Get out and explore the Northwest outside of wine or beer adventures — give cider a go! These three island day trips will take you to six of the Northwest’s most noteworthy cidermakers.
Vashon Island, WA
A spirited woods walk along Vashon’s Island Center Forest paths can lead auspiciously to a pond flanked by Adirondack chairs and hammocks. Before settling in, however, head just beyond to Dragon’s Head Cider’s tiny tasting room to procure a glass of medium-bodied Kingston Black, a nutty, savory-sweet gift to apple lovers. Relax by the water or wander the rows of trees bearing beautiful French, English and American heirloom apples.
Down the road, Nashi Orchards has moved into its second location, the former art studio of renowned island sculpture Julie Spiedel. The new tasting room is as elegant as the company’s bright ciders, as local art adorns the tall space flooded with natural light. While sampling, don’t miss our 2018 Best of the Northwest Judges’ Pick: the lively Chojuro Perry, featuring a medley of Chojuro, Olympic and Shinko Asian pears. Next, do dinner at Bramble House, where chef Lia Lira serves seasonal dishes alongside a well-appointed bottle list of cider and perry from as far flung as Europe and as close as her own island neighborhood.
San Juan Island, WA
Just a few blocks from the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal, the San Juan Island Farmers Market at historic Brickwork Events Center is a must-shop for Saturday visitors. Among the stalls of fresh vegetables, bubbling paella and steaming hot Tibetan momos, find samples from cidery and winery Madrone Cellars. Inspired by the techniques cultivated in their winemaking, husband-and-wife team Shaun and Amy Salamida naturally ferment and bottle condition their ciders. For full island terroir, pick up a bottle of Local or Reserve blends, both featuring a selection of cider apples grown on San Juan Island’s Bellevue Farms, such as pear-like Ashmead’s Kernel and bittersharp Porter’s Perfection.
Once you’ve fueled up for the next part of your adventure, hop on an e-bike rental from Discovery Sea Kayaks and pedal northwest up scenic Roche Harbor Road. Pause for estate-grown white wines at San Juan Vineyard and visit the San Juan Island Sculpture Park on your way to Westcott Bay Cider, sibling to San Juan Island Distillery. Westcott’s yearly blend of classic cider apples grown nearby is transformed into three award-winning variations: Traditional Very Dry, Traditional Dry and Traditional Medium Sweet. Each of these food-friendly drinks skillfully balances crisp fruit and grippy tannins.
Vancouver Island, BC
Just north of Victoria, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse’s tasting room overlooks an organic apple orchard set against the blue backdrop of Saanichton Bay. In this impressive perch, pair a well-rounded meat and cheese board with Bittersweet, an off-dry heirloom cider with lush fruit balanced by spicy phenolics. From there, head to nearby Butchart Gardens, an internationally renowned menagerie of plant life, for more Sea Cider offerings in another stunning setting: the original Butchart family dining room, overlooking the gardens.
A trek up island will take you past stunning views of coast. Swing by Westholme Tea for some rare Canadian-grown green or oolong tea and tea leaf-infused savory scones, then head to Valley Cider Co., a 27-acre farm nestled in the fertile Cowichan Valley. The farm cultivates cider-friendly berries and botanicals alongside its apples, meaning creations like Love Potion — a heady mix of apples, rose petals, lavender and damiana — provide a reverent sense of place with every sip.