They are an Okanagan icon…plump red apples hanging in sun-dappled orchards. It is harvest time and along with world-famous eating apples, local cideries create some amazing traditional and New World ciders. A trip to one of the charming cideries tucked away in the orchards is well worth the drive for the tour and tasting, as well as the scenery.
In the hillsides of Vernon you will find BX Press Cidery and Orchard, a local spot rich with history and great ciders to sample. BX gets its name from Frances Bernard, who arrived in Quebec in the 1860’s. An entrepreneurial young man, he walked mail from Vernon to Barkerville to the lonely prospectors of the gold rush, at a walloping $2 per item.
Frances purchased a 6000 acre horse ranch, the current BX site, and eventually grew it into a very successful stagecoach company that offered a passenger service, mail run and the movement of gold. Second in size only to Wells Fargo, he eventually sold the site to William Pound who started the orchard, which still stands. In 1946 the Dobernigg family purchased the business, where Dave, the third generation to grow apples, is the current orchardist.
Proprietor Missy Dobernigg says BX Press Cidery and Orchard grow mostly eating apples, but they have also drafted traditional English European-style apples. While these are not good to eat, they create delicious old-style cider.
All their ciders are named after different characters from the Gold Rush era. The first vintage, produced in 2012, is The Prospector. It is a blend of 24 different apples, creating a dry and very refreshing cider.
The Hostler, which refers to expert horsemen, is light and refreshing with notes of ambrosia, honey crisp and macintosh apples. This delicious cider is very food friendly. The Crackwhip denotes the stagecoach driver, and involves 12 varieties of apples. It is dry hopped after fermentation, and takes a full nine to twelve months to create. Each season, every batch is different.
Their extra-special cider, The Dufferin, was named after Lord Dufferin, the Governor General of the day, and his wife, Lady Dufferin, for whom a special stagecoach was built.
Matured in whiskey oak barrels, The Dufferin recently won a gold medal in a national blind tasting. With toffee and vanilla notes, this is a do not miss.
Just down the road in Kelowna is BC Tree Fruits, who have recently begun to produce delicious ciders from the vast variety of fruit produced by their 500 members. They released their first cider on April 1, 2015, and worked for a year with the Summerland Research Centre to perfect the process. A blend of six local apple varieties (secret!) is used to create their apple cider.
Shannon Forgues of BC Tree Fruits recommends their new Apples and Hops, a blend of apples fermented and dry hopped with four types of hops obtained from Kamloops.
She comments, “It brings out beautiful citrus grapefruit aromas and the cider overall is more complex with a long finish. The hops don’t overpower the cider in any way, and different hops result in different outcomes. It’s a very big trend in the Pacific Northwest”.
For a special treat, try the Pear Cider, available at their tasting bar on Vaughan Avenue. Released in April, it is made from two kinds of Okanagan pears, in the same method as the apple cider.
“Our ciders don’t contain any water, sugar, flavouring or additives….it’s just fermented fruit. All of our cider is gluten free, as well,” says Forgues.
Drop by BC Tree Fruits market and tasting bar, where the windows overlook the production area. You can observe fruit being pressed, tanks full of cider and other production activities. Tastings are from 11:30 to 5:30 Monday through Saturday and 12:00 to 4:00 on Sundays.
After a short drive to southeast Kelowna you will encounter The View Winery and Vineyard, home to Ward’s Hard Cider. Orchardist Chris Turton has been involved in cider making since the 1990’s, using fruit from their on-site trees.
Jennifer Molgat, Chris’ daughter and president of The View Winery, says her father has been involved in the development of ciders in the Okanagan for decades.
“He (Turton) had the cider-specific apples and the property, and was interested in creating a second product with the fruit”, she says. “Ward’s was named after my great-grandfather and I’m thankful that my father had the foresight to be ahead of the crowd.”
Ward’s has a wide variety of ciders, all gluten-free and made from their own fruit. Jennifer mentioned they employ a back-to-basics, all-natural approach.
“In late summer we released Ward’s Ginger Apple Cider. The taste is clean, fresh and crisp. The cider is very aromatic and fruity but dry. It won a silver medal before it was even released!”
Ward’s Hard Cider is naturally food-worthy. Jennifer recommends pairing it with pork chops, tenderloin, Asian-fusion, sushi, casual fare and burgers.
The Original Ward’s Hard Apple Cider is off-dry, and their Picker’s Hut Premium is a little bit drier and slightly higher in alcohol. Picker’s Hut Winter Spice is a delicious treat that can be enjoyed hot or cold. Ward’s Festive Apple Cider, blended with Montmorency cherries, has delicate cherry undertones and a beautiful rose colour.
Half of the fun in discovering Ward’s Hard Apple Ciders is a visit to The View Winery, where the cider is created. This fun, fabulous spot is a favourite for locals and visitors alike; a true ‘don’t miss’ on your summer schedule.
It is a beautiful, scenic drive along Okanagan Lake to Summerland, where you’ll discover Summerland Heritage Cider Company. The roots of this enchanting cidery go back twenty years, to three orchardists who investigated the possibility of making cider with some of their less-than-perfect apples. It took until 2011 to start production, and their delicious ciders are a testament to their hard work!
All apples are grown, picked, pressed, fermented, bottled and labelled in Summerland. They also produce an outstanding fresh apple juice you can sample.
Porter’s Dry is a traditional English variety that has been in existence for hundreds of years in the UK. For something light and refreshing, try Tuesday’s Original, with its complex flavour and a hint of sweetness. Sweet Paradise is their lightest cider, made more in the Okanagan style. It is light, sweet – but not overpowering – and crisp.
Summerland Heritage Cider Company sits in a quaint, picturesque orchard and offers its own picnic area. Visitors are encouraged to pick up their cider on site and bring along a picnic of their own creation. The ciders pair well with Charcuterie or anything savoury, such as pork, beef or chicken.
There are more craft cideries throughout the Okanagan. A visit to a cidery is a natural complement to your winery tour, and it is fun, educational and tasty for all family members, as the cideries typically provide apple juice for children.