Our orchard is set against a dramatic backdrop of basalt cliffs in sunny East Wenatchee. We've been growing apples here for over 30 years, and recently we've added several cider varieties to the mix. Varieties such as Dabinett, Foxwhelp, Golden Russet, Brown's, Wickson Crab, and others contribute their unique flavors to our ciders.
Like others in this region, we spent a good deal of our time growing apples for eating - apples like Red & Golden Delicious. It was what we knew. But we were overlooking a large portion of the history of our own livelihood. Heirloom apples have long been grown for their virtues as producers of great cider, and it was only in the aftershocks of the prohibition that attention turned so sharply to the horticulture of dessert apples.
We have been so blessed to rediscover the incredible characters hiding behind the gnarly skin or tannic bite of some of our apple varieties, and appreciate them both in their value as cider makers and as new culinary experiences.
Our family has grown apples, pears, cherries, and grapes in the Wenatchee Valley since the 1940s. Fredrick Ringsrud rode the freight trains from North Dakota to Cashmere to work in the orchards, eventually bringing his mother out west with him. He met his wife Norma while working in the orchard, and they raised their children on a small plot in Cashmere that is still in our family today. Our present orchard was planted in the late 1960s and Peter and Mary Ann started farming it in 1974. Our earliest memories of making cider are with a 100-year-old hand crank press borrowed from a family friend, and big glass carboys bubbling away slowly through the winter. One of our family's favorite apples for cider and eating was given by the owner of the old press, and turned out to be an old French variety, Calville Blanc d'Hiver dating to the 16th century and eaten by King Louis XIII. It is regarded as "excellent for cider" and adds crisp bright acid to our Semi-dry cider.
Our paticular love of hard cider began around 2003. Between discovering a new world of 'lost' apple varieties and some coaching from Peter Mitchell, one of the United Kingdom's premier cidermakers, we found our way into the world of artisan cider. Great cider starts with great apples. We found ourself in a world of heirloom apples with great histories: Roxbury Russet - quite possibly America's first apple, Dabinet and Yarlington Mill from Somerset, England, Ashmead's Kernel - from a seedling in 18th century England, and Calville Blanc d'Hiver from 16th century France. Cider apple trees are as wild as the flavors in their fruit, and it took several years to learn the habits of our new tenants. Some only bear fruit every other year, some are scraggly brambles of trees, others just "rope on" the fruit and you can pick them like berries. Besides their wild habits, the new apples gave us an entirely new range of flavors to work with and our finished ciders improved by leaps and bounds. One of our great breakthroughs was discovering the depth of flavor and puckering acidity of some of the crab apples we had ignored for years as pollinators in our orchard.
In 2008 we decided that we were ready to go for it, Peter spent the winter converting part of his shop into a small, super-clean micro-winery, started ordering tanks and equipment, and by 2009 we had our official license to start producing cider commercially. We produced about 200 cases of 4 blends and released our first bottles in November, just in time for the holiday season.
Today we take great care with our fruit and cider, to let the very best characteristics shine through. From tree to table we are involved in every step of the process to bring you great cider.