After we arrived to Victoria on Friday, our first stop was to the gorgeous Saanich Peninsula Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse. The ciderhouse is nestled back into a lovely 10 acre farm, 3 acres of which are planted with a variety of apple trees, tended to with organic farming techniques, some very rare, and 7 acres of which are dedicated to existing forest land (with some herbs purposefully cultivated therein). The ciderhouse has a gorgeous view of the bay.
We began our tour with Kristen Jordan, who started Sea Cider with her husband Bruce in 2004. Kristen grew up with a family orchard, and Bruce with a passion for cider making. Together they decided to start their own orchard and ciderhouse, dedicated to preserving the heritage of many varieties of apples as well as taking this ‘humble’ beverage to new heights. We toured the cider making facilities, even watching them prepare some apples for the press.
Cider is simply a fermented drink made from apples, not from grapes, but the varieties you can make seem endless. I had no idea! It’s not just about the apples you use (and the endless combinations therein), but also the yeasts you use (or don’t use) and how the cider is then aged. Sea Cider believes in organic farming, and in embracing the local farming community. Their Kings & Spies cider, for example, makes use of apples gathered from local heritage trees in the area.
The tasting menu included 9 ciders, ranging from dry to sweet:
- Flagship – German-style, ultra-dry, fermented with champagne yeast. Ianiv’s review: This one and the Wild English drier are very similar to a dry white wine. I’m not a big fan of white wine so they were not my favorites.
- Wild English - using English bittersweet cider apples.
- Kings & Spies - made with a blend of local heritage apples. Ianiv’s review: A bit sweeter than the first two, with floral and pear notes.
- Perry – made with Perry Pears from North Saanich.
- Pippins - made with the Newton Pippin apple blended with Island-grown apples. Ianiv’s review: I think this is a lot closer to what most people are used to when talking about cider. It has a higher alcohol content but not enough to distract you from the sweeter fruit flavors. We bought 2 bottles of this cider for our upcoming baby shower!
- Rumrunner - This was a favorite of many in the review. It’s made from heritage apples, slowly fermented, and aged in rum barrels. Interestingly, the barrels are used for various other alcohols before they are used for rum, so they come well-seasoned! Ianiv’s review: Wow, this was different! The barrels give this cider very nice rum and brown sugar notes. This one will warm your throat on the way down.
- Cyser – This cider is blended with organic honey, making it more of an apertif-cider. Ianiv’s review: I expected this to be sweeter and to have a bit more honey notes. Not my favorite.
- Pommeau – This cider has the highest alcohol level (18%) and uses Snow apples, which date back to the 1600s. Ianiv’s review: Very similar to a brandy or sherry. We bought a bottle.
- Pomona - This cider is made by freezing, then slowly fermenting, crabapple juice. Definitely a dessert cider. Ianiv’s review: Very sweet, like an ice wine.