Be it the Okanagan or Vancouver Island, visiting a vineyard for a tasting and a bite to eat is a nice diversion, but how about heading out to an apple orchard and cider operation for a change of pace? Well, we were on the island recently and my cousin said we had to check out Merridale, and it took very little arm-twisting to get us to agree. Located in Cobble Hill (Duncan area in the larger island-sense), you really get out into some nice country here. Once at the orchard, you can tour the charming buildings of cider operation, the orchard (nicer shade offered than a vineyard), the trout pond, visit the spa, or even try your hand at spotting the apple blossom faeries that run rampant in the area. Then you can sample some product, shop in the store which offers selections from several local artisans, or have a bite in the nice restaurant.
How's the cider? Not so easy to answer. Merridale has several. I won't tell you my favorite, you want to be unbiased when you try for yourself. They also venture into fortified cider (like a fortified wine), brandy and even an apple based vodka! They actually were recently awarded the honour of being B.C.'s first qualified craft distillery for their efforts in crafting the vodka. Being an operation that values the natural process of things, Merridale also employs the services of a few hives of previously out of work bees to help the orchard along. In exchange, the bees provide some lovely honey which is also available in the store.
So next time you are on the Island, or if you are fortunate enough to already live there, take a trip out to the country and have a sip of cider. You could do worse. You can find Merridale Ciderworks at 1230 Merridale rd., Cobble Hill, B.C.