The Brandy House at Merridale

The Brandy House at Merridale

A couple of weeks ago owners Janet and Rick and the staff at Merridale Cidery hosted a special event for folks in the tourism industry to come and see what Merridale is all about.  Never having done the full tour at Merridale, even though we’re practically neighbours and many of our guests have visited the cidery, we just had to go!

In spite of the pouring rain at times, it was a fun and informative event.  The tour had been set up as a bit of a scavenger hunt as you had to pay attention to complete the questions about the cidery on the little map you received at the start, as the winning team members were going to go home with a free bottle of tradional cider!

Rick gave us the tour of the Brandy House.  Merridale is one of very few craft distilleries in BC, which means that they both ferment and distill the fruit on the premises, and they have been working at this new passion since 2005.  Their pear brandy recently won a Best of Class and a gold medal at the American Distilling Association competition, while their cider brandy won a silver medal.  Pretty impressive results!

We had a cider tasting at the cider bar, while Janet told us about their orchard, their bees and gave us a tour of the cellar.  Thankfully all of it was pretty much under cover as it was raining pretty hard by then!  Great snacks and hors d’oeuvres were circulated to balance out all the liquid tasting we were doing!


cider tasting at the cider bar!

We’d like to thank Janet, Rick and their staff for hosting us!  And yeah, red team for the win!

(We’re also working with Merridale Cidery on a package that is now available until the end of June.  Check out our “Specials & Packages” page for all the details on the “Taste of Cowichan Cider” package!)

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While the weather did not exactly co-operate, Cherry Point Estate Wines celebrated the grand opening of Amuse at their vineyard on May 4th.  It rained off and on and was pretty cool, but a good crowd of people was present to check out the new location of Amuse on The Vineyard.

Grand Opening of Amuse on The Vineyard at Cherry Point Estate Wines

Grand Opening of Amuse on The Vineyard at Cherry Point Estate Wines

Until recently located at Unsworth Vineyards, just down the road from our own Cobble Hill B&B, Amuse has found a new home at Cherry Point Estate Winery.  The fireplace in the garden pavilion where Amuse is now located was on, and a wood fire was burning out on the patio to help offset the rain and cool temperatures.  A ticket to the official opening included a glass of sparkling wine, canapés and grazing stations, which included oysters on the shell.  The wine bar , as well as the Cherry Point tasting room, was doing a nice business, and people were enjoying the atmosphere.  The interior looks nicely set up and it will be an enjoyable location to enjoy one of Amuse’s great dinners.  The kitchen, as well as washrooms, are in separate buildings from the actual dining room.

Amuse on The Vineyard's new home at Cherry Point Estate Wines

Amuse on The Vineyard’s new home at Cherry Point Estate Wines

The restaurant will be open for lunch daily from 11:30 – 3, and for dinners only on Friday and Saturday.  A Long Table dining event is being planned for July, and brunch is on tap for Mothers Day on May 11th.  Cherry Point and Amuse also are available for weddings and other special events.  Call 250-743-1272 to inquire and make reservations.

We’re sorry to lose one of the Cowichan Valley’s finests restaurants from its just-down-the-road location from our Bed & Breakfast, but Cherry Point is only a 10-12 minute drive, so our guests can still easily enjoy their West Coast inspired cuisine while staying at Cobble House.  We wish chef Brad and partner Leah all the best in their new home!

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The first triathlon of the Subaru Western Triathlon series is coming up on May 25, 2014 at beautiful Shawnigan Lake, just 45 minutes north of Victoria on Vancouver Island.  2014 will be the 8th year that the Cowichan Valley has hosted this event.  Subsequent races in this series take place in Victoria, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Banff.

The Shawnigan Lake Triathlon is the first open water swim of the season.  Runners hit the Trans Canada Trail and the restored historic Kinsol Trestle.  In fact, a new event this year is the “Trestle Challenge” which includes a 1.5 km swim, 45 km bike ride and a half marathon to the Trestle and back.  Also included are the Western Highschool Championships for middle and high school students.  The event is also a Triathlon Canada 2015 ITU World Championship qualifying event.  The village of Shawnigan Lake hosts a fun festival on Saturday May 24th with live entertainment, clinics, food, booths by local businesses, and concessions.  The triathlon weekend has quickly become a very popular event in the area.

south end view from the viewing platform at the Kinsol Trestle

participants will hit the restored Kinsol Trestle

Accommodation for the Triathlon is available at Camp Pringle on the west side of Shawnigan Lake, which is also the location of the pre-race dinner on Saturday.  Other accommodation options are the great Bed & Breakfasts in the area.  Innkeepers at your local Bed & Breakfast will certainly be able to accommodate your race schedule.  Book your stay soon while there is still lots of space available, and have a great weekend and a great race!

