Most people think of a wine tasting taking place under these circumstances: a small group of people in a wine cellar or special wine tasting room, taking a sip of wine, swirling it in your mouth, noting the flavours in the wine.
Recently, I went to an altogether different kind of wine tasting at Church & State Wines.
Located in lovely Brentwood Bay, BC, about half an hour outside of Victoria, Church & State Wines offers something unique. A wine tasting with raptors – birds of prey like owls, turkey vultures, and bald eagles.
It’s part of The Raptors at Church & State, a program that allows visitors to get up-close-and-personal with the birds. They swoop and dive overhead in a demonstration that will educate and amaze.
The Church & State website states, “The Raptors at Church & State is part of our commitment to finding solutions that are in tune with nature, and support the natural world around us. This program is the start of our environmental vineyard management program, using Raptors to patrol the vineyards for pest birds, in lieu of bird netting or propane cannons.”
A group of about 30, including media, Tourism Victoria, Tourism BC, wine tour companies, and bloggers were invited to see the winery, taste the wines, and see these magnificent birds (which came from Pacific Northwest Raptors, a Duncan-based raptor conservation and education centre).
Once we all arrived, we were taken to a large field where we sat on bleachers. Robyn Radcliffe, one of the handlers, explained a little bit about each bird.
Athena, the falcon, was the first bird to come out. Did you know that they can fly at speeds up to 300 km/hour in order to out-fly their prey?
The next bird to make an appearance was Ollie the barn owl. Barn owls live in places like old buildings, where mice and voles are easy to catch. They also only see in black and white, and use their amazing night vision and silent flight to sneak up on and catch their prey.
Harris Hawks Arwen and Duck (yes, the hawk’s name is Duck) were next. Hawks are found in Texas, Arizona, and South America, and hunt in packs, chasing small animals like rabbits.
Bald Eagle Hera was up next. Interesting facts: bald eagles aren’t actually “bald” until they are a few years old, and that a quarter of the bald eagle population is found in BC?
After the demonstration, we went back into the great room in the main building, and sampled some of the wines. I had a glass of their Pinot Gris that was bright and crisp (Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?), and some delicious food and treats (canapés and mini-cupcakes).
I highly recommend a visit to Church & State Wines. The Raptors at Church & State take flight at: 12:30, 2:00, and 3:30, beginning on March 25th.