What if you owned a winery that was situated in a place so beautiful, so fertile, that the famed food critic James Barber once called it “Canada’s Provence”? What responsibility would you feel towards that land? If you’re the Turyk family, and the winery in question is Cowichan Valley’s Unsworth Vineyards, that sense of responsibility is a guiding principle. Unsworth is a brand that’s built around sustainability.
Tim and Colleen Turyk purchased their property in 2009. It had an early 20th century farmhouse, rolling hills, and the Mediterranean-like climate that characterizes the valley. At the time, Tim wasn’t a complete newcomer to the area—he had spent unforgettable summers in Cowichan Valley as a child. Watching the area develop its own wine and food culture over the years had left an imprint on him. When he spied a chance to join it after 40+ years working in the fishing industry, he took it.
“The Cowichan Valley is a total breadbasket for Vancouver Island,” says Chris Turyk, Director of Sales and Marketing (and son of Tim and Colleen). “It’s 45 minutes from Victoria, and people here are growing tea, making salt. There are all manner of small farmers here.”
After 2009, the Turyks became part of that agricultural community. They expanded the operation, built a restaurant, and developed a program of sustainable vineyard management. This program is important to the Turyks, but it’s not always cheap.
For example, Chris describes a recent project to create a “pretty substantial pond”. The idea is that it will passively fill up over the winter and be available to water the vines, vastly reducing water consumption.
“Between permits and engineering, the project is exceeding the budget. But we’re hoping that this sink of water will be paying off dividends in 50 years’ time. When we talk about ‘future proofing’, something we should all be concerned with doing at this point, this is a great example.”
Another example of sustainability over cost savings was the choice the Turyks made to chip their tree stumps after logging their property.
“The industry standard is to just burn your tree stumps; it’s what everybody does. But we made the horrendously expensive choice to chip them and use those chips as roadways.”
Clearly, when you sip one of Unsworth’s award-winning, handcrafted wines, you’re tasting the work of makers who put their money where their mouths are. And their dedication to sustainability doesn’t end with vineyard management.
“We’ve always been really interested in alternative packaging. For example, with our restaurant clients, we sell a lot of wine in kegs, often stainless-steel reusable kegs. That’s because the vast majority of the wine industry’s carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing and shipping of glass bottles. The bottles are part of the tradition of wine—historically, you would keep aging the wine after it was bottled—but they’re usually not necessary these days.”
Of course, partnering with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) helps Unsworth stay consistent with their values. After all, sustainability is one of GLBC’s core values as well.
“It always feels good to see the ‘Sustainable Sourcing’ stamp on the bottom of every box we order. We also love that GLBC is BC-based, so we know we’re supporting our local economy. And the customization on the labels is so great. Whenever we need something customized, the response is never, ‘Oh, we don’t do that.’ It’s always, ‘Of course! And what else do you need?’”
In the coming years, Unsworth Vineyards will continue to expand their operations—soon, they will have the biggest continuous vineyard on Vancouver Island! As they do so, we’ll support them with tremendous pride, and gratitude for BC’s most beautiful places, the Cowichan Valley included.