In many ways, the Scenic Road Cider Co. story is a classic one in their industry. A group of friends started inspiring each other to change course, and build something new. In the case of dual husband-and-wife teams, the Johals and the Sebastians, that “something new” was a cidery on a property with decades of apple-growing history.
Taylor and Caroline Sebastian had been established growers since 2006 and had been leasing a property that Marina and Harv Johal purchased in 2012. When Harv wondered what could be done with the 85-year-old packinghouse on the property, he and Taylor came up with a plan to start a cidery. “At the time, it was just a place on the property that was being used for storage,” explains Caroline.
In fact, the packinghouse the partners picked as the hub of their new initiative had a fascinating history. Built by the famous Ritchie family to move apples across the province in 1936, it’s a notable artefact of the region’s fruit-growing history.
Although the building’s historical significance was compelling, launching a cidery was no small feat. This is where the chemistry between the four partners came into play, propelling major life changes.
“I had been working as a court reporter, working with words,” says Caroline. “So, I took a big right turn when I decided to get involved in cider-making.”
The Johals and the Sebastians soon figured out how their cider-making team was going to work. Caroline and Marina stepped up as Scenic Road principals and cider-makers. Taylor would continue as an orchardist, growing and managing the crops that supplied the cidery, and Harv became the distributions manager.
“We took a cider-making course in 2015, and opened our tasting room in 2016,” says Caroline. “It was a huge learning curve, but the four of us were willing and able, and we fed off each other’s energy. When we started out, we all had different jobs apart from the cidery so we were tired right out.”
It was hard work, but often fun work. “I have such good memories of Marina and I trying to figure out how to do this. Working with a consultant, setting up sales and distribution -it was a lot, but it was exciting.”
Of course, part of that learning curve involved selecting a packaging partner. “We’re grateful we found Great Little Box Company [Ideon Packaging (GLBC)]. The boxes and labels you’ve made for us are just beautiful. We need them to look super-professional to stand out in the market, and they always have. We love them.”
Soon, Scenic Road became known for their great-tasting ciders. The secret, says Caroline, is their heirloom varieties and interesting blends.
“We have an orchard with 12 different varieties of cider-specific apples. We grow specialty cider apples like Michelin and Porter’s Perfection that are full of tannins. And then we have dessert apples which are apples we also sell for eating. When you blend the cider and dessert apples, you get a well-rounded cider.”
Fortunately, in the wake of COVID-19, “locals are supporting locals” and Scenic Road has been doing well despite the constraints placed on their tasting room. This summer, the Johals and Sebastians look forward to sharing their lineup of ciders and a new food truck with more visitors. As their exceptionally proud packaging partner, we recommend you try a glass of Mama Beary.