Our Island Orchard
At Island Orchard Cider, the story begins with our orchard on Washington Island, WI. Back in 2005, owners Bob & Yannique Purman bought and started the process of planting the orchard beginning with 200 dwarf apple trees - all cider making cultivars. Every year since the orchard has increased in acreage, trees, and cultivars. Due to a similar climate and soil, the apple varietals planted in our orchard are similar to those found in Normandy, France.
Harvesting apples & Pears
In the orchard we harvest all the fruit by hand. The harvest begins in late September and runs through mid November. To get the fruit to Ellison Bay for processing, we truck our bins of fruit over on the Washington Island Ferry. Our little boat logo is a romanticized version of the fruit being ferried across Lake Michigan’s Death’s Door.
Making Old World Cider in the New World: Island Orchard Cider
“We started planting trees in about 2006,” he said. “My wife’s father is from the coast of Brittany. We used to visit them and discovered the ciders of Brittany and Normandy. We decided we would do that here in the United States. That was about 2003-2004. We started planting trees on the island in 2006. We’re up to 2,400 trees or so, all French, English and American cider cultivars, very little edible fruit, with higher tannin, higher acid apples for cider. It’s becoming more common to plant the French and English cultivars, but I believe we were the first ones doing it here in Door County.
“It’s agriculture and it’s a long-term commitment because you’re putting trees in and you’re not sure how they’re going to do here,” Purman continued. “Some are not winter hardy. Some absolutely thrive in our limey shallow Niagara escarpment soil. Some of them didn’t do well at all. So we found the ones that worked well and tried to increase our stock in those, and then it’s a matter, for the most part, of blending them to get the best tasting cider.”
Today, the orchard currently has: 2,500 apple trees made up of 28 cider apple cultivars, 250 pear trees, and 25 hazelnut trees (for the squirrels). It has been a lot of trial and error with some of the cultivars unable to weather Northern Wisconsin’s harsh winters, but we’ve had quite a few trees flourish. However, the orchardist’s job is never done we continue to experiment with new varietals, fight the occasional blight, and add to our island orchard.