We recently went on a short family holiday in Yilan (also spelt Ilan), where we spent a morning visiting the Cangjiu winery (藏酒酒莊). The Cangjiu winery is set up in the hills of Toucheng, Yilan county. Owned by the same family who operate the Toucheng Farm, the Cangjiu winery is a more adult option during a family holiday and definitely worth a visit if you are in the Toucheng area.
The Cangjiu winery is set in beautiful lush surrounds in the hills above Toucheng. The grounds have several outdoor areas for sitting, and a lovely water-lily garden. I thought it was very romantic. It costs NTD$100 to enter, which includes a tour of the grounds and a visit to their small museum. The price of the entry can also be offset for purchases made at the winery. They also have a restaurant on the first floor, overlooking the mountain valley. We planned to stay for tea or coffee, but were too late for their morning tea service and also too early for their lunch. Actually, my husband was a bit disappointed by the Western style wines — we are both used to robust Aussie reds. But I loved their plum vinegar.
I have recently discovered Taiwanese-style fruit vinegar. Unlike back home in Australia where vinegar is either a condiment or an ingredient in a salad dressing, vinegar in Taiwan is often drunk as a beverage. It is commonly watered down to a ratio of around 1 part vinegar to five parts water, but I like mine a little weaker. There are many health benefits from drinking vinegar. Taken with water first thing in the morning, it can help to cleanse the liver. And consumed in the evening, it can help as a digestive and also to prepare the body for sleep. (Late last year I went through a phase of having trouble sleeping, and I found that a glass or two of watered down vinegar worked wonders.) Drinking vinegar regularly is also reputed to help assist with headaches caused by heat stroke (something I am prone to during the hot Taiwan summers), managing diabetes, reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
Cangjiu winery’s plum vinegar has a subtle but pleasant fruity aftertaste. It is acidic enough to have some bite, but not so much that it is unpleasant. I find the slightly sweet yet sour taste provides an interesting challenge: it is not addictive in the same way that sweet soft-drink is, yet I always find myself wanting to try just another sip. The vinegar bottle is attractive and would make a lovely gift. Filled with golden orbs of baby yellow plums it reminded me of the bottles of kumquat brandy Mum used to have on our kitchen shelves. Each bottle costs NTD200, or in our case NTD100 after we used the discount contained in the entry ticket.
Cangjiu winery is on a mountain road up past the Toucheng Farm, on 126 to 150 Gengxin Road (頭城鎮更新路126-50號). It is a little difficult to find, but the signs to the Toucheng Farm help. Or else print off the Chinese-language directions on the Cangjiu winery website. If travelling from Taiwan, get off at the Jiaoxi/Toucheng exit after the long tunnel and turn right towards Toucheng. Continue along the coastal road past the Lanyang Museum, the yellow Mr Brown’s cafe and a large middle-eastern looking building along the coastal road, then turn right into a small road that winds up to the Toucheng Leisure Farm and beyond.