While there is certainly no dearth of wine tasting opportunities on Vancouver Island finding a spot to partake of the pleasures of high quality extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) and balsamic vinegars is a whole other story. Happily for adventurous cooks and foodies, one of the newer culinary trends in the Pacific Northwest is beginning to take root on Vancouver Island.
There is an oil and vinegar tasting bar at the new Hudson Public Market in downtown (dare we say it?) Victoria, but until very recently that was it. Now folks who prefer not to travel to the big city can indulge their passion for artisan EVOO and dark and white balsamics in the town of Comox thanks to the initiative of Lisa Whitmore and Sigrid Lees, co-owners of Signature Wine Cellars.
Signature has set up a bright tasting room featuring 37 lustrous stainless steel containers holding a variety of fused and infused olive oils from California, Spain, Italy, Australia and Chile and organic balsamic vinegars that are imported (after up to 18 years of barrel aging) from Modena, Italy.
While my husband and I have done our share of wine tasting over the years, our first experience with the oil and vinegar set was in the Carmel Valley in California last fall. It was, to say the least, mind boggling. We felt the same after exiting Signature’s new tasting room recently – the huge variety and flavours left my head spinning, my taste buds screaming for MORE! and, in both instances, our wallets quite a bit lighter.
The beauty of a tasting room for these products is not only in the tasting, however. We spent some time with Lisa while at Signature and received a comprehensive crash course in pairing, grading and the evaluation processes that Signature’s products are subjected to. And, while we were certainly aware of the health benefits of olive oil we came away from Signature appreciating more greatly not only its varied nature but the lessons on deterioration of EVOO with aging.
Lisa’s great enthusiasm for her products is infectious, and with good reason – the possible variations and combinations are limitless and can be used on so many different foods at literally every meal of the day. And the really excellent thing about the offerings at Signature is that you can purchase them in three different sizes of bottles, from 60 ml. (2 oz.) to 375 ml. (12 oz). Signature also has on offer white truffle oil, Japanese roasted sesame oil and roasted almond oil, making the place a delight for those looking for unusual ingredients or unique flavour combinations.
Signature is also marketing Clever Crow’s hand-harvested flavoured sea salt from the Comox area, and if you are looking for a unique present for a foodie friend you can purchase gift boxes containing a mix of the 60 ml. bottles of oils and vinegars.
As I mentioned earlier, we left with lighter wallets thanks to the purchase of some of the amazing smoked sea salt, a couple of small bottles of oil and vinegar for ourselves, and a gift box. Can’t wait to go back and purchase, um, maybe, the whole fruit blood orange EVOO…or the dark chocolate balsamic…or the cilantro and roasted onion EVOO…or the rosemary sea salt…or the Blenheim apricot white balsamic, or… Oh dear – this could so easily become a new obsession. On the bright side, at least it will be a healthy one!
Further information on Signature Oil and Vinegar can be obtained at Signature’s Facebook page, listed under Signature Oil & Vinegar
The tasting room is located at 2060 Guthrie Road, Comox
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.688236100460145 Long.-124.93681935048028
N 49 41.294 W 124 56.209