Gabriola is the northernmost isle of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, the archipelago located between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Life on the Gulf Islands is notoriously laid-back and slow moving, so it is highly unexpected that Marti Wright and Keith Mackenzie would have chosen this spot to base the headquarters of a successful and widely distributed cider operation, Gabbie’s Premium Cider.
“We chose a BC Gulf Island to plant our orchard because of its terroir and ocean proximity, which produces quality cider apples,” Wright explains, admitting, though, they didn’t get to that point overnight.
The land was purchased in 2003, a stump and brush-covered slope that they thought would suffice for their original vision of producing apple juice for the commercial market. With that in mind, and with the help of the couple’s grownup children, the land was cleared, the soil prepared and a 1,000 trees were planted and nurtured.
“We soon met up with a group of devoted cider fruit collectors and aficionados,” Wright says. “Through them we obtained scions for grafting and soon we resurrected the long-forgotten bittersweet and sharp cider apple varieties.”
As if that weren’t enough, the duo then took on the milling, pressing and, eventually in 2014, the fermenting of their harvest. Upon the orchard, they bestowed the name Ravenskill, and the resulting cider dubbed Gabbie’s.
At Gabbie’s, visitors can feel the excitement of being at the forefront of a movement that is reviving true artisanal ciders.
“I am experiencing unabashed enthusiasm from our customers for the refreshing nature and complexity of our craft ciders,” Wright says with pride.
Current ciders on offer have been limited to just two, Real Dry and Semi Dry, and since it’s working for them, the couple is going to continue to focus on traditional dry ciders. Hops, fruit juices and especially sugar will all be avoided in favor of further experimentation with heritage single varietals.
Wright is optimistic about the upcoming cidermaking season. “2017 has been an exceptional year for our apples, sugar levels have matched peak ripeness,” she adds. “This will ensure that our cider will have excellent acid/tannin balance.”