The Villa Eyrie Resort’s Winemakers Dinner Series kicked off last night with a sold-out event under a clear, starry night at the stunning Cielo Amphitheatre. Over 100 guests gathered beneath a sleek, barely-there canopy to dine on a spectacular five-course dinner by GAIN Group’s Corporate Executive Chef Ryan Bissell, Summit Restaurant’s Executive Chef Mario Gross and Pastry Chef Matthias Conradi. Elegant wine pairings for each course were provided by Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Alderlea Vineyards and Enrico Winery. The food and wine showcased the best of Cowichan, using local, seasonal ingredients and fine wines from the region. The next event in the series, a Wine Society Dinner with Hops & Vine, is set to take place on Tuesday, August 28.

Already well known as a bountiful agricultural region, the Cowichan Valley has become an acclaimed wine region since the opening of its first commercial vineyard in the 1970s. With the warmest year-round climate in Canada, Cowichan offers a long growing season and ideal, stable environment for growing high-quality wine grapes. This has attracted many accomplished winemakers to the region which has sparked the wine industry’s palpable growth on Vancouver Island. The area boasts an abundance of award-winning wineries that offer both traditionally crafted wines such as Pinot Gris, Pinor Noir and Gewurztraminer and craft varietals with lavender, berries and other ingredients native to Cowichan. Many of these flavorful and unique wines were showcased at the premiere event in the Winemakers’ Dinner Series and are featured year-round at the Villa Eyrie’s Summit Restaurant, making the resort the perfect base to enjoy a sip and savour staycation with its location atop the Malahat.

Best of Cowichan guests were treated to a live acoustic guitar and clarinet duo and incredible views as the sun dipped past the horizon, creating hues of orange and blue in the sky over the Saanich Inlet and Olympic Mountain Range. Victoria and Port Angeles were visible even after 9pm at the stunning 180-degree vantage point from the Cielo Amphitheatre on the warm summer evening.

Cielo Amphitheatre

The masterfully-crafted menu from Chef Bissel, Chef Gross and Chef Conradi was comprised of the freshest, seasonal ingredients from across Cowichan featured in west coast inspired dishes. Each course was expertly paired to an elegant wine from Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Enrico Winery and Alderlea Vineyards.

The dinner began with a first course of bone marrow mouse, Acadian caviar, brioche and chives served in a caviar tine with a mother of pearl spoon. Guests then enjoyed a ricotta and truffle stuffed squash blossom paired with sockeye salmon gravlax, pickled shallots, fine greens, radishes and a nasturtium vinaigrette. Next, the chefs offered a bison carpaccio accompanied by tarragon aioli, picked green strawberries, black pepper and quail eggs. The fourth course showcased a locally-raised venison chop with a parsnip and potato pave, fondant carrots, salal berry puree and a dark chocolate jus. Lastly, Chef Conradi presented a summer berry cocktail, natively called rote gruetze in Germany, which was served with Tahitian vanilla crème anglaise in a brandy snap cup alongside sour cream gelato. Guests finished with petit fours including tonka bean tree cake friandese and pistachio truffles offered on elegant black granite slabs.

Masterfully-crafted menu

The next event in the Winemakers Dinner Series is the Wine Society Dinner with Hops & Vine on August 28th. A four-course menu from Chef Gross will showcase wines from interior BC, namely Upper Bench Winery in Pentiction and Marichel Winery in Naramata. Renowned sommelier, David Murney, will be representing Hops & Vine and guiding guests through each expertly paired course and wine set to unobstructed panoramic views atop the Saanich Inlet.