If you’re anything like us at Twist, summer is your favorite time of the year out here on the best coast. One of the things that we cherish about the warm season is the opportunity to get out and adventure, explore, and soak up the sunshine. It’s easy to get wrapped up in jobs, responsibilities, and duties, and if we let that happen the summer can float by like a butterfly in a warm breeze.
One way that we’ve found to keep this from happening involves creating a must-do summer experience list. Biking to Sooke Potholes? On it. Spending a night on Sidney Spit? This year it’s really going to happen. Saanich Peninsula Cidery/Winery/Distillery Tour? Yes, please, and that's our focus for this post. We’re here to help you design a roadmap for taking a tasty tour, and experiencing the bounty of local products in our backyard.
Fun fact: the Saanich Peninsula was once the “bread basket” of Victoria. I’m not sure if we actually grew things to make bread, but it’s a fun term for an area that supplies fresh produce. Today, our produce comes from New Zealand, Ecuador, Neptune, you name it. There’s lots of reasons to support local products, like putting money back into the local economy or reducing carbon emissions.
These reasons all apply to the craft spirits market as well! Why buy a premium vodka from Poland when there’s one made on the island that’s the same price, arguably better quality, and has a cool story? Our best local spirits are created with herbs and botanicals foraged from the island, so they genuinely remind our senses of the beaches and forests that surround us. Same concept goes for beer, cider, and wine - and we can find all these things right here on our peninsula.
First Stop: Sea Cider
There’s a lot to like here. Once you park yourself in a seat on the patio, do some sampling of their many cider options, and take in the views over the orchard, the Gulf Islands, and Mt. Baker, it may be difficult to continue on the tour. However, this is meant to be a tasting experience, so enjoy it for an hour, and then move on, and take a little something to remember it by. There’s something for everyone. Traditional dry cider enthusiasts may prefer the Wild English or Flagship, and adventurous types will likely dabble into the territory of the Rumrunner, barrel aged for six months. And yes, these ciders can be a base or topper for unique and memorable cocktails. They open at 11:00, so what better place for the first stop (since cider is basically just apple juice, perfect for the late morning - plus it’s organic! Guilt-free drinking, it is).
Second Stop: Deep Cove Winery
Let’s head down to the island’s newest winery (kind of). Formerly Muse Winery, this North Saanich vineyard is back on the map as Deep Cove Winery. As they’ve just reopened to the public as of May 2018, be sure to check their website for tasting room & restaurant hours, but this area of gorgeous farmland is worth a look even if you can’t sit down for a sip. According to new owners, their vision is “to strengthen Vancouver Island’s wine identity by creating sustainable, hand crafted, world class wines.” Go right ahead. We haven’t had the experience of tasting through all of their varietals just yet, but we can fully endorse the Ortega, a vibrant Island grape that bursts with brightness and notes of stone fruit.
Third Stop: Category 12 Brewing
Perhaps our favorite B.C. brewery here at Twist, there could easily be a full post gushing about Category 12. We’ve been supporters since their doors first opened on Keating Cross Road, and since then those doors have been totally blown off - their high demand has forced an expansion, which includes a newly opened tasting room. Their beers blend creativity and experimentation with careful precision and eminent drinkability. They were making a Black IPA (Disruption) before it was cool, and it’s still one of the best around. They do some work in the realm of high ABV, like the powerful Subversion Imperial IPA (careful, it’s Star Destroyer-esque Imperial, at 8.5%, and it’ll blast you into a different galaxy after a couple pints). If you’re looking for easy summer sippers, they have those as well; take a break with Hiatus, a Farmhouse Ale with cucumber & lemon. If their local rep/resident beer nerd Jeff is there, ask him anything about beer, and he’ll provide you with a comprehensive and entertaining response. But don’t ask too many questions, or you may not make it to your next stop…
Fourth Stop: De Vine Spirits
Beer before liquor, right? Or is it...never mind. De Vine may be fourth on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the lowest priority, and you should definitely pace yourself to make it here. Save some time for taking in the stunning views and even better spirits up the hill at this winery and distillery. In their tasting room, the friendly team has a variety of craft-made spirits available every day from 11:00-6:00. These spirits are both all natural and complex, and in our opinion, that makes them some of the best cocktail components in B.C.
Honey Shine is a west coast reflection of rum – since we can’t grow sugar cane above the 49th parallel, we can’t call it rum, but this makes an awesome substitute in a Dark & Stormy or anything with pineapple syrup. Seriously, do yourself a favor and make a pineapple syrup. Super easy, and insanely quaffable. Another sensational spirit made by master distiller Ken Winchester is the New Tom Barrel Aged Gin. Aged in bourbon barrels, this expression of an old English style of gin is a far cry from your grandma’s London Dry Gin. Unique and complex, New Tom can be substituted for bourbon, or amp up a traditional gin cocktail, as we’ve done with a Bee’s Knees. De Vine also makes stunning varieties of vermouth, and the Moderna Bittersweet Vermouth is one of their best sellers. While it shows well as a cocktail ingredient (try it with New Tom & Maraschino Liqueur), it shines on the rocks as an aperitif – and it may even be good for you.
We hope you enjoy your Peninsula Tasting Tour! Be sure to take some photos, and feel free to tag us along the way. Have fun, imbibe responsibly, and reward yourself with our local bounty of craft beverages – your taste buds will appreciate it.
Hot tip: get your favorite teetotaler or expectant mother to do the driving, and reward them with your pleasant company (made even more jovial than normal by the sampling). If you’re feeling extra ambitious, dust off your bike seat and cruise along the Lochside Trail. Another option is to split the trip in two days, and take turns doing the drinking. Maybe start the day at Island View Beach, then head up to Sea Cider and Deep Cove Winery, then next weekend do Durrance Lake followed by Category 12 and De Vine! No drinking and driving, and you can get arrested for drinking and biking too (but you should be fine after a sample or two).