Off The Vine – L’Apéro Coastal Style: Bring On the Botanicals

by Tania Tomaszewska

Vancouver Island is kicking goals with its spirits and distilleries game. There’s increasing attention from consumers in B.C. and beyond on what we’re doing with our local bounty and botanicals. Island vintners are joining the party, blending local ingredients with their grapes to produce fantastic new libations.

I’ve been expanding my horizons recently with a dive into the apéritif and digestif world. What took me so long? Here are just a few ideas for your l’apéro line-up or post-dinner discussion.

Averill Creek Vineyard Vermouth Dark, mysterious and unique.

When he joined Averill Creek Vineyard in 2018, winemaker Brent Rowland inherited five barrels of estate grown wild blackberry wine which had been fortified to 19% abv and aged up to six years in French barrels using the solera-style system. He created this vermouth by steeping that wine in teas from nearby Westholme Tea Company, old-growth red cedar and botanicals such as cardamom, star anise and orange peel.

For me it’s like taking a walk through our coniferous forests just after the rain has stopped. Dried fruit and fig on the nose followed by luscious and smooth layers of blackberry, forest pine and cedar tones. It’s an apéritif, but I lean savoury post-dinner so this could be dessert as it’s alluring medicinal tones make it my perfect digestif.

The first 30-case batch of this vermouth is sold out at the winery but you can still pick up a bottle at select retail stores. The next batch is expected to be released in early 2022. For more information:

Wolf & Grouse Light Apéritif

The brainchild of Blue Grouse Estate Winery owner Paul Brunner and friend Alex Gallé, this beauty is made with Alex’s wild gentian root, bitter orange peels and mountain blossoms and Paul’s crisp Quill White from Blue Grouse, macerated together to develop complexity and a “je ne sais quoi” before bottling.

It’s light and refreshing with a perfect bittersweet balance. Fig, citrus and exotic floral aromatics followed by an effervescent palate and enticing tones of bitters, orange peel, ruby grapefruit and pine resin finish.

I had mine with a king ice cube and twist of orange. If you’re into negronis or aperol spritz but looking for a lower alcohol swap, at 6% abv this one’s for you. I loved it as an apéritif and digestif.

It was just the ticket pre and post a big steak dinner.

Go to the Wolf & Grouse website for an excellent description of the genesis of their drop and fantastic list of Wolf & Grouse-inspired cocktail recipes.

Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery 2018 Vermouth

One of the oldest forms of alcoholic libations and used historically for medicinal purposes, vermouth gets its name from wermut (German for wormwood) and comes in a variety of styles and flavours. Wine aromatized with flowers, roots, herbs and other botanicals, it’s fortified with distilled alcohol to prevent quick spoilage.

This refreshing off-dry white vermouth comes from Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery in the Comox Valley, the first organically-certified vineyard on Vancouver Island. Their single variety madeline sylvaner base wine is fortified to 18% abv with vodka from award-winning Sheringham Distillery in Sooke which Beaufort infuses with botanicals such as wormwood, rosemary, vanilla, lemon and juniper.

Have it straight over ice, stirred in your martini or other mixology creations. I enjoyed mine with ice, a large wedge of fresh lemon and garnished with large sprigs of lavender from the garden.

For more information:

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Photos courtesty Averill Creek Vineyard, Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Danika McDowell

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