Parksville Untapped is firmly rooted in its Island surroundings. Nine years ago a collaboration between two prominent Vancouver Island resorts laid the foundation for Parksville Uncorked.
En route from The Beach Club Resort to Tigh Na Mara, the woman piloting the luxurious SUV shuttle tells me that when The Beach Club came to town a few folks weren’t too happy. The new kid on the block (part successful Bellstar Resorts) was regarded as an interloper. (It was developed on prime waterfront, previously home to the Island Hall, which opened in 1917.)
Some shunned the newcomer. But at Tigh Na Mara (Gaelic for ‘house by the sea’) the manager decided they would should work with the Beach Club. And together they came up with the idea for a wine and food festival—Parksville Uncorked.
A broad appeal
While wine commands plenty of interest, craft brewing soon made its presence felt. And Parksville Untapped was added to the mix. Cue the craft distilleries, the cideries, and more.
Parksville Untapped happens the night before the main Parksville Uncorked event, the wine-focused Swirl. A pair of winemakers dinners top off what’s now a significant three day festival. The resorts take turns in hosting Swirl while the other hosts Untapped.
But don’t think for even a moment that Untapped is a lesser event. Yes, it’s pretty informal and laid back, maybe with a tad less bling that gets trotted out for Swirl. But Untapped sports just the same energy as its wine counterpart.
It also offers a wealth of contrasts in the room, with a slew of spirits plus good bites from local eateries and caterers. Plus, most Untapped packages include both events and a winemakers dinner.
The three nights are all part of a blossoming Vancouver Island food and wine culture. In fact, if you’re interested, start thinking about next year as it sells out fast. Look for dates soon here.
Parksville Untapped tastes
Here’s a few wide ranging tastes from Untapped that underscore the creativity and quality driving the Island scene.
Driftwood Brewing – Naughty Hildegard ESB
I’ve been known to consume the odd glass of Driftwood Fat Tug. In fact it’s the go-to brew for soothing post wine-judging, tannin battered palates. But I could easily be lured back to this unabashed nod to the remarkable woman, widely thought to have been the first to use hops in beer. Back in the day, beer was brewed with just about anything people could get their hands on. And drunk liberally because it really was safer than the water. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was a Benedictine nun, and the Abbess of Diessenberg. She used hops as both a cleansing and flavouring agent and also as a preservative. This is a smooth variation on the typical ESB, with a healthy hop and smooth malty component and a hint of citrus. Plus, I love the label, with its stained glass window suggestion and Hildegard holding her hops. Not to mention broadcasting the notion that the first hopped beer was made by a smart woman… Cheers to you, again, Driftwood.
Sheringham Distillery – Seaside Gin
This distillery is located just about as far west as you can go in Canada, past Sooke, near scenic French Beach. Here’s one of the cleanest and most well crafted gins on the coast. I’m also thinking it’s (so far, at least) the only one that lists kelp as an ingredient. Made from organic white wheat and malted barley, it’s one of the best sipping gins around. Look for floral and citrus notes, plus a slightly salty background. Also of note, their Aquavit.
Red Arrow Brewing – Sweet Leaf IPA
From another newish brewery that I wasn’t aware of before. In your face, take no hostages hop and floral notes, before a nice balance of assertive hop with smooth malty undertones. And yes, another great label.
White Sails – Mount Benson India Pale Ale
Founder Brad McCarthy came to beer from wine. He owns and operates Oceanside WineWorks in Parksville. McCarthy felt Nanaimo could sustain another craft brewer and jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose to purchase an existing pub and license to launch an expansive tasting room. This is a well balanced IPA, quite weighty, with assertive hop and a citrus streak.
Moon Under Water – Creepy Uncle Dunkel
The name alone is hard to resist, from one of Victoria’s coolest brewpubs.
As an aside, I’m always intrigued at the number of people who go to a beer tasting and say “What do you have that’s light and doesn’t taste too beery.” And they’re not even Bud Lite weenies—well, hopefully not.
They should try this riff on a German dark lager. Pretty smooth and not too hoppy. That should make it pretty appealing to lesser hopheads, although it still has plenty of character.
Sea Cider – Kings and Spies
I haven’t tasted Sea Cider for a while but they always impress. It was good to catch up at Untapped. Their farm and cidery on the Saanich Peninsular is absolutely beautiful. (If you haven’t been, there’s more info here.) The lineup is impressive, even more so since they started working with local restos. Because I was weaned on (Somerset) cider, I have an affinity for the drier styles. My pick here was Kings and Spies, crisp and clean but not tart, and really food friendly.
deVine Wine & Spirits – Vin Gin
Here’s an interesting idea from the distiller who started Victoria Gin. They use a base made from grapes from their Saanich vineyard (Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner). The gin stood out from this lineup, which included cocktails made by brand ambassador Bradley Scissons. The end product is a very smooth sipper with some definite grapey hints.
Wolf Brewing – Porter
I liked this smooth, and chocolaty toned style with a distinctive dry personality and generous close. I also liked the distinctive label and was thrilled to discover Wolf’s program to actively support the artists whose work adorns their bottles.
Hoyne Brewing- Frank Appleton Extra Special Bitter
A fitting salute to the grandfather of BC brewing, Frank Appleton, who established the Troller in Horseshoe Bay. It was the province’s first brew pub and sadly short lived. But Appleton went on to mentor scores of folks, many of whom, including Sean Hoyne, are today’s leading brewers. This is a lovely copper toned beer with just the right balance of firm hops and generous malt with a smooth finish.
LoveShack Libations – DPA Dark Ale.
At Dashwood, on Old Island Highway just North of Qualicum Beach, Dave Paul has fired up LoveShack Libations, named for the small cabin he and his partner lived in while they were building their house. In just under a year they’ve taken his idea to make small batch, bottle condition brews from a dream to reality. Among a few good tastes, his DPA Dark Pale Ale (aka Dave Paul Ale) is a smooth, darker variation on an IPA with decent body and well balanced hop.
More on Swirl, the wine event, shortly …