A trip to Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley isn’t complete without heading over to Cobble Hill and visiting Merridale Estate Cidery.
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Back in 2000, Janet Docherty and Rick Pipes purchased Merridale and its 20 acres of cider apples from its founder who started it the cidery in 1990. Today, Merridale is a full-experience cidery with self-guided tours of the orchards, a bistro with patio and outdoor dining, a wedding destination, a distillery, a deli, and even fit for an overnight getaway in a premium yurt.
My group (consisting of travel writers) stopped in for lunch and a quick tour of the property in early May. Even before we arrived, we had recommendations from staff at a winery in the area, suggesting what we try and what we should pick up from the cidery’s bakery.
We sat down on the bistro’s covered patio overlooking part of the orchard and enjoyed a flight of ciders along with some “today’s special” wood-fired pizzas. The ciders were arranged in order of the least sweet to the most sweet. Our selection was the Cidre Normandie, Scrumpy, Somerset, Traditional, Merri Berri, and the Project Q quince cider.
Pairing with crisp, tart, and sweet ciders, pizzas are popular at Merridale and have even prompted special live music “Pizza Nights” which will take place throughout the summer. Other menu items in the bistro include soups, sandwiches, charcuterie plates (with house-cured meats, and local cheeses), and a delicious house salad with local organic greens, toasted pumpkin seeds, daikon radish, fennel, carrot, celery, and apple cider herb dressing.
After lunch, Janet lead us over to the two yurts on site, which are open for bookings from mid-April to mid-October. The smell of fresh-cut grass filled our noses as honeybees buzzed from blossom to blossom.
Rates start at $95 (for the small yurt, mid-week) and go up to $135 (for the large yurt, on a weekend). Yurt stays include a breakfast of coffee or tea and goods from the bakery. The large yurt has a beautiful claw-foot tub for soaking and each has a washroom and a patio deck overlooking the property.
Visitors are welcome every day of the week at Merridale. You can do a free self-guided orchard or cidery tour, a tasting ($5 per person, based on booking for 6 people) or a guided tour and tasting ($6 per person, based on booking for 6 people). The Cider Bar is open 11:00am to 5:30pm, Monday to Sunday and the bistro is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 12:00pm to 4:00pm and on Sundays for brunch from 10:30am to 3:00pm.
There are often special events with Merridale, either at the cidery or out and about in the community as Janet is very active on the island. As she puts it, it’s important for Islanders to support Islanders. The next big event at Merridale will be their Speakeasy Cocktail Party in the distillery barn on June 18th.
While it can definitely be billed as a couples getaway in the country — I need to find myself in that tub at some point — Merridale is a lovely day-trip destination for the whole family as well. Kids will love exploring the orchard on the easy-to-follow tour, the bistro and bakery treats, and stopping by the Merridale Fearie General Store:
To find out more about Merridale, and where you can get their estate-grown and produced ciders, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.