Finding Joy in a Glass at Creek & Gully Cider
By Roslyne Buchanan.
How joyful to visit Creek & Gully Cider on the Naramata Bench to witness the fruition of dear and youthful friends’ vision. For at least seven years I’ve been following the hospitality industry careers of co-owners Annelise Simonsen, Director of Operations and Kaleigh Jorgensen, Cidermaker. Whether at a Joy Road Catering event, JoieFarm Winery Picnique or at Cannery Brewing, these two dug deep into hard work while always sporting infectious smiles.
When they opened up the cidery on an off day to facilitate a tasting for culinary enthusiasts Erin Korpisto, Jennifer Cockrall-King, her visiting friends and me, those gregarious gals were true to form with their gorgeous grins. Jorgensen and Simonsen have been fleshing out their dream for years. I saw them at the Fortify Conference for small producers of wine, beer, cider, and spirits in Penticton that was presented by Sandra Oldfield, Elysian Projects and Carolyn MacLaren, Business Alliance for Artisan Fermenters and Distillers, where they eagerly soaked up every bit of industry wisdom available.
Creek & Gully Cider is made with the sensibility of winemaking. Like many of my favourite winemakers, Jorgensen and Simonsen espouse the philosophy that the secret to quality lies in the fruit. The website declares: “We believe small actions have a big impact.”
Their story continues, “Over time, even the smallest creek carves out a gully, forever changing the landscape. We make cider from our Naramata orchards, which have been tended by our family for five generations. Certified Organic for over 30 years, we are stewards of the land and strive to express its sense of place through our cider. Using organic farming practices and low-tech hands-on cidermaking techniques, we invite you to enjoy apples in a new yet ancient light.”
In our glasses, we tasted that purity of intent and their joy in sharing it was evident. Details such as having our choice of retro glasses for the tasting added to the experience. We tasted three ciders currently available in 750-ml bottles plus a ‘sneak-a-sip’ of another on its way. We also tasted Creek & Gully’s delicious non-alcohol apple/peach juice. Once our Okanagan peaches are ready, I plan to use that juice in a Mezcal cocktail with a fresh peach garnish and maybe some fresh basil. I salivate now just thinking about it.
Back to this moment, the PÉT-NAT is described as “bright, fresh, and juicy” and “dry, tart, and refreshing”, a lively combination of Braeburn, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Gala Apples barrel fermented. With minimal sulphites, it’s naturally cloudy, unfiltered and unfined, dry, tart, and refreshing.
The Single Barrel Series PÉT-NAT with only 600 bottles each are available while they last only in the tasting room. One contained Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Jonagold Apples while the other Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Gala Apples.
The ‘sneak-a-sip” was lovingly labelled Sparkle Juice. Jorgensen displayed it along with her glittery nail polish to stress the point of its champagne-style qualities made in traditional method.
In addition, they (Simonsen, Jorgensen and cidery/farm dog Spooky) treated us to a tour of the newly constructed production facility/tasting room, the onsite orchard, the garden and the chicken run. Located on the Naramata Bench just opposite Poplar Grove Cheese and Lock & Worth Winery, the cidery offers stunning views of orchards, vineyards, Okanagan Lake and across to Trout Creek, Summerland’s Giant’s Head Mountain, and hills beyond.
These aren’t ‘rich girls’ or venture capitalists who have parlayed their fortune into a hobby cidery. These gals are the real deal, truly farmers at heart. The 20 acres on which the production facility stands was once their grandfather’s land. It had been sold to others and then purchased back by family. The cider is made from these orchards which comprise about 12 acres of the property and from the family’s other farm in north Naramata. Family has tended the land for five generations.
Simonsen completed an Art History Degree and had a stint in Victoria before the Okanagan’s call summoned her back. Jorgensen is a prairie transplant who spent some time in Vancouver before landing in the Okanagan in 2012 to cook, bake and grown “every imaginable plant” and became part of the family. Having purchased produce from Jorgensen, I can attest to the green thumb of this family.
Together these two hard workers invested over a decade in the Okanagan hospitality industry and “first fell in love with fermentation as partners in baking”. Orchardist Peter has farmed over 35 years with expertise in fruit trees such as apples, pears and peaches. Find him and other family members such as Cyndie, Anders, Kevin and the pets at the cidery – and constructing it was a family project.
States the website: “We strive to innovate our family farming tradition to be a model of sustainability in agricultural and business practices. As a true family operation, we’re indebted to the support our partners, parents, siblings, neighbours, and community to bring you the finest cider.”
The tasting room is open Friday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. For details see www.creekandgully.com There, you’ll find information on events like ‘SOURCED’ by Aman Dosanj of The Paisley Notebook. It’s affectionately billed as “A little pop up dinner series, by a little person. Edible adventures and stories about how food connects us.” One such dinner takes place at Creek & Gully, September 8.
As Dosanj explains, “’SOURCED’ is a pop-up dinner series re-imagining what it means to eat with super local dinners that tell one edible story at a time. It’s a road trip across the Okanagan, every host venue is different, so every dinner is different and so, too, are the unscripted and unfiltered stories. The series is all about trust – in your farmer, the local ingredients and the person cooking for you, so every time the menu is a surprise. Think of me as Morgan Freeman to guide you through things, every step of the way.” To access tickets and information, see paisleynotebook.com
Featured photo: The garden is flourishing at Creek & Gully Cider. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.