Dorian damage leads cidery on quest for P.E.I.'s wild apples

An Island cidery is hoping to turn damage from Dorian into a wild apple windfall.

Island cidery puts out the call and Islanders respond

Double Hill Cidery says many wild apples, like the ones here, are ruined for production. (Submitted by Sebastian Manago )

An Island cidery is working hard harvesting wild apples this fall, after Dorian did damage to its trees in September. 

"The wild apples got really affected by Dorian," said Sebastian Manago, owner of Double Hill Cidery in Caledonia, P.E.I.

The storm caused them to lose a lot of their usual crop, so they've reached out to others who have wild apple trees on their property to get the product they need in order to make cider. 

"We usually harvest between the first of October and the end of October and by the time we started harvesting, I would say we've lost about 90 per cent here on this farm out of our crop."

Bryan McCracken, operations manager for the cidery, described the fall harvest as a lot harder than usual as they've had to look much farther for wild apples. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Manago hired an apple scout who scoured eastern P.E.I. for potential trees.

The cidery also decided to get creative and put out a call for help, asking for suggestions of wild apple trees to harvest from.

"We launched a campaign so people can share where they see wild apples, what apples they may have on their properties they may know of somebody who has apples and what we're looking for is wild apples," Manago said.

"There are old orchards and they're fine too but we're really looking for those wild apples." 

Once their scout located trees, Manago and his crew started knocking on doors, asking for permission to take the apples.

"Some people say they really appreciate that tree, others didn't even know that they had a tree and then they said, 'Oh yeah, go ahead,'" Manago said.

"We have not had one person refuse it."

Farther afield

Last season, Double Hill harvested apples close to the farm in Caledonia, but this fall, went across eastern P.E.I., from Souris to Stratford

"It's been harder than usual. You have to look a little harder and work a little harder," said Bryan McCracken, operations manager for Double Hill Cidery. 

"We've had to go a lot further away from where we're based and obviously that adds a lot to the production cost as well."

Manago says Double Hill will make the wild apple cider more like a wine than a beer, so sticking to one batch a year. (Double Hill Cidery)

McCracken said many homeowners are pleased to let the crews take their apples, rather than seeing them go to waste, even if they aren't compensated for the crop.

Double Hill does buy wild apples from some people and also supplements their supply with apples from other Island operations.

Expanding operations

The cidery is already in the midst of an expansion, so Manago said they will need even more wild apples soon.

Last year, they also struggled with weather-related problems. In 2018, the cidery had to deal with poor pollination in the spring and an early frost in the fall.

"We're playing the game of nature, we are at the mercy of what's there and that's part of terroir," Manago said. 

"You work with what you have and I would say that makes it more authentic." 

Double Hill Cidery in Caledonia, P.E.I., specializes in wild apple cider. At a tree, near Murray River, they harvested 15 bags last year. This year, they will only get enough to fill one bag. (Sebastian Manago)

On the up side, Manago says, all the early apples fell and so this year's harvest will be later apples.

"The late apples are usually better cider apples than the earlier ones so if anything, we hopefully are going to have a better product," Manago said. 

Sebastian Manago, owner and Bryan McCracken, operations manager, hope to launch their cider soon, made from wild apples. (Double Hill Cidery)

The trees that they've located post-Dorian will be added to the list to harvest in future years, all tracked by GPS, for a return visit next year.

"The silver lining is, despite a year where we could have had nothing, we will have a batch of cider next year."

The apples will be pressed in November, then fermented, with the cider expected to be bottled up in the spring. 

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About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


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