Scottish couple launches craft cidery on P.E.I.

Alex and Anne Jamieson had three apple trees to look after in Scotland. Now they have almost 3,000.

Bonshaw-area orchard produces hard apple cider

'The orchard took over our life, basically,' says Anne Jamieson, left, with husband Alex. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Alex and Anne Jamieson are producing artisanal hard apple cider from their 3,000-tree orchard in Bonshaw, P.E.I.

The Scottish couple has run the Riverdale Orchard since moving to the Island in 2014. Now they're reaping the return on their investment.

"[It's a] very steep learning curve, but a very enjoyable one, with great support from all the other apple growers on the Island," Alex said.

'People love it'

Like beer or wine, everyone has their own taste in hard apple cider — Alex prefers medium dry over sweet or bubbly varieties.

The Jamiesons' hard cider is called 2 Scots 3 Apples, which they serve with handmade Highlander biscuits. (Riverdale Orchard/Facebook)

"It was a bit of a nerve-racking thought — what if people don't like it? As it turns out, people love it."

The couple's work extends into all four seasons, Anne said.

"The orchard took over our life, basically. It's all year round. We don't have any time off, really."

'Rain, hail or snow'

Winter sees them inspecting trees or making cider, while summer is the busiest season.

"We're looking after the trees, making sure they are growing properly and they're sustainable," Anne said.

"It's hard work, but we love being outside. That's the key. Whether it's rain, whether it's hail, whether it's snow, we're out and about."

The Jamiesons are members of the P.E.I. Apple Growers' Association, which they said has been a major source of assistance.

"They have a huge wealth of knowledge and they're very supportive of new entrants or existing [businesses] in the apple industry," Anne said.

Apples keep them active

The couple originally planted 600 trees and thought that would be it, but they planted 2,200 this year and have ordered more for next year, including a special variety of trees specifically for making hard cider.

It took Anne and Alex Jamieson four years to develop their orchard and cidery. (John Robertson/CBC)

Alex said their family back home was surprised by the new venture and had expected them to retire.

"We're not ready to sit down and put our feet up. We like being active, we like being out in the fresh air and we like doing what we're doing," he said.

Role in climate change

The apple growers' association has submitted a five-year strategy to the province, and the Jamiesons weighed in on it.

Part of it is the role apple trees could play in reducing carbon emissions and acting as wind barriers to prevent erosion.

"With the way climate is going and it's changing, [the industry] should be beneficial to P.E.I., for more and more apples to be grown here," Anne said. 

The province recently announced a new perennial crop development program targeted at fruit like apples, blueberries and grapes. Growers have to match funding provided by the government.

"I think it's got huge potential. People are seeing where the fruit is grown and going through that process — what happens to an apple, the process it takes to get into the bottle to make hard apple cider," Anne said.

The Jamiesons recently planted a small U-pick area for families and are planning snowshoe trails through the orchard for the winter.

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With files from Nancy Russell