A Lovely Weekend in Victoria, BC

October 21, 2010

This weekend we made the journey from Seattle to Victoria, a charming English-styled city on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, for a spot of research for an upcoming column for Wine Press Northwest.

Taking the Victoria Clipper, a visually beautiful and relaxing 2 3/4-hour ride, is always a good way to begin mentally moving from city to island time.

And although we were a bit apprehensive when the boat slowed considerably as we crossed from Washington state into Canadian waters, we were thrilled to discover the reason why: we were surrounded by Orca whales!!!

The captain said he spotted two “super pods.” They danced around the boat–left, right, and straight ahead. It was funny to hear the oohs and aahs and watch the tourists move from side to side of the boat as they spotted the huge breeching mammals (and one baby).

But it also seemed like a fortuitous sign of the trip to come.

Of course, The Fairmont Empress hotel is the fixture that many associate with Victoria. . .the place many choose to stay and also the place where you have to “take tea” at least once in your life.

We actually prefer to have a curry buffet, or at least a drink, in the venerable Bengal Lounge since it isn’t nearly as touristy and the food is reliably good.

The Empress is located on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the town’s bustling center of activity rife with hotels, restaurants, seaplane docks, shops, government buildings, museums, and all manner of sightseeing attractions.

But our purpose was to explore Vancouver’s environs, and we enjoyed a full day of wine touring in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s famous farm belt.

“Fresh From the Island” signs were everywhere that local products were farmed or produced, including Cherry Point Estate Wines, one of the first producers of blackberry wine on the island.

Cherry Point was one of the pioneer wineries in the Cowichan; here are some of the gorgeous grapes farmed on the winery’s 24 acres.

Saison\'s fresh produce

And here is a sign highlighting the fresh produce and mushrooms available at Saison Market Vineyard.

This wonderful new bakery/market/vineyard is located just north of Averill Creek Vineyard, one of the island’s draw-card wineries.

In season this time of year?

Chard and chanterelles

Chard and chanterelles. . .

Succulent squash

Succulent squash. . .

And sheaves of wheat and lavender.

Here’s a lovely Farm-Friendly Salad made of totally island-grown produce we enjoyed over dinner at Camille’s Fine West Coast Dining.

Even Canadian dogs are smart. Here’s a handsome doggie we spotted “driving” a car just outside our hotel, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, in downtown Victoria.

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