Traditionally, cider and wine was fermented with the naturally occurring yeasts found on fruit skins, mills and presses, and in the air. The result was an endless diversity of aromas and flavour profiles as unique as the farms where they were made. With the later development of lab-cultivated yeasts, much of this diversity has been lost in favour of a predictable, consistent product that is easier to control.
From the start, we have chosen to ferment our ciders exclusively with naturally occurring yeasts. This low-intervention process requires zero to minimal added sulphites and the resulting ciders have incredibly layered profiles. Using apples from non-fertilized, old, full-standard trees and fermenting slowly in the cool winter season has been the key to successful natural fermentation.
While the process is riskier, we have found this to be the best way to convey our apples’ island terroir. We also avoid filtration, as the process can strip aromas, instead letting the ciders clear naturally with age or allowing them to remain cloudy when true-to-style (such as with our ancestral method batch, the pét-nat).
We use traditional cider making methods throughout our process. At pressing and post-fermentation blending, our aim is to highlight the range of flavours different heirloom apples express by isolating particular varieties. Apples are allowed to “sweat” after harvest, a process causing them to dehydrate slightly in the warm fall air, which decreases the yield but increases the sugars and flavours. After milling, many of our batches are macerated (allowed to oxidize), giving the cider a richer colour and increasing the diversity of wild yeasts in the juice.
Most of our ciders are fully dry with zero residual sugar, but if sweetness is desired we generally employ traditional keeving methods, which involve slowing fermentation through multiple rackings. The cider will then stabilize (stop fermentation) before complete dryness is reached. This results in a natural residual sweetness without the need for back-sweetening with added sugar.
Finally, when it’s time to put bubbles in the cider, our batches range from traditional still ciders (no bubbles), to in-bottle conditioning, method ancestral (pétillant naturel), and force carbonation—depending on what best suits the blend.
In the end, the essence of a cider comes from its fruit. The apples and pears we harvest come from various century old orchards on Pender Island, as well as dozens of homestead orchards on Pender, Mayne, Saturna and Samuel Islands. When European settlers first settled on Coast Salish territory, their first agricultural work was to establish orchards with cuttings of their most cherished apple varieties. These were cultivated for cooking, eating, juicing and cider making. Much of our annual work is harvesting and pruning these beautiful, tall old trees around Pender Island.
Some of the varieties we use have a long history in North American cider making and include:
King of Tompkins County: Commonly found in the backyards of island residents, the large, blushed, acidic "Kings" are a workhorse variety.
Gravenstein: A Dutch heritage apples with a preference for damp soil. They lend delicate, floral aromatics to a cider.
Baldwin: A beautiful deep red apple with a history in eastern American cider making. Known for being well-balanced and having high sugars.
Cox's Orange Pippin: A heritage English apple, the Cox is prized for both cider and fresh-eating.
Ribston Pippin: The esteemed parent of Cox's Orange Pippin, Rowan Jacobson calls this the "meaner, greener" version of it's offspring.
Golden Russet: An integral part of North America's cider making history, the Golden Russet is aromatic and has both high sugar content and acidity.
Other varieties include: Yellow Bellefleur, Belle de Boskoop, Rhode Island Greening, Grimes Golden, Pewaukee, Wagener, Winter Banana & many others.