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Tilted Shed Ciderworks

Author: Alexandra Russell
October, 2015 Issue
Tilted Shed Ciderworks
7761 Bell Road
Windsor, CA 95492
(707) 657-7796
Hours: Most Saturdays 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (always check the website first)
Tasting fees: $3-$5, depending on number of ciders available (waived with purchase of $40 or more)
Ciders offered: Graviva Semidry Cider, January Barbecue Smoked Cider, Inclinado Sidra-Style Cider, Barred Rock Barrel-Aged Cider, Lost Orchard Dry Cider (depending on availability)
Reservations: No
Picnics: No
Pets: Well-behaved dogs welcome
Did you know: According to Time magazine, hard cideris the fastest growing alcoholic beverage category in the United States.
Ellen Cavalli, co-owner and sales and marketing director of Tilted Shed Ciderworks, is a self-proclaimed “cider evangelist” who, alongside her husband, cidermaker Scott Heath, is determined to change the modern perception of this age-old beverage. A visit to the couple’s production facility/tasting room in Windsor is part history class, part botany lesson—and an entirely eye- and palate-opening experience.
“I want people to understand what [cider] really is—and what it can be. There’s so much complexity; it’s dynamic and nuanced in a way that rivals wine,” she says. “This isn’t spiked apple juice.”
Cavalli and Heath have been on this path since 2009, when they relocated from New Mexico to Sebastopol to be closer to family, brought their cidermaking hobby with them and began planting a 2-acre orchard of more than 100 rare cider apple and perry pear varieties. Most of their trees are still too young to bear a full crop, so they source traditional English, French and American cider apples, in addition to heirloom apples bred for eating or cooking, from organic orchards throughout Sonoma County and southern Mendocino County.
A visit to the Windsor location includes a quick tour of the cidery, where harvested apples are sorted, pressed and fermented. Cavalli explains the cidermaking process and talks about rare varieties, like Roxbury Russet (which dates back to 1617), Kingston Black (early 1800s) and Foxwhelp (late 1800s) with obvious passion, including what each brings to the party (some are more tannic, others aromatic, acidic or sweet).
To illustrate her points, a tasting is in order. We start with Graviva, a blend of 50 percent Gravensteins with a variety of heirloom and tannic cider apples. It’s bright and crisp, with balanced acidity and a tiny hint of sweetness.
The January Barbecue Smoked Cider is