Cider Class: Touring Cideries

July 8, 2010

As part of my cider class in Mt. Vernon, I was able to tour three different cideries.

We toured the first one on Monday in Mt. Vernon. Red Barn Cider had partnered up with Tulip Valley Vineyard, and was next door to the WSU research orchards.  Years ago, Gary Moulton of WSU had some cider apples and offered them up to someone to make cider. Drew Zimmerman took him up on the offer, and traveled to England to attend Peter Mitchell’s cider making class. Two things came out of that. Peter Mitchell began traveling to Mt Vernon to teach cider making, and Zimmerman started producing cider commercially. I liked the simplicity of his operation. Zimmerman took us through his dwarf bittersweet apple orchard, and then let us taste his cider products, in which he did use Jonagold and Gravenstein dessert apples. From there, we exited out the back side of the tasting room though the laboratory, and went into a three walled open air building to look at his apple crushers and presses. Next door, he had a climate controlled container from the back of a semi truck that he used for bulk storing of cider. On the other side of the crusher/press building was a semi-cylindrical room in which he fermented and bottled his ciders.

On Wednesday, we loaded up in a bus and took a ferry from Anacortes, WA to Sidney on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

From there, we first went to Merridale Estate Cider. Merridale was a bit different in that it had a much larger production, and it also attempted to diversify into a spa and restaurant. One owner, Rick Pipes, took us around. We started with his semi-drawf orchard, in which he said they also contracted with 3-4 other orchards for their apple needs. Their apple crushing and pressing area was under cover against the main building, in which the fermentation tanks were inside. We also toured their bottling area. Pipes also had another project going on, and briefly showed us his alcohol distiller, in which they distilled cider and other products into eau de vie. We then sat down to try some of the products with lunch, including the eau de vies, cider, ciders fortified with eau de vie, and ciders in which sugar was added at fermentation time to increase the level of alcohol. Interestingly, Merridale bottles the ciders in plastic bottles, as it is easier to recycle than glass, uses less energy, and lowers their carbon footprint. However, plastic has a shorter shelf life than glass, so they have an employee out rotating their product on store shelves, which sort of limits their ability expand their market.

Next, we went to Sea Cider, which is a smaller and newer cidery that sits on a hill looking down at the water and over their dwarf apple orchard. Christine Smart, who was a former student of Peter Mitchell’s, took us into their fermentation room, which also doubled as their bulk aging room. From there, we went out and around the building to the back side, which was an area covered with gravel that they used for crushing and pressing apples. When we were there, that same space was being used for pasteurizing cider bottles that had come out of the bottling room. Smart commented that a lot of money had gone into the planning of the building, but I felt it had a lot of wasted ceiling space and half thought out ideas such as a partial catwalk. It was also very cramped! There is a saying that vertical space is cheap and horizontal space is expensive when it comes to cider production buildings, but I have to wonder if they could have saved some costs from building up and spent it to build out. Also, Smart admitted that not a lot of thought had gone into a storage area, so they sometimes had to ship their products somewhere else for storing. At this point in the tour, we were a little pressed for time to catch our ferry, so we rushed the cider tasting more than I would have liked.

All in all, it was very good to tour all three facilities, see their operations, and get ideas for how I might build my cidery.

6 Responses to “Cider Class: Touring Cideries”

  1. […] had toured Merridale Estate Cidery in July as part of my cider making class with Peter Mitchell. After a large and quit tasting, we […]

  2. […] with British cider expert Peter Mitchell, and I learned about cider apples, worked in a laboratory, toured other cideries, and went through a cider sensory […]

  3. […] by G.A. Moulton, Carol Miles, and J. King, all of Washington State University Mount Vernon, and A. Zimmerman of Tulip Valley Vineyard and Orchard next door. I had actually taken classes from Moulton and […]

  4. […] to get Westcott Bay cider, so that is 3-4 more to try. Is Carlton Srumotown new? I’ll give Sea Cider another taste. The two French ciders could be interesting, too. Of course, there are the favorites […]

  5. […] when I attended the WSU Mt. Vernon week long cider class in the summer of 2010. In fact, we got to tour the facility located in Saanichton on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada as part of t…. Apparently, they are now expanding, because they are now available in my local bottle shop here in […]

  6. […] selected out a total of six ciders: Westcott Bay Extra Dry, a dry cider I had made, Blackthorn, Red Barn Burro Loco (higher acid), Alpenfire Bittersweet (higher tannin) , and Eaglemount Sweet. The cheeses that my […]

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