There is a new tour company in town! Kitchens of Distinction Spirit Excursions
They are offering exclusive farm, wine and artisan tours capture the rich diversity of our region. Recently I went on one of their excursions. I thought I had seen and done it all but much to my surprise, I visited places that I did not know existed. Owner/Chef Shirley Lang and her partner and wine expert Fran Nemeth have done their research and discover a number of places not frequented by other tour operators.
We left Victoria and immediately out came food and drink. Coffee, tea, water, juice were offered along with some of the best bannock you will ever eat. Shirley’s bannock is similar to scones. The are light and so tastey that you don’t need condiments or butter with them. Delicious is the word! Guests on this tour included a friendly couple from Seattle (Matt and Lynn).
Our first stop was Littler Farm. Littler Farms is a local, sustainable family farm that focuses on providing healthy, home grown fruits and vegetables as well as farm fresh eggs. The farm sells their products at the Goldstream Station Farmers Market all summer long. Debbie Littler gave us a tour through their amazing farm and explained how they grow the different crops in a sustainable manner. The farm is at 3564 Happy Valley Rd in Langford. I don’t know how many times I have driven by there unaware of its existence. Debbie made me aware of how little I know about gardening. I could however converse with the chickens and the rooster. I think they liked me!
After the farm we headed for Sooke. Fran took the scenic route past Beacher Bay where the views of the bay, the outer islands and the Olympic Mountains are spectacular.
We drove almost all the way to French Beach to find Sheringham Distillery home to some fine coastal craft spirits. We were entertained by the amiable host Jason who explained to us how he makes his spirits. Jason is living his dream which made the visit even more interesting. Well done Jason! A tasting was part of our experience with Jason and no one was disappointed. Perhaps you would like to visit Jason and Alayne at their distillery. It is at 2631 Seaside Drive in the Shirley District.
Our next stop was Saltwest at 7585 Lemare Crescent in Sooke. Owners Jessica & Jeff Abel have created a unique business crafting Canadian sea salt from local sea water. In addition to the high quality sea salt, they have also crafted culinary sea salts, mineral soaks, artisan peppercorns and Salish Sea Water. The salts infused with herbs and spices were presented to our tour on vegetablesd and salmon. The taste was amazing. You just have to try these products. You will be amazed.
After a delightful visit at Saltwest, we headed for towards Duncan. Fran took a short cut through the back of Langford on Kangaroo Road. No, we did not see any kangaroos, however this is a delightful little stretch of road that goes through some old growth forest and you get glimpses of old water system delivery pipes and pass by the Humpback Reservoir. Good choice Fran. Then Fran stopped at the Split Rock viewpoint at the top of the Malahat. This is one of the most beautiful viewpoints on Vancouver Island. Shirley brought our a wonderful picnic lunch that we devoured on the remainder of our trip to the next stop. It was truly a gourmet lunch and was enjoyed by all. Our gourmet picnic lunch consisted of Turkish roasted chicken breast with pepper cress, assorted lettuce with edible flowers, roasted squash, roasted potatotes & tomatoes, with mango, and fresh picked raspberries with basil. Absolutely delicious! Created by Chef Shirley.
Our next stop was at the Damali Lavender Farm and Winery at 3500 Telegraph Road in Cobble Hill. This is in the southern part of the Cowichan Valley. This is the start of the Cowichan Valley vineyards and there are lots of them to see. You could easily lose yourself in this area for a day or two! Our group had a tasting at Damali and certainly enjoyed what they tried. In July of 2013 Damali B&B was chosen as one of ‘7 Top Farm Stays Around the World’ by Fodor’s. Whether you stroll around the lavender, gardens, labyrinth and vineyard, browse through the amazing gift shop, savour aglass of lavender wine in the picnic area or treat yourself to a wine tasting, at Damali there is something for everyone to enjoy. There is lots to do in the area should you choose to stay at their spectacular B&B. Just across the street is the beautiful Arbutus Golf Course.
Then we headed toward Shawnigan Lake to do another tasting at the Unsworth Vinyard. They have a beautiful tasting room in a gorgeous surrounding. There is a restaurant on the property as well that serves lunch and dinner. Again the wine had to be good. Someone in our party took home wine from each vineyard we visited! Traditional meets artisan winemaking at Unsworth Vineyards, an award-winning, family-owned and operated winery committed to creating handcrafted wines of distinction in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. Ber sure to put this vineyard on your tour schedule.
Then we were off to the Merridale Cidery. As they say, eat, drink and be Merridale! At Merridale they make the very best cider. They use cider apple varieties that have been proven for centuries in England, France, and Germany to make the best cider. All ciders are made from 100% pure juice, and only the first pressing is used. No water is added nor do they re-press the apples to increase the yield because they believe this compromises the flavour. Being purists, they do not use concentrates, chemicals at bottling, pasteurization, or fine filtration of juice. The juice is fermented slowly and naturally, to delicately bring out all of the flavour the fruit has to offer. The proof is in the tasting and once again the group all found a cider they loved. Merridale is much more than a cidery. They give tours of their operation, they have an amazing farmhouse store, a Bistro, a Brick Oven Bakery, an Artisaqn Distillery and Yurts that you can stay in should you want to vacation there. This is one triffic operation.
Then to finish the day, we visited O.U. R. Eco Village. O.U.R. Ecovillage is a 25 acre, permaculture based, working farm and educational demonstration site for natural building, organic and permaculture food production and sustainable living. Located at 1565 Baldy Mtn Road Shawnigan Lake, the lovely folks that take care of the Village will tell you that their description can never compare with a visit. So contact them ahead of time and they will do their best to accommodate you!
O.U.R. ECOVILLAGE is a sustainable learning community and demonstration site located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They base their work on Permaculture principles and offer learning opportunities for Natural Building, Sustainable Food Production and Leadership. Visitors are welcome for educational tours (see the calendar on their web site) with a presentation and walk through OUR permaculture demonstration site and village community, including our beautiful natural buildings. Work parties welcome you to participate in various activities throughout the season. So come on in and have a look around!”
Our group was invited for supper and it seems eveyone participates in the preparation and shares in duties (everyone washes their own dishes after dinner).This is truly something different that most people will never see. So set yourself apart and see what this wonderful people are doing to protect their environment and to teach others how to do the same. This is a very unique experience and a great way to end our day.
Then back to Victoria. Everyone truly enjoyed the tour and everyone learned something new. I would certainly recommend that you consider Kitchens of Distinction for a unique tour and culinary experience on Vancouver Island.Spirit Excursions Farm, Wine and Artisan Tour.