As we pull up to the Villa Eyrie Resort, perched on the summit of the Malahat, we’re immediately taken by the view. Tall trees frame Finlayson Arm Inlet, as the orange glow of the setting sun streaks across mountains that have turned blue in the cool winter light.
“The Cowichan Valley is a real hidden gem, in close proximity to Victoria, but just far enough to give you the sense that you’ve escaped the city without having to drive for hours,” says Villa Eyrie Resort general manager Alexander Fischer-Jean.
|One of the courses from the Winemaker’s Dinner Series at The Summit Restaurant at the Villa Eyrie Resort. Photo by Tess van Straaten|
We’ve just checked in to our room – a spacious master suite with a huge jetted tub in the middle, cozy fireplace, and a private wrap-around deck to take in the stunning view. It’s incredibly romantic, and if it weren’t for the amazing meal waiting for us in the resort’s Summit Restaurant, I wouldn’t want to leave the room.
A few weeks ago, we came to the resort for the first time to experience its winemaker’s dinner series. The four-course feast, pairing wines from Church & State Winery, featured delectable dishes, from bacon-topped tortellini with chanterelle mushrooms to a tart and tasty quince dessert.
“We proudly partner with the wineries to showcase their very best, and compliment it with our 3-Michelin star chefs’ incredible creations,” explains Fischer-Jean. “The winemaker’s dinners are increasingly popular because you get to personally meet the winemakers (and hear) what inspires them, what drives them, what challenges did they face during the growing season, what exciting indulgences are they bottling now for next year?”
Tasting cool climate wines paired with fresh, local ingredients is one of the best, and most intimate, ways to experience the region. Eager to experience more of Cowichan’s bounty on our romantic weekend away, we head to Hudson’s on First the following night. This award-winning farm-to-table restaurant in a beautifully restored heritage home in downtown Duncan serves up culinary creations that would rival any top, big-city establishment.
Over candlelight, we sample the chef’s tasting menu as owner Andrea Hudson explains how she and Chef Corbin are passionate about using locally-sourced ingredients, regularly changing up the menu with seasonal offerings.
“We have people dropping off produce from their properties at our door and it’s an exciting challenge to see how we can incorporate new things into the menu,” says Hudson.
The meal is one of the best I’ve ever had, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“The word is out about dining in Cowichan!” says Tourism Cowichan’s Mirande Thorne. “With more than 700 farms in the area, 14 wineries, two craft distilleries, two cideries and three craft breweries, chefs have an abundance of local food and drink to source from. There’s a reason food writer James Barber called Cowichan ‘Canada’s new Provence’ and Napa Valley’s Sasha Paulsen named the region the ‘Napa of the North.’”
Back at the Villa Eyrie, almost 1,900 feet above sea level, we breathe in the crisp mountain air from our deck, finding it impossible not to love everything about this amazing area.