I’m spending the week on Vancouver Island this week, house/kitty/garden sitting for my friend Don in Cobble Hill. I’m here to do a bunch of writing, but when the day is done, the Cowichan Valley is foodie heaven. It’s packed with farms, which means fresh fruit and vegetables, wineries, artisan bakeries, producers of artisan meat and The Merridale Estate Cidery.
I was really excited to visit Merridale. I’ve never been much of a beer drinker. While most kids learn to like beer in high school and university, I did not. But as an adult, I really grew to love cider, a love that was deeply cemented on my trip around the UK 10 years ago. Strongbow is on tap everywhere there, and probably cheaper to buy than water. In Ireland, I wandered into an ancient pub in Belfast, and had my very first Magner’s (which is now finally available in Canada).
The process of making cider is pretty simple: you essentially press the apples to get the juice out of them, and then, in order to make cider, send them through a fermentation process. It’s very similar to making wine: press the grapes to get grape juice, ferment it to make wine.
But also like the wine-making process, it can be very complex it terms of the mixture of apples that goes into the juice, how long it’s fermented for, in what kind of receptacle it’s fermented in, and how much it’s carbonated.
I tried 6 of Merridale’s ciders, including a champagne-like version and something that was closer to an ice wine or a sherry. They were all delicious, but I think my favourite is the Cyser Cider, which is sweetened with a touch of honey. I am going to try making sangria out of the Merri Berri–I think it would be perfect for that.
The cidery includes a tasting bar, a bistro (which I need to go back and eat at), a bakery, yurts, a spa, a wedding venue, several distilleries, and a lovely orchard.
It’s well worth the short trip off the highway if you’re driving by. Check it out.