There’s no better time than fall to spend the last warm days of the year enjoying the tranquil splendor of changing leaves and the smell of apples and pears at Nashi Orchards. A day trip to the Vashon Island cidery checks all the boxes and includes perry and cider tastings as you’ve never experienced.
It was 15 years ago when Cheryl Lubbert and Jim Gerlach, the owners of Nashi Orchards, made a similar trip.
“My husband, Jim, worked in Tacoma, and I worked in Seattle, and we wanted to live someplace between the two. So, we landed on Vashon Island,” Lubbert said. Their Vashon Island home, modeled after a 17th-century Japanese country estate, also came with 27-acres and a 300 tree Asian pear orchard.
Through their tireless efforts, they worked to revive the somewhat dilapidated orchard and turned it into Nashi Orchards —nashi meaning pear. Trees that had been planted in the ’70s began to produce, some as tall as 25 and 35 feet. With 15 varieties of Asian pears, with the addition of European perry pears and heirloom apple trees, Nashi Orchards now produces eight to nine tons of fruit each year. They even added a second location where they’ve planted more.
As one of the earliest cideries in the Puget Sound region, Lubbert stresses the delicacy of growing and picking pears, revealing that perry is harder to make than traditional ciders.
“Pear trees take 10 years before they produce anything meaningful, unlike apples, which take three to five years. They are hard to ripen, and we have to be able to press on a moment’s notice,” she said.
With the Nashi North tasting room location closed due to COVID-19, all operations are happening within the fully sustainable orchard and cider production facility. Everything there is grown and picked with the highest standards of integrity and purity. No sugars or flavoring are ever added.
Guests are welcomed into the beautiful and spacious outdoor setting to sample perry and cider under the trees or within the open-sided pavilion. If you’re lucky, you may be greeted by one, of two, of the sweetest Bouvier de Flandres dogs. Visitors can bring a picnic, or a packed lunch, and grab a seat on an Adirondack chair while enjoying a tasting for two.
Lubbert compares cider tasting to wine tasting. “Different wines are made with different grapes. We have perry or cider made with different heirloom or specialty pears or apples,” she said.
The yearly Island Harvest perry is a favorite during fall — light, crisp, and with nice acidity. A version is produced every year from all estate-grown Nashi pears, including handpicked Shinsseiki and perry pears, along with foraged island seedling pears.
When she’s not sharing her passion for growing and producing award-winning perry and cider, Lubbert’s involvement as President of the Vashon Maury Island Chamber of Commerce is another role she’s passionate about. In mid-October, the Chamber is offering Ciderfest-in-a-box to raise money for the Vashon Island Growers Association Food Access Partnership.
Ciderfest-in-a-box features three ciders from local island venues: Dragon’s Head, Nashi Orchards, and Vashon Winery, three fall gourds from Langley Fine Gardens, a pound of chestnuts from Pacific Crest Farm, two Vashon Ciderfest tulip glasses, one bag of Vashon Baking Company Apple Cinnamon Granola, Ruby Brink Chutney, and a Ciderfest ball cap. They will be available for pick-up at Vashon’s Village Green. All proceeds benefit the Vashon Island Growers Association’s Food Access Partnership and the Vashon-Maury Chamber of Commerce. Check here for more details.
In honor of Cider Week, orchard tours are available at Nashi this weekend both Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Cider tastings are available by appointment through the week, and between the hours of 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on most Saturdays and Sundays. You can also find their products at many Vashon, Seattle, and Tacoma area shops and restaurants, but making a day trip to Vashon Island to experience it for yourself is totally worth it.