Who We Are
Owned and operated by a philosopher and a stone sculptor, Salt Spring Wild developed out of a passion to create quality cider from the wild apples that grow on Salt Spring Island. Some of the apples in our blends are from 100-year-old heritage trees, some are from organic orchards, and some are from wild apple trees that live in farmer’s fields and along gentle roadsides, and that once fell with the breeze.
Sculptor and philosopher run craft cidery
on Salt Spring Island
North by Northwest, CBC Radio – April 3, 2016
In Other’s Words
excerpt from an article by Aqua Magazine – Winter 2015
The hard cider with its taste born of Salt Spring “terroir” and organic heritage apples became an immediate hit after Gerda Lattey and Mike Lachelt launched their business in July. A busy summer has led to not much downtime during the fall, as the couple works to press, ferment and bottle enough cider to meet the needs of next year’s market.
Learning how to create an alcoholic beverage that’s not just drinkable but enjoyable was a difficult learning process, but one that Lattey and Lachelt used their own tastes to help guide.
“To some extent true craft cider is very new to this part of the world. We’re in a position to take a leadership role, to say, ‘This is what we like,’” Lachelt says.
“But we also did market research to ensure what we liked was also what other people liked,” adds Lattey. What that means is not the mass-produced sugary cider that teenagers prefer, but something as close as possible to the traditional English version without having access to many cider apples. The difference between Salt Spring Wild’s semi-dry and dry versions is mainly one of sugar content, but even the former is refreshing and crisp.
“Our dry cider has almost no sugar — we think it might be the driest cider on the market. It’s almost puckeringly dry,” Lachelt says.
Lattey is known to many on Salt Spring as a sculptor and an early supporter and board member of the Salt Spring Forum. Lachelt turned away from an urban academic career for the rural life. He was working on a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto when his father’s illness called him home to run a farm on the Saanich Peninsula a few years back. It was during this period that Lattey and Lachelt had a chance meeting on the ferry, and a lasting connection was sparked.
Their transition to running a business based on fermented fruit came about through an equally chance encounter, and one that has its own air of magic and destiny. In the midst of a series of moves from one rental home to another, the couple applied for a house on a five-acre property filled with apple trees. They didn’t get the house, but they did come away with the strong idea that picking apples and making cider out of them was something they wanted to do.
“It started with just picking apples, and we had a small little press that we bought,” Lachelt recalls about their introduction to the art in 2014. “We did that once and realized we wanted to do more.”
A period of scanning roadsides for abandoned trees soon shifted to knocking on doors and making phone calls to people whose apples appeared to be going unpicked.
“We didn’t have much luck at first. But after we put in enough calls and talked about it enough, people started realizing maybe they didn’t want to pick all their own apples,” Lachelt says.
Salt Spring Wild caught an important break when Lattey and Lachelt gained the enthusiastic support of George Laundry, who is part of a longtime island family and an active member of the Farmers’ Institute. Laundry helped smooth connections with other growers and gave the couple a large portion of his own orchard’s output.
People with excess crops are now calling them. Lattey and Lachelt are buying as much local produce as they can and supplementing that with certified organic apples from the Similkameen Valley.
“It’s great. If we can support the farming economy on Salt Spring, then we’re thrilled,” Lattey says.
“We also want our cider to reflect the history of farming and apple cultivation on Salt Spring. We want to be sort of a bastion of that,” Lachelt adds. “And interestingly, it’s the best thing we can do for our cider. Salt Spring apples are amazing.”
Hard Cider, Untamed