Sonoma Cider, ensconced neatly into an industrial section of the California wine country town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, resides in the thin middle of the American cider industry. To one side sit the giant, nationally distributed cidermakers owned primarily by Big Beer: Angry Orchard, Smith & Forge, Stella Cidre, etc. On its other side sit the myriad micro craft cideries serving primarily a local market with limited distribution outside their community and state.
There in the middle sits Sonoma Cider, incredibly small compared to Big Beer Cider, yet relatively large compared to the micro-cideries. Sonoma Cider works with distributors across the country and tenaciously scrambles to offer taverns and conscientious retailers alternatives to the big boys. They give them, organic, drier cider that is more sophisticated and produced only from fresh pressed apples. It’s Sonoma Cider and perhaps three or four other cider brands that occupy this interesting middle space.
This is the kind of market position that a veteran beverage man would likely occupy so it’s no coincidence that David Cordtz is behind Sonoma Cider. Cordtz has owned wine brands, sparkling soda brands, Kombucha brands, and worked with Ace cider for many years as a national sales person. Coincidentally, Ace, also located in Sonoma County, is one of the few other brands that occupies the thin middle of the cider industry.
CLICK TO READ REVIEWS OF SONOMA CIDER
Sonoma Cider “The Anvil”
Sonoma Cider “The Pitchfork” Pear Cider
Sonoma Cider “The Hatchet”
Sonoma Cider “The Washboard” Sarsaparilla/Vanilla Cider_________________________________________
Cordtz and his son Robert, who acts as the cidermaker, founded Sonoma Cider in 2013. They are a jovial and strategic duo who have worked from the beginning not merely to carve out a national niche in the cider industry through careful distribution partnerships, but also by producing top quality ciders that appeal as much to beginning cider drinkers as to geeks and to those graduating from the Big Beer brands.
The three ciders from Sonoma Cider that most people across the country are most likely to encounter are “The Hatchet: a straight apple cider made from organic, fresh pressed juice that is on the dry side; “The Pitchfork”: an apple and pear cider that is highly aromatic and intensely flavored; and “The Anvil”: A bourbon barrel aged cider.
For folks who live in the vicinity of the cidery, a number of other, limited production ciders are also available including a Habanero/Lime cider, an anise flavored cider, and a Zinfandel Barrel-Aged “Zider” and dry single variety Fuji cider in their “Reserve” line up. On a recent visit to their cidery I also tasted a Gravenstein and banana flavored cider.
“Right off our office is a little lab where I’m constantly looking to cook up something new and interesting,” says Robert. “This is the really fun side of the business where sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t but it’s endlessly fascinating and fun to experiment and work with new combinations of flavors.”
As Sonoma Cider continues to expand across the country, they do so likely by taking tap handles from the Big Beer ciders and from one of the often too many IPA tap handles that have come to dominate many taverns and bars.
“When we go into a bar what we most often hear from the proprietors and buyers is, ‘Thank god its a dry cider’ “, says David. “The cider category has grown enough that folks are often looking for a second cider that is drier and more sophisticated than what they usually serve.”
Cordtz is grateful for the craft beer movement. In his view, the experimentation that craft brewers have embarked on and the variety of beers that craft beer drinkers have embraced opened the door for a brand like Sonoma Cider.
“Beer drinkers—both men and women—don’t blink twice when they encounter a pear and apple cider or a bourbon-barrel aged cider. For them it’s another flavor they are willing to try and many, as we know, are now including cider in their drinking rotation.”
This summer Sonoma Cider will embark on a new phase of their development when they open a tap-room in Healdsburg, behind their cidermaking facility. The new tap-room will include indoor and outdoor seating, bar seating, room for private events, music and events and small bites including cheese, charcuterie and other cider-friendly foods.
“The new tap-room will be a very inviting place with music, a friendly vibe and have an industrial feel to it,” says Robert.
You get the sense that the father and son duo are have loads of fun. Committed to producing flavorful, organic ciders and to pushing their production in nearly any direction their experimentation takes them, together they have built (and are still building) a very unique cider brand. If all goes well, Sonoma Cider will be best understood as the Sierra Nevada of Cider: sitting in the middle, producing high quality cider distributed well beyond their state’s borders, and having fun doing it.