You could say making perry wasn’t in the five-year plan when Jim Gerlach and Cheryl Lubbert moved into their Vashon Island home in 2005. In addition to the Japanese Katsura villa-style house, the couple inherited a 27-acre orchard of weakened Asian and European pears, and decided to nurture them back to health.
By 2007, their healthy and sustainable orchard on the Puget Sound island became increasingly productive and the duo’s solution for the fresh, excess pears was to make perry. “I learned from other people that were making great wines and ciders in the area,” he says of when he created his first small-batch perry.
Nashi Orchards — with its namesake after the Asian pear, nashi — has been operating since 2011 and remains one of the few U.S. cideries making perrys with Asian pears. They create unfiltered, unpasteurized vintages each year like the award-winning flagship Chojuro perry or the French-oak aged, Barrel-Fermented cider.
The collaborative Issho Ni, or “Together Cider,” is a part of the Vashon Island Cider Collaborative, a nonprofit that Nashi launched in the community. The group creates cider from donated apples, where a portion of the cider’s sales go towards an organization that cultivates the Vashon Island community.
What Gerlach and Lubbert treasure the most about Nashi is the ability to host visitors from their exquisite orchards, enhancing the consumer experience. Vashon Island is a quick 15-minute trip from Seattle by ferry — perfect to take advantage of for a charming, weekend excursion. “Vashon is very great for tourist traffic,” Gerlach says. “And we’d rather let people come to us.”
The couple from Nashi Orchards strives to improve their libations, and are planning for an expansion in the future. “We’re not making something that is consistent year-by-year, we’re making something that is better year-by-year,” Gerlach says. “Each crop year is different, and we let the fruit express itself as well as it can.”
Nashi is open on the weekends where visitors can tour the orchards and taste one-of-a-kind perrys among the pictorial gardens, an ideal setting for a first-time perry experience.
“I’m more of a brick-by-brick kind of person, this is much more of a lifestyle than it is a business,” Gerlach says. “We like growing for our perrys, making them and sharing with people. That’s why we do what we do.”