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A week ago there was an ad in the local Cowichan Valley paper that the Farm Table dining room was open for the season.  We had a lovely dinner there in October last year just before the end of their season, so great to hear that they are once again open for reservations.

The Farm Table is the teaching dining room for the Vancouver Island University Culinary program.  For quite a few years the teaching dining room was part of Frances Kelsey Secondary School in Mill Bay, with the attendant limitations of the room used for the dining room also serving as a class room.  The program seemed to be quite successful, also with takeout meals that they sold.  We had several lunches and dinners there over the years and they were always great, and also very affordable.

Enjoy a wonderful meal at the Farm Table dining room at Providence Farm

Enjoy a wonderful meal at the Farm Table dining room at Providence Farm

In 2013 the program formed a new partnership with the historic Providence Farm in Duncan, near Cowichan Bay.  Providence Farm is a 400 acre organic, not-for-profit, therapeutic farm that has for many years helped adults with developmental and mental issues.  The teaching dining room opened at Providence as the Farm Table in April of 2013.  It is not only a larger venue than the highschool but is able to access all the fresh produce grown at the farm.  In fact, the students enrolled in the culinary program participate in the growing and harvesting of the produce.  In addition they offer full banquet facilities.

Costs are still very reasonable, but the restaurant does not have a liquor license.  The Farm Table is open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5:30 – 9:00 pm.  Call 250-597-0599 for reservations.  We will be doing just that!

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Almost time for sitting out on the deck!

Almost time for sitting out on the deck!

Thank you for visiting our Cobble House website!  We’re excited to launch the “new and improved” version which has a cleaner look, is hopefully more intuitive for searching all the information you’re looking for, AND is now a responsive site so that you’ll be able to find us easily on your desktop, your tablet, and your smart phone, and not lose any of the access to information.  As everyone probably knows, doing a website is a lot of work, and I spent a lot of time educating myself on the best practices.  Boy there is a lot to learn, and no sooner do you have the hang of things a bit and things change again!  I had a lot of help from my web designer who knows so much more about all the technical details!  I’m continuing to try and learn as much as possible about the whole online world.  Who knew when we opened the doors at Cobble House almost 21 years ago what we’d all have to learn!  As an innkeeper you’re supposed to know enough about a whole lot of things so that even if you don’t do everything yourself, you still have to know enough to hire the right people and ask the right questions!

We welcome your visits, to both the website and our Bed & Breakfast in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, and let us know what you think!  Spring has arrived and we’re putting together some new specials and packages, so stay tuned and hope to see you here soon!

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We’ve lived and done business in the Cowichan Valley now for almost 20 years and during that time the Valley and the region have developed quite the reputation not only for its wines and cider, but also for the great food scene.  Many specialty products are available at the local Farmers Markets, some in local and other grocery stores or online, and many can be bought right at the farm.

Here are a couple of great products to check out:

Cowichan Pasta Company

Raviolis and other pasta made from 100% Island ingredients, starting with locally grown wheat milled at True Grain in Cowichan Bay.  How about Stinging Nettle Rotini, Dungeness Crab Squash Ravioli, Smoked Corn & Chanterelle Ravioli?  Different and interesting flavors made from locally grown and fished ingredients.  You can find the Cowichan Pasta Company at Victoria’s Moss Street Market on Saturday and the Cedar Farmers Market on Sunday, or buy their pasta at Country Grocer stores, Cowichan Bay Seafood and Cowichan Valley Meat Market, as well at the Markets on Yates & Goldstream.  Chef/owner Matt Horn was recently recognized as part of Western Living magazine’s “40 Foodies under 40” , an annual listing of young chefs/creators of new and unique food products and businesses.

Vancouver Island Salt Company

Established just a few years ago by Andrew Shephard, the Vancouver Island Salt Company offers hand-crafted artisan salts.  The Cowichan Pasta company uses Vancouver Islands salts in their pasta, as do numerous other chefs in the region and beyond.   Infused sea salts with such flavors as roasted garlic, mustard, banana pepper, blue cheese and orange & lime are just a few of the salts that are produced.  You can purchase them online through their website or buy them at all Thrifty Foods and Country Grocer stores around BC, some specialty food stores across Canada and locally at Hilary’s Cheese, Omas Bakery and the Community Farm Store.  The Vancouver Island Salt Company was invited as one of only 20 food artisans from across Canada to attend the Ace Artisan Incubator in Toronto last week.

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Tea Farm 3We finally made it out to the Cowichan Valley’s Tea Farm a couple of weekends ago on a rather dark Sunday afternoon.  Our friend and I had talked about checking it out last year, but we never did make it, so recently we made a point of setting a date so we would actually go.

The Tea Farm is on Richards Trail, which runs between Herd Road and Westholme Road, a very pretty, scenic drive in itself.  Before we bought our property on Cameron-Taggart Road we actually almost bought one on Richards Trail, so I enjoyed the drive there very much.  We spent a lovely couple of hours at the farm, enjoying a pot of tea of our choice and some delicious cake and chocolate truffles, locally hand made by Pearl Chocolate.

Owner Margit Nellemann, who was our hostess, took lots of time to tell us about their product.  The Tea Farm is an organic farm and is the only place in Canada where tea is being grown.  Two hundred tea plants were planted and are now in their 4th year.  So far so good, only one plant has been lost, although when we visited the deer had just gotten into the tea!  Deer are a fact of life in the Cowichan Valley, and regular visitors around our property too, so tea plants are obviously not on the “deer proof” list either!  While the tea plants are maturing to a first harvest, Margit and partner Victor bring in organic teas from around the world and make their own blends with herbs, plants and flowers grown on their property.  The tea of the day was Pig Tea, and we had a sample of that, and I then tried horse tea, a herbal tea from their Zodiac tea line, while our friend had an earl grey tea blended with lavender.

What was also really appealing is that the tea cups and pastry plates and some of the teapots are all made by Margit, who is also a potter.  A little rectangular container made by Margit with branches and flowers from the gardens was the table centre arrangement, very simple but effective, and added a lovely touch.  It all went together really well with the rustic west coast style building.

Tea Farm 1The wood stove was going, a little music was playing, while outside the tea room the skies were clearing and all the different fresh greens of spring were opening up.  People were relaxing and taking their time.  What a great way to spend an afternoon!  You are able to smell the teas from sample tins displayed, so while I liked the horse tea and took some home, I also brought home a tin of the rooster tea, which I’m really enjoying.  It’s a more spicy tea, but still herbal, and has a lovely aroma.  I’m sure I’ll be back to pick up some more!

There are so many unique specialty food and drink products being grown and created in the Valley, it’s a pleasure to find out about them.  I’ll definitely be telling our guests at Cobble House Bed & Breakfast about the Tea Farm, another great Cowichan Valley attraction.    They are open from Wednesday through Sunday 10 am – 5 pm and check their website for special monthly events.

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The Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island is increasingly becoming known not only for its wines and cider, but also for the local foods grown and produced here.  Some of the best places to find many of the great local, fresh foods of the Valley are at various Farmers Markets in the region.

On Saturday a couple of weeks ago (remember that gorgeous Easter weekend we had?) I made a trip out to the Duncan Farmers Market.   This market is open all year round on Saturdays, from 9 am or 10 am until 2 pm.  Not only will you find local food producers here, but crafts people and artisans as well.  There was everything from locally made baked goods to seafood and smoked meats, pasta, clothing, beautiful wood crafts, local author Sandie Bergen with a fantasy series of books, tea from the Tea Farm, local honey and more! As spring and summer advance, there will be even more fresh and locally grown produce available.  I took home some fresh bread and some stinging nettle pesto which I really enjoyed from Fat Chili Farm, a local Cobble Hill grower and producer.

The Duncan Farmers Market is probably the biggest of the Cowichan Valley Farmers Markets, but there are several others in operation during the late spring, summer and early fall, so lots of opportunities to buy local, or, if you’re a visitor to the Cowichan Valley, take home some great fresh products as a reminder of your visit here.



The new (this year) Mill Bay Farmers Market will start at the Mill Bay Shopping Centre on Thursday May 2nd, from 2 – 7 pm.  The South Cowichan Farmers Market, which starte

ays.d up last year, will open for the season on Sunday May 5.  Hours are 10 – 3 pm.  Great tips for shopping at Farmers Markets on their website!  The Chemainus 

Farmers Market will start up on May 29, and runs every Wednesday 10 – 4 until the end of September.  In our own village, the Cobble Hill Farmers Market takes place on Thursd

So, there are numerous places to find great local products, meet the growers , vendors and people in the community, and experience one of the big reasons to visit the Cowichan Valley.   Let me know if there are any other Farmers Markets in the Cowichan Valley that I’ve missed.  Book your Cowichan Valley Bed & Breakfast stay, explore the area, and go home with some great food!


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We had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of the film “Once upon a day…Cowichan” on March 7th at the Cowichan Theatre. This film, produced and directed by Nick Versteeg, fellow Dutchman and internationally known videographer, and citizen of the Cowichan Valley, was created to promote this great place that we call home.

“Once upon a day…Cowichan” features a community effort by musicians, artists, fresh food producers, wineries, restaurants, and community leaders all coming together to share their love of the Cowichan Valley and the reason why it is such a great place to live and work. The mild climate allows you to grow just about anything here, the ocean offers a bounty of seafood, the scenery is beautiful and stimulates creative minds, and the community of people thrives on what the area has to offer. This film is a celebration of the charm, diversity and bounty that is the Cowichan Valley.

The “Once upon a day…Cowichan” presentation was followed by “Once upon a year…Cowichan” a full journey through the four seasons of life in the Cowichan Valley. You’ll meet some of the fresh food providers, the award winning wineries, the world class chefs and restauranteurs, the adventure seekers, the community leaders, and take a journey through the entire Cowichan region from historic Ladysmith, the world famous murals in Chemainus, the exhiliration of wind surfing at Nitinat Lake or tackling the West Coast Trail, the totems in Duncan, the beauty and rural ambiance of Cobble Hill and Shawnigan Lake, and the funkyness of Cowichan Bay.

As citizens of the Cowichan Valley of almost 20 years, we too love this place. We fell in love with it when we first came on a visit. The film made us very proud to be Valley citizens. As Cowichan Bed & Breakfast innkeepers, we are already ambassadors for our region, and this film only inspired us more to share the richness of our home with visitors from far and wide. We hope you are planning a trip to our Cowichan Valley soon. Here is a taste of what we have to offer!

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In a little over two weeks we will say goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. It seems time goes faster and faster and the years just fly by. Does it have something to do with age do you think?

We had the great pleasure of hosting wonderful guests again at our Cobble Hill Bed & Breakfast this past year from many parts of the world including most parts of Canada, a number of US states, Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, Scotland and England and South Africa. Being a Bed & Breakfast innkeeper is such an interesting job as you hear guests talk about their travels and experiences and then get the opportunity to share with them the great things to see and do in your part of the world. It is a real “feel good” profession to be in and after 18 years in the business I still love that aspect of it the most.

Highlights this year included the long awaited opening of the Kinsol Trestle, a heritage attaction that completes another stretch of the Cowichan Valley trail portion of the Trans Canada


Trail. The new Unsworth Vineyard opened up just down the road from our Bed & Breakfast and will be joined by one of our finest restaurants, Amuse Bistro, this winter. At the civic elections in November, the proposed

Eco Recycling Depot planned by the CVRD just a kilometer down our road was voted down 2 to 1 which is a big relief as we had major concerns in seeing that built in this

particular location.

We would like to thank all the guests who stayed with us in 2011. It was our pleasure to host you during your vacation, your get-away, your family or friend’s weddings, your visits to family or friends. We hope you enjoyed your stay with us, and especially thank those of you who took the time to write us a review. Have a wonderful Christmas, a safe and happy holiday, and we hope to see you with us again in the future. 2012 here we come

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