- Story by Chelsea Foreman Photography by Don Denton
My car curves along a quiet country road as I make my way towards Deep Cove. This region of the Saanich Peninsula has always offered me respite and a sense of calm from my busy, day-to-day life. A pleasant breeze that carries notes of the nearby Salish Sea greets me as I arrive at my destination: Deep Cove Winery.
Set on three acres of land that has been growing grapes for 18 years, and landlocked between Horth Hill Regional Park and Deep Cove, the winery is protected from extreme wind. It is the warmest pocket with ley soil land in the region — making it an idyllic spot for ripening grapes.
While the land itself has a bit of a legacy in the region, the winery was purchased by husband-and-wife team Tasem and Elyse Ramaden in 2017 and has undergone some significant changes under their ownership.
|Tasem and Elyse Ramaden stand outside the main entrance to their winery, Deep Cove Winery. Don Denton photography
“The winery was on the market and we played around with the idea. We went back and forth on it for months and eventually decided to take a chance to build our lives here,” Elyse explains.
The couple previously lived in Sidney with their two young children. At the time, Elyse was on maternity leave from her job as a psychiatric nurse and Tasem, who is originally from New York, had recently completed a degree in biochemistry.
“My husband had just finished his degree and was volunteering with Victoria Distillers and really got into [the work there]. And we really wanted to stay on the Peninsula. We talked it over with my parents and they were very supportive. They are just five minutes up the road. We needed family support if we were to take it on,” says Elyse.
Elyse and Tasem moved their family into the house that is on the winery land in June 2017. They started extensive renovations to the winery and held a grand reopening in June of this year.
I had visited the previous winery several years ago, and as Elyse and Tasem tour me around the newly designed space, I’m impressed with the changes. Only the layout remains the same — the grand tasting room, extensive event area with vaulted ceilings and a picturesque vineyard terrace.
The space is now clean, white and modern with rustic, west coast elements, including cedar beams and locally mined black marble. The wine cellar is reminiscent of an ancient cellar in the French countryside, with one wall featuring the same locally sourced marble seen throughout the tasting room and event space above.
|Tasem and Elyse Ramaden stand inside the tasting room in their winery, Deep Cove Winery. Don Denton photography
“We were doing the renovations with two young kids, while making wine,” recalls Tasem. “We’re putting everything into this. A lot of people romanticize owning a winery, but it’s hard work. It’s farming at the end of the day.”
The couple hired a renowned wine consultant from France to assist them in their new venture. He has taught Tasem everything from caring for the grapes to designing an impeccable variety of wines.
“It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s really rewarding,” Tasem says. “You have one chance to make wine. It’s once a year and you have to do it right. Making wine is about dedication, creativity and time.”
Elyse and Tasem are committed to maintaining a small production focussed on quality. All of the small lot, hand-crafted wines are produced on site.
“Everyone in the family helps with harvesting the grapes; even the kids love to help. They are the perfect height to pick grapes but they also eat them,” Tasem says with a laugh. “The community has also been so supportive of us. We have been selling out of wines. People are loving it.”
|Tasem and Elyse Ramaden with their children Summer and Fares inside their winery, Deep Cove Winery. Don Denton photography
Elyse adds, “We have been so humbled and excited by people’s reception. Their reactions and excitement to our wine has been incredible.”
Deep Cove Winery sells its wines exclusively at the winery and the neighbouring Deep Cove Chalet restaurant. And while the couple intends to keep production small, the two plan to make the winery a big part of the local community. Elyse and Tasem have hosted a variety of events — including paint nights and a yoga series — with the intention of drawing the community together.
“It’s a village here. We have so much support. It motivates us to keep going and have this be a place where everyone in the community can come and gather. That motivates us to have local events. We want to be a place to host people. It makes our community stronger and healthier,” says Tasem.
After a whirlwind year of change, growth and excitement, Tasem, Elyse and their family are continuing to entrench their roots in Deep Cove and honour the legacy of excellence in local winemaking.