A few hours drive east of Vancouver, B.C., or six hours northeast of Seattle, is a gem of a cider region known as the Okanagan Valley. It may seem a long trip, but adventurers will be rewarded in the summer months with a trip back in time to laid-back orchards and mellow ciders that perfectly capture the taste of the region. Already famous for wines, an industry that bounced back after a collapse in the 1980s, locals know that ciders were also crafted and enjoyed decades before wines of the region were celebrated.
The first destination I recommend is Naramata Road. Naramata sits to the east of Okanagan Lake, and the views from decks of wineries and cideries are heavenly. Head here first, as it is the most beautiful and beloved stretch of orchard and cider life in British Columbia. You can’t go wrong if you set your GPS to 2370 Aikins Loop, where you will find Naramata Cider Company inside Elephant Island Winery. Better yet, stay in downtown Penticton and ride out to Naramata on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail.
If you’ve wandered Naramata and you’re ready for more, you have several choices. On the southwest side of Okanagan Lake, and adjacent to a longstanding tree-fruits research center, sits the town of Summerland. Aptly named, Summerland’s prices are more competitive for lodging and life is truly slow-moving along Bottleneck Drive, where you’ll find Summerland Heritage Cider Company. Summerland Heritage produced the cider that received the “People’s Choice” award at Penticton’s 2015 Fest of Ale.
Life is a little more fast-paced (but not much) around the city of Kelowna, to the north. Kelowna tourism features several different wine trails, and cideries are cropping up at a fast pace. To experience the excitement, try Cahoots Cider on Gordon Drive or the glossy new tasting room built by BC Tree Fruits Cider Co. on Vaughn Avenue. Journey a little farther and leave the bustle behind on your way to East Kelowna Cider Company, where you will discover the real flavor of old-time apple country. The operation goes back to the 1940s and the staff here have all the time in the world to make sure you taste and appreciate the fruits of their sunny hillside. Next time I go back I will be looking for a company called Scenic Route. Started by an old high-school classmate and her partner, these folks are sweet and savvy and will no doubt have some excellent fermented juice to share.
Finally, south of Okanagan Lake and then a little farther south still, past the fresh and youthful beach crowds of Skaha Lake, find the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos. Several cideries dot the route, but I believe the best product is being made at Orchard Hill Estate Cidery, where Jasmeen will greet you and Ravi has devoted time and skillfulness to create the Fest-of-Ale’s “Best Cider of 2015.” Alternatively, the kind folks at Faustino have recently set up a beautiful and hospitable little tasting room, easy-to-find with easy parking. Howling Moon also operates from that particular country road, but is easiest found at Penticton’s very popular Saturday Farmer’s Market.
There are so many more I will go back to . . . I highly recommend Left Field Cider, BX Press and Twisted Creek. I am somewhat reluctant to spread the word, but I know my friends in the Okanagan Valley would be thrilled to be recognized for their expertise and would welcome all cider lovers to their canopied patios for a full, chilled glass of honey-sweet goodness.
- Photography: Holly Tennant