With the Cider Chat podcast (now into episode 31), Ria Windcaller has established herself and her podcast as the one of the most informative sources of cider info on the Net. Cider Chat puts the spotlight on cidermakers, cider innovators and cider writers who have made a difference to the industry and who are compelling interviews.
What attracts us so much to Cider Chat is Ria’s soft, probing and effective style of getting her subjects to open up and tell us what they think.
Ria was kind enough to agree to an interview and we are excited to publish it here.
1. What was the inspiration for beginning Cider Chat?
I’ve wanted to help promote cider ever since I first joined Terry and Judith Maloney of West County Cider along with local cidermakers and orchardists for dinner many years ago. There were about 14 of us at a long candlelit farm table. We repurposed milk crates as chairs and enjoyed lively conversation as the cider flowed freely. What a treat to sit next to Paul Correnty who wrote Art of Cidermaking (1998) along with Dave Shear of Pine Hill Orchards.
We’d spent the day volunteering at various sites at this one-day event called CiderDays. In the early days there wasn’t a cider salon or dinner to bring people together.
The Maloney’s hosted the dinner for a lucky few who were invited to decompress and chat about the day’s events.
What really struck me was hearing the financial woes of local apple farmers and cidermakers who lived in a region rich with hillside orchards in western Massachusetts.
I knew what the potential of cider could be for a local economy once this tasty libation planted its roots in the market. Perhaps it was the candlelit atmosphere or another sip of some amazing cider that night, but I recall quite vividly proclaiming out loud that I would love to help promote apples and cider.
Last year my career shifted and I began to ask, “What’s next?”
I’d been producing my weekly show called “Leading Chaos Podcast”, which I launched in 2014. I decided to combine my knowledge and dive into the cider niche. As soon as I started working on Cider Chat the entire venture fell together seamlessly.
2. Has the formula changed over time and if so, why?
Chatting with guests and connecting to my listeners (a.k.a. Ciderville) has remained constant. The only real change is that my production of the podcast and editing continues improve. This translates to a higher quality listen for the audience that is both entertaining and informative.
3. What’s the biggest challenge in producing a weekly podcast about Cider?
Cider Chat’s popularity means it has quickly changed from a side gig to more of a full time endeavor. Having enough time to produce/edit each podcast is as important as the need to monetize so I can “keep the chat thriving”.
4. What can you tell me about the progress in listenership?
Since the launched, I’ve received encouraging emails and tweets from cider imbibers, makers, brewers, and folks who’re planning to open cideries. From the get go my focus has been both nationally in the US and the global cider market. Initially, the listeners were primarily US based. More recently, I have seen an uptick of listeners internationally.
5. Were there any particular interviews that you can cite as your favorite to do?
I cherish each chat and always look forward to the next one. I’ve enjoyed numerous memorable moments, such as episode 002: Field Maloney of West County Cider, MA. Field and I were sitting outside next to a table recording our chat. While he was mid-sentence the chair he was sitting on went backwards. As he fell back, his feet kicked the table and our drinks went flying. I edited out asking him if he was okay which he was indeed, as he righted the chair and continued to speak as if nothing happened. Robert Colnes’ (episode 003) chat on building a ciderhouse was as delightful as his company. At 95, he has perfected the art of storytelling. Darlene Hayes (episode 018) was hilarious and inventive. She authored the book Cider Cocktails, so she arrived with all the fixings to mix some pretty exquisite drinks.
Early American history leaps and bounds out of Concord Massachusetts and its public library, which is where I met John Bunker. It was the perfect backdrop for chatting with John who is an American treasure trove of apple history and apple identification. I split our chat into two episodes, which are equally packed with info in episodes 016 & 028.
026: Neil Worley of Worley’s Cider, UK discussed keeving and offered so many technical tips that I transcribed that chat for patrons of Cider Chat (I have a Patreon page where listeners at the $3/month or more level receive any chat that I have transcribed).
6. You get to observe the cider industry as a relative insider. What are your thoughts on the trajectory of the cider industry today and what do you see as the most important challenges to its continued success? The US cider industry is pushing the envelope and everyone is watching. A bit of well-placed “Cider Bold” could be a good thing to enliven the conversation, such as promoting regional terroir now. The industry does not have the luxury to wait 20-years to say what is already obvious; each region has it’s own terroir.
Cider nomenclature, the question of what is quality cider, and just how much is a bottle of cider worth will, in time, be sorted out. In the meanwhile, projecting collective boldness, enthusiasm, and the wonderment of that cider in every glass will help move it out of the specialty market “to be drunk only on holidays” and into an everyday option for all to enjoy.
7. Tell me about your background as it relates to cider and drinks?
Like many New Englanders, I heard lots of stories of my grandfather making cider and his buddies showing up on Saturday morning to try it out. My own cidermaking skills started when CiderDays began 22 years ago. I had been homebrewing for years and our homebrew club, The Valley Fermenters volunteered at CiderDays. I taught basic cidermaking for the first 16 years of that cider festival. Back then I worked hard to convince many sweet cider drinkers of the ease and fun of making cider at home.
Fourteen years ago I began writing about craft beer for Yankee Brew News. My column covers western Massachusetts and the Berkshires. Over the years, I was able to twist the editors drinking arm to let me write about cider. This year, Brewing News informed columnists that we could start adding cider into our beer columns. Mind you, this paper has forever been known as a “beeriodical”. I like to think that my early days of demanding some print space for cider helped usher in this new era for Beer and Wine’s cousin, Cider.
8. What’s in the future for Cider Chat?
Listeners in Ciderville can look forward to more strolls down Orchard Lane and chats from Chile, Italy, and Spain. Upcoming live chats will also be offered. The first one will be on basic cidermaking. And, I’m also planning for cider meetups to grab a glass with folks and enjoy a chat.
9. Favorite Ciders?
I’m a big fan of ciders with a bit of tannin and low acid. But for the most part, my favorite cider is the next one to be poured into my glass.