Gabriola orchard now part of Gulf Island cider movement

Tuesday, July 28 2015

The growth of cider, or rather the comeback, is not surprising with its history. Cider has been a bit overlooked, especially considering it was the premier colonial beverage. The Gulf Islands haven’t had a cider operation since prohibition.  “We are thrilled being on the edge of all this,” says proprietor Marti Wright.

Fourteen years ago, engineers Keith Mackenzie and Marti Wright started their dream of planting an orchard - Ravenskill Orchards. Today, over 1000 heritage apple trees sit on the Coats Drive property.  Their U-pick allows you to walk through the orchard and learn about the 25 varieties growing such as Newtown Pippin, an apple made famous by Thomas Jefferson; Kingston Black, an important variety to cider makers because of its bittersharp juice; Porter’s Perfection that is not a good eating apple but is a great addition to a cider blend. Like wine, good cider is a balance of acid, tannins and the flavours that result from fermentation.

There was no doubt a need to produce cider. Witnessing apple orchards getting ripped up throughout BC over the years made the decision of keeping apple orchards thriving in BC and producing cider a delicious way to go. 

Keith and Marti’s son-in-law, Jonas Grieg, is the cider maker for Gabbie’s Premium Cider. He is a certified sommelier and has spent the last decade making wine in the Okanagan Valley. 

“Cider making is not as complicated as making wine and is a great alternative to beer. Cider is a refreshing beverage and a great gluten-free alternative,” says Jonas.

The ciders are 100 per cent BC apples using a perfect blend of North American dessert and English/French bittersharp and bittersweet apples. Two ciders are available to taste and purchase in the quaint, on-site tasting room.  Throughout the summer and fall you can come by to taste, visit and learn. Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Friday to Sunday at 1240 Coats Drive. 

Gabbie’s Semi Dry Hard Cider -750mL

Complex and delicious.

Golden in the glass, this semi-dry cider opens up with a supple rustic apple fragrance. The acidity creates the perfect balance between sweet and salty. 

Gabbie’s Real Dry Hard Cider - 750mL

Diverse and dry.

Slowly fermented in stainless steel tanks to attain a creamy mouth feel, this stony cider has loads of brisk tannins that wrap up with a crisp, steely finish.

Later in the season locals will be able to save a few dollars when refilling with the new growlers system – it should be up and running next month.

“We are expecting a great harvest this year,” says Jonas Grieg. The hot conditions are ripening fruit much quicker than normal, so we should be hitting the press in less than six weeks.  The tasting room has a lovely glass window that allows you to peer into the cellars. So pop by to learn about the process and taste first-hand.

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