Hi Internet. Too much time has passed us by. It turns out that toddlers and bloggers mix like oil and water. My apologies.
Time to scratch the itch and wrap up our Vancouver Island drinks tour with one last review. To recap: Canada is not the Mediterranean. Wine grapes struggle to reach ripeness in this cool, marginal climate. Yet Vancouver Island, oddly, shelters enough microclimates to encourage some to try their hand at wine-making. Results range from enamel-etching bubbly (read here), tart Chardonnay (read here), decent but pale Pinot Noir (read here), a fine Gamay (read here), a solid hybrid white (read here), to a mixed-bag winery that distills great gin and vermouth (read here),
Maybe we’re going about this all wrong. Let’s drop the grapes and give cold-hardy apples a chance. We roll from Victoria North into the rolling verdant farm hills of Saanich Peninsula. A gravel road bends up a cliff overlooking gleaming Cordova Channel. Short apple trees for hand picking lead up to the white, decked, cidery and tasting room. The view stops us.
Its name is Sea Cider: an Organic Certified ten acre farm with more than 1,300 trees of 50 heritage apple varieties. Kristen Jordan, a sixth generation farmer, bought and revolutionized the property in 2007 to make traditionally fermented artisan ciders. Today Sea Cider makes over 7,000 cases with distribution throughout B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Washington State, Illinois, and Oregon.
The tasting room feels airy and light.
We order both flights of everything and get to work.
Sea Cider, Wild English, Heirloom Series, Vancouver BC
A wild fermented cider of Dabinetts and Chisel Jerseys.
The APPEARANCE looks clear with a medium intense golden straw color. AROMAS smell strongly and of bandaid, charred bacon, earth, and lemon (actually typical of style). The PALATE feels ultra dry, with max acidity, extra tannins, a medium minus body, sneaky 7.5% abv, fizz is petilant. FLAVORS defy the aromas with lemon, Granny Smith skin, peach, dry and cracking game brett with Rubber tire finish.
It is Very Good (4 of 5), to type, if a bit leaner than some English ciders.
Sea Cider, Kings and Spies, Heirloom Series, Vancouver BC
APPEARANCE: a clear, pale, green. AROMAS smell clean and floral, with cinnamon, lime, salt, and green apple. The PALATE is off dry, again boasting oodles of acidity, lean, and lightly fizzy. FLAVORS range from lemon, lime, white pear, with a light soapy note, medium length.
A lean, dryish, pleasant enough cider for chips and company, Good (3 of 5) but simple.
Sea Cider, Pippins, Heirloom Series, Vancouver BC
A “sharp” style cider from Yellow Newton Pippin apples fermented cool with champagne yeast. Off-dry and chapitalized to 9.5%, it is an example of a New England
Pippins’ APPEARANCE looks a clear, light lemon. AROMAS glow with golden apple, light honey, and cardamom. The PALATE feels off dry with ample but tamed medium plus acidity, tannin, a fuller medium body, warmer alcohol 9.5% by volume, and a slight petilance. FLAVORS taste lovely and of light pineapple, cinnamon, cardamon finishing with vanilla.
Pippins is Very Good (4 of 5), not solely for its weight and alcohol, but its flavor complexity that could hold up to richer, saucier dishes like curries and even steak.
Sea Cider, Bramble Bubbly, Canadian Invasion Series, Vancouver BC
Yup, hard cider with tenacious blackberries added.
The APPEARANCE looks clear and medium ruby-colored with copper highlights. The PALATE balances well medium sweetness with medium plus acidity, and good tannic grip, mild bodied. Medium intense FLAVORS remind me of tart cranberries, even Cabernet Franc with a whiff of capsaicin.
Bramble Bubbly tastes dry enough, delish, is Very Good (4 of 5), pair withmeat and cheese platers, Thanksgiving fair, turkey sandwich?
That was nice. Time to get serious.
Sea Cider, Rumrunner, Heirloom Series, Vancouver BC
You guessed it, Rumrunner, is rack cloth pressed, slow fermented with Champagne yeast, Bourbon barrel aged cider for a minimum of 6 months.
APPEARANCE: look at that sexy clear medium intense amber gold, leggy yet little fizzy.
AROMAS: bound about with dried vanilla bean, dried apricot, and toffee.
The PALATE is medium sweet and heady, a smirk of acidity, with a plump body, viscous texture, alcoholic heat that is not overbearing at 12.5% abv.
FLAVORS tastes intense and echo a Oloroso Sherry Madeira-like candied fig, vanilla, and oodles of toffeeeeee that lasts long.
Rumrunner is Outstanding (4 of 5), sexy cider, that has left its apple-origins behind to taste apotheosized, like a rum but sessionable.
Tanks and barrels awaiting harvest.
Sea Cider, Pommeau, Sticky Series, Victoria BC
Made with Snow apples first brought from Normandy to Quebec, then distilled by Victoria Spirits, and then sweetened with juice from estate French apples.
The APPEARANCE looks a clear medium gold, brilliant, flashy and leggy.
The PALATE feels dry, with medium acidity, but too hot (19.5% abv), too much spirit kills the acid too heady.AROMAS & FLAVORS range from light Castile soap, powdered anise and vanilla, to creme brûlée 19.5% abv.
Pommeau is Good (3 of 5) but too much, maybe a palate clense.
Sea Cider, Pomona, Sticky Series, Victoria BC
Named after the Roman goddess of apples, this late harvest, iced cider of just crab apples ferments the concentrated juice with Sauternes yeast.
The APPEARANCE looks clear, a brilliant rose color, gold-fringed, and very leggy.
AROMAS smell of medium plus, soapy rose water, with a touch of game, cab franc capsasin and red cherry skin.
The PALATE is very sweet, but with taut medium plus acidity and tannins, grippy but syrupy, if a bit hot (17.5% abv).
You had me at “Sauternes yeast”. Pomona is Very Good (4 of 5), a bit wild but a great desert wine.
Sea Cider, Black Applejack, Sticky Series, Vancouver BC
Nodding to colonial moonshine, Black Applejack mixes hard cider, distilled cider, and blackberry juice. The result:
APPEARANCE: clear rich garnet color, thick-legged
PALATE: extra sweet but balanced by equal acidity and grippy tannins, sneaky 17% alcohol
AROMAS and FLAVORS: pretty darn intense black cherry, cinnamon, brightened by green apple skin.
Black Applejack is Very Good (4 of 5) and could swap in for Port as needed.
Not a shabby view
With a decade under Kristen’s belt, Sea Cider deserves the awards and recognition she has garnered for it. The location is ideal, the patio view escapist, the staff is lovely and well-informed. Our toddler enjoyed roaming the orchard, sampling organic heritage apples (if a bit unripe). Sea Cider’s lineup is quite good, creative, and winkingly clever without annoying us.
We also found blackberries
Here’s my video recap (clearly, the toddler has made me a touch tired…)