The seasons in the wine business are quite distinct. As spring ends, work in the winery wraps up – all the wine for the coming season has been bottled and other than a little maintenance of barrels there is very little to do in the actual production of wine. The work in the vineyard however is ramping up to full speed. The ongoing pruning and maintenance of the grape vines is a huge job and keeps our crew busy for most of the summer months. Grape shoots have to be tucked into the trellis wires, leaves in the fruiting zone have to be stripped. Extra shoots have to be removed. Vines have to be sprayed to keep disease like powdery mildew at bay. Rinse and repeat three to four times over the summer (every 2 ½ to 3 weeks) and there is barely a break for anyone.
From a sales perspective, all of the work to approach stores and restaurants to get our wines on the shelves and onto the wine menus also lessens, but is replaced by a massive effort in direct sales – from being open every day in our tasting room, to participating at 3 to 4 farmers markets every week, our team is hopping to make sure all of the wine bottled ends up sold before the end of the year.
We spend a lot of time building a plan for the year, and sometimes it actually works. Then there are the factors you just can’t control. Like the Malahat being under construction for the second summer in a row. Every time they start ripping up the highway tourism from Victoria dries up and everyone relying on it suffers. Last summer we saw an immediate, significant, drop in traffic the moment the highways started backing up for hours in both directions. The construction was supposed to be done before this summer but is now delayed and will likely last until the end of July at least. Most small wineries depend on direct sales for 50 to 70% of their sales. Tourists staying on the peninsula results in a huge problem for all businesses reliant on them. You can make the best wine in the world, but if tourists can’t make it to your winery, selling becomes a problem, and you have to use different sales avenues (private stores, gov’t liquor stores) all of which take a bigger cut and leave the winery with less money for every bottle sold.
Luckily, we get a lot of support from our locals. The best way you can help out your local wineries is to pick up local wines to serve over the summer and support your local farmers/winemakers. Over the years the quality of the wine produced in Cowichan has improved significantly and many of our wineries are winning awards for their products and both national and international wine competitions. Several of the big wine competitions have just been held, and results are starting to trickle in. Local wineries have continued to show very well. Enrico won 2 golds and a silver at the All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC), Alderlea won a gold at the ACWC, Cherry Point won a bronze. We won a bronze at the ACWC, but also just received our medals from the Northwest Wine Summit in Oregon, and had the best result we’ve had in the past 9 years. We picked up a gold for our Pinot Gris, and Silvers for four additional wines. Since then we have learned of two silvers at the National Wine Awards for Pinot Gris and Wild Blackberry. If you are looking for an excellent (and efficient) way to try out local wines, come visit the Duncan Farmer’s Market Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. There are many local wineries present, and all offer free tastings at the market so you have a chance to try out some of these award-winning wines without any risk. After you’ve sampled you can return and pick up a few bottles of your favorites.