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The Lost Orchards of Georgian Bay

There’s this beautiful part of Ontario – in Grey County, along the shores of South Georgian Bay, where the deep water and moderating effect of the Bay combine with the protective cover of the Niagara Escarpment to create a unique microclimate of rich soils, perfectly suited to growing apples.

Lost Orchards of Georgian Bay

Thanks to an inspiring couple of cider lovers, we find ourselves lucky enough to call this place home.

Recently we took a trip to Grey Roots, the local museum and archives, where we discovered that the first apple trees of the region were planted out on Cape Rich in the 1830’s and by the 1840’s the plantings had spread out to the Beaver Valley.

In those days, early orchardists were cultivating thousands of different varieties of apples with flavours ranging from pineapple to licorice and everything in between. Today, most apple farms only grow a handful of varieties, most of which are chosen for their hardiness, transportability and ability to keep well into the winter.

Old Growth Orchard Cider

According to local reports, at peak apple production in the 90’s, there were about 150 orchard operations on roughly 7,000 acres. Today there are less than 30 families on 3,500 to 4,000 acres in the Georgian Bay region.

Over the years, the Ontario apple industry has changed drastically and all but a handful of these heritage orchards remain. Most have been abandoned or torn out and replanted with intensive modernized trellised production orchards or replaced by conventional cash cropping.

It wasn’t long after we started to put down roots in the area that we began to connect with local orchard owners. It began as a casual mention from market friends – “oh you’re moving to Meaford, you’ve got to connect with these lovely folks, they’ve got apples!” And so we did. What started as a casual handshake agreement to harvest some apples and make some cider, quickly snowballed into an entire project with a soulful purpose and a life of it’s own.

Harvesting Lost Orchard Apples Windswept Cider

We’ve taken to calling it the Lost Orchard Project.

Over the past few months we’ve been busy making more connections, discovering more lost and abandoned orchards, and meeting lots of interesting folks – all gladdened by the idea that these orchards and their fruits still have a purpose and life to live yet. 

Golden Russet Heritage Apple Cider

As cidermakers, we’re pretty excited by the discovery of these orchards, as many are of an age where if they were grape vines, they would be considered to be in their prime, or just reaching their fullest potential. Their roots deeply invested in the soil and capable of producing intensely flavoured fruit that when crafted into cider, needs no additives – like a fine sparkling wine or champagne it’s quite content to stand alone.

We’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to have connected with a community of likeminded folks interested in preserving these trees for the future, and to have the opportunity to craft fine ciders from them.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue building our cidery and planning our first Lost Orchard releases for 2017.

Get the all the latest updates on Facebook – Windswept Orchard Cider, Instagram @Windsweptcider and Twitter @windswept_cider.