by appointment only.

Coincidentally, Marilyn was going out in fairly short order to take someone else on a tour of the vineyard, and if we could be there in 10 minutes, we were welcome to come along.

What an experience.

We were treated to over an hour exploring their meticulous vineyards, and spared the typical “this is how wine is made” rigamarole. Instead we were saturated with knowledge about the terroir, the grape species, the lengths that Venturi-Schulze has gone to – over and above those of any winery I’d seen before or since – toward sustainability, and an absolute and unquestionable love for creating pure wines from perfect grapes.

We were also fortunate enough to see the vinegary, where Giordano and Marilyn have crafted an ancient process production plant for balsamic vinegars. Creating a traditional vinegary isn’t a money-making process – in order to turn it into a sustainable business they have over $2 million in inventory, in order to produce a modest $150,000 in revenues each year. They make detailed production notes for their Grandchildren, who will be the first to see a profit from the business.

This just speaks further to their passion for perfecting the processes and the product, rather than making a profit.

We purchased our most expensive wine from Venturi-Schulze – a bottle of the amazing Brandenbug No. 3 dessert wine, as well as a bottle of the Balsamic Vinegar – the only two things she had available to taste that day.

But the fantastically personal and passionate tour, as well as the quality of their products, has ensured we’ll make a special effort to travel there for one of their full tastings, and look back fondly on such a special fluke, in a vacation where the all-to-frequent mishaps didn’t usually result in anything near as sweet.

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