Saanich Peninsula welcomes new family-run cidery

From left: Maureen, Emily, Jamie, Daniel and Wayne Ralph. The Ralph family, including daughter Kirstie (not pictured), has worked together to create Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)From left: Maureen, Emily, Jamie, Daniel and Wayne Ralph. The Ralph family, including daughter Kirstie (not pictured), has worked together to create Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)
Follow the signs to Victoria’s newest family-run cidery – Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)Follow the signs to Victoria’s newest family-run cidery – Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)
Victoria Cider Co.’s award-winning keeved cider, alongside the bourbon and whiskey ciders available at the tasting room. (Nicole Crescenzi)Victoria Cider Co.’s award-winning keeved cider, alongside the bourbon and whiskey ciders available at the tasting room. (Nicole Crescenzi)
Wayne Ralph stands in his tasting room at Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)Wayne Ralph stands in his tasting room at Victoria Cider Co. (Nicole Crescenzi)

Nicole Crescenzi/contributor

Cider enthusiasts can celebrate – a new family-run cidery just opened to the public on the Saanich Peninsula.

Victoria Cider Co., located at 9635 West Saanich Rd., is a five-acre property with apple trees, a 100-year-old home, and a classic barn-red tasting room. The cidery’s tasting room, which officially opened on Aug. 12, was a long-time dream for the Ralph family, who have owned the property for more than 12 years.

Founders Wayne and Maureen Ralph first got the idea of making cider shortly after purchasing the property, when a neighbour asked if he could have some of the apples to make his own personal cider.

“He said our 100-year-old trees produced the best apples,” Maureen said.

It wasn’t until seven years ago while vacationing in Hawaii, near the time Wayne retired, that the idea for a business solidified.

“We were on the pool deck and Maureen approached me with the idea,” Wayne explained.

After a 30-year career as an engineer with BC Ferries, he had to switch gears. “I didn’t know anything about making cider, running a business or front-of-house customer service … But we decided if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right.”

Wayne hit the road, learning about making cider from world-class teachers in England and the United States. The family invested in more apple trees – researching cider varieties – and shopped around for equipment.

“It’s truly been a family effort,” Wayne said as the couple enlisted the help of their four adult children – Emily, Jamie, Kirstie and Daniel.

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In preparation for opening the tasting room, Victoria Cider Co. has been producing 11,000 litres per year – all from their own apples – and offers a mixture of both traditional and modern flavoured ciders. These include their dry, farmhouse, perry and keeved blends, as well as lavender, ginger and hopped blends. They also offer bourbon and whiskey ciders, aged in appropriate barrels.

Even before they opened the tasting room, Victoria Cider Co.’s products could be found in more than 30 local liquor stores across Greater Victoria – including their prize-winning keeved cider.

Keeving is a traditional French method of cider making which has a long fermentation process of six months. It creates a naturally sweet and sparkling cider. It’s a tricky process and could be devastating if four months in something went awry. But, for the Ralph family, it paid off. They took home a medal at the Portland International Cider Cup before their doors even opened.

The last step was getting a liquor license for the tasting room.

“They don’t just give those away in cereal boxes,” Wayne said.

When the doors finally opened, people poured in with glowing reviews for their products.

“It was an emotional experience,” he added.

Visitors to the tasting room can lounge on a bright open lawn with picnic tables, willow trees and games. For more information, visit victoriaciderco.ca.


 

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