in The Beginning
Three orchardists with an idea
The roots of Summerland Heritage Cider Company go back over 20 years to three friends, all orchardists growing apples in Summerland, British Columbia. As is common in the apple business, the end of each season saw a considerable number of apples left on the trees after the harvest was finished. Some of these apples were blemished, some lacked colour, and some were simply missed by the picking crew. Rather than let these apples fall to the ground, they decided to use them for something productive, and what's more productive than cider? They dug up an old recipe, pressed the salvaged apples for their juice and set out to make cider. The result was sometimes generously described as an "acquired taste". Obviously there were secrets to making good cider that the recipe wasn't telling them.
After considerable research, the guys discovered a couple of things. First, to make really good cider they were going to have to vastly improve their techniques. However, what they found to be most interesting was the existence of decades- and even centuries-old varieties of apples that were grown specifically for making cider. As long-time apple growers it really surprised them that these varieties had been grown in Europe for generations yet they had never heard of any of them. Names like Dabinett, Kingston Black and Michelin were completely new to Bob, Ron and Tom.
Several years ago they were able to secure a very, very small supply of dormant "sticks" (apple growers call these "scions") of a few cider varieties which were then grafted on to new trees. They were allowed to grow for a full year and then the new growth was cut off, cut into more scions and these were grafted on to more new trees. This process was repeated for a number of years until they had a small planting of European cider varieties. In the fall of 2008 they harvested enough cider apples to do some blending trials and by the fall of 2011 they were able to start commercial production.
"It has been fascinating journey so far and we hope you enjoy the result of our labours!" - Bob, Ron & T
The next generation
A couple of rock nerds
About mid-2015, the idea was tossed around that the guys might be interested in passing down the already-established cidery and business. While Ron's son, Ted, was pursuing geological-related work in Calgary with his girlfriend Lauren, they were both interested in the idea of running the cidery. Fast forward another year, when Ted and Lauren were finally ready to leave Calgary, move to Summerland, and learn the tricks and trades of making cider.
In the fall of 2016, Ted and Lauren eagerly stepped in and immediately took to the "slower-pace of life" required for cider makers. That said, they're not totally on their own. Bob has been relied on heavily with his endless cider knowledge, and was initially consulted for the actual production of the cider. He still came by to check on the fermentation, to ensure everything is "going" as it should and to provide plenty of useful suggestions. Tom is probably still one of the friendliest and most recognizable faces of Summerland Heritage Cider, and has always been willing to give the shirt off his back. He was a huge help during their first apple press, and continues to stop by for a cool glass of cider on occasion. Ron, though retired from apple-farming, has anything but slowed down. As the father of Ted, he is still active in the business, but mostly in the back-end paperwork and tinkering sort of way. His presence and assistance makes everything that much easier, and allows Ted and Lauren to focus on other aspects of the business of making fabulous cider!