Archive | July 2012

Coastal Black Magic

“Give me wine to wash me clean of the weatherstains of care” (on door at Coastal Black)

Myself at Coastal Black

When you turn off Endall Road in Black Creek to the Coastal Black Estate Winery, you truly enter an exotic world of Vancouver Island vineyards. You are greeted on your left are the vineyards themselves, stretching for acres in neat rows – not the wild blackberries we are used to seeing scattered on our fields and roadsides, but cultivated berries, a thornless variety that are dedicated to producing the award winning wine that Coastal Black is becoming famous for.  In fact, Coastal Black is the largest cultivated blackberry farm in all of Canada!

I had the pleasure of visiting the 660 acre vineyard on Saturday with a group of friends as part of a fundraiser for the Tidemark Theatre.  The turnout was excellent and it appeared that every seat was filled on their new patio, where food is now served to accompany the excellent wine.  The fundraiser was organized by Denise Mitchell and Christina Vokey (at left), with assistance from Zena Williams of the Campbell River Mirror.  The $25 ticket was well worth the price – including a tour of the wine making area, a wine tasting and delectable appetizers.

We were divided into two groups, one went off for the tour first and I was in the lucky group that stayed on the patio for the first wine tasting.  I had had Coastal Black wine before and like it, but was looking forward to trying some of their newer products.  We weren’t disappointed!  From the mead to the table wine to the raspberry sparkling wine, everything was bursting with flavour and exceptionally smooth.  When the grand finale arrived, a dessert wine served in a lovely little chocolate cup from Hot Chocolates, we were all thoroughly enchanted, prompting Rachelle sitting next to me to declare “I love these little chocolate shot glasses!”

By this time, in an even better mood then when we started, our all-female entourage headed into the winery to be given a tour by Abel, one of the winery’s owners.  It was astonishing to learn that just five years prior, this classy establishment had been a diary farm, and where cattle once roamed, exotic wines were being brewed and bottled.  Although, as Abel explained, they no longer have to get up in the wee hours to milk cows every day of the week, (and coming from a dairying family, I know what they mean) it is clear that the entire family puts in a tremendous number of hours into making their operation viable.

The results of their ingenuity and hard work are evident in the beauty of the property and the excellence of their products.  Participants were clearly sold, as after the tour and the tastings, people were lined up to purchase wine by the bottle to accompany the appetizers.  Adjectives such as ‘magical elixir’ were circulating around our table to describe Coastal Black’s wine, a true fruit of the  earth.

To all appearances, it was a successful day for the vineyard and for the Tidemark.  We are hoping that the next time, we’ll go visit the scotch distillery they operate at the old UBC farms property.  Rachelle had the foresight to order a van to take us to and from the winery, and after a stimulating afternoon, a giggling group of females finally boarded the bus for home.  I had a pleasant surprise the next day as considering my sensitivity to wine, I felt no ill side effects, despite imbibing more than my usual two glasses!

To learn more about Coastal Black and plan your visit, check out their website at



Spectacular Sonora Boat Tour

There is so much to see and do in our wonderful area, but one thing you thing don’t want to miss out on, is an opportunity to get out and explore the magical Discovery Islands this summer.

Passengers Barry Malpass, Mike Moody and Sally Moody

This past Saturday, we took a boat cruise to the Sonora Island area, put on by the Museum at Campbell River and Discovery Marine Safaris, and had a magnificent day!

I went along as historic interpreter on behalf of the Museum at Campbell River, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Our group consisted of five plus the skipper – a couple from Georgetown, Texas  –  Mike and Sally Moody, Barry Malpass of Campbell River, my husband Terry Robinson and myself.

Skipper Joel

Our skipper Joel was the greatest – he worked with me to plan the best route – but I left the piloting in his capable hands!

We had lovely warm weather, and although it was a little windy as we started up Johnstone Strait, we felt secure in Discovery Marine Safaris’ heavy aluminum boat, that handled the waves extremely well.  We discussed some of the history of Campbell River and Vancouver Island’s east coast as we headed north, and I pointed out some spots of interest on the Quadra Island side as well.

We went up to Chatham Point, well indicated by its lightstation, and turned east into Nodales Channel.  We had Sonora Island on the right, and East Thurlow Island on the left.  Joel took us into Thurston Bay, that once had a significant settlement and operated as a BC Forestry Service station.  Today it is a protected marine park.  Further into the bay is Cameleon Harbour, where evidence has been found of the First Nations groups who initially inhabited Sonora.

We went back out into Nodales Channel, pointing out Hemming Bay on East Thurlow Island, where there had once been a large logging operation.  When we reached Cordero Channel, Joel headed south and east, and we went to over to the mainland side where ancient petroglyphs are painted into the rock, still visible after all these years!  Further along, we stopped to take pictures of the tug boaters stop, with signs tacked up on the trees, displaying names of all the tugboats that went through the area.

Next stop was Dent Island Lodge.  What a gorgeous place!  The Lodge is lovely wooden building that blends in with the woodland scenery surrounding it.  Pathways with colourful gardens wind among the trees, taking you to their accommodations. 

The views from the Lodge are fantastic, especially from the outside patio where we had an excellent lunch that included freshly caught sockeye salmon and local halibut.

On our way back, we cruised through Maurelle and Read Islands and down the east coast of Quadra Island.  The grand finale for our trip was the opportunity to watch transient Killer Whales in action off the south coast of Quadra, where they splashed and put on a show for their audience in the surrounding boats.  A huge thank-you to Skipper Joel for a fantastic trip!!

Be sure to check the Museum’s website for details on the 2015 trips and guides!

Magnificent Shoal Bay on Canada Day

This past weekend, on July 1stCanada Day, my husband Terry and I went over to Shoal Bay, situated on East Thurlow Island,  for the annual pig roast that they have been holding every year for about the past six years. 

Evening at Shoal Bay

Getting over to Shoal Bay from our cabin at Green Point Rapids is a quick ten minute trip going south down Cordero Channel.  Numerous boats moor at Shoal Bay during the summer season, and people who have summer homes in the area often converge at Shoal Bay for these weekend dos.  It is a great way to get to know who your ‘neighbours’ are and mimics the habits of the early settlers of the district who often got together at Shoal Bay for community dinners and dances.

Grizzly bear at Philips Arm

This year, we met a couple from Courtenay, Viktor and Ursula, who were moored at Shoal Bay and staying at a cabin on the property, and they were busy exploring the area.  Viktor is an excellent photographer and was very excited about encountering a grizzly bear in Philips Arm and getting some really good shots.  I have posted some of Viktor’s photos here, with his permission.

Ironically, he had just been on a visit to Yorke Island with the Comox Valley Camera Club and posted an excellent slide show of photos taken there to Youtube.  I have inserted the link into my website.  He had graciously indicated on the Youtube posting that my book about Yorke Island was out, and was happy that we met, and he purchased a book from me there, on the spot!

Abandoned vehicle

For those interested in visiting Shoal Bay, on the August long weekend, there will be a beef roast, and another pig roast on the September long weekend.  On Saturday, August 11, there will be another music fest, which seems to be growing in popularity.  For those without a boat, you can take a water taxi to Shoal Bay and experience the beauty of the region, and the fun of the gatherings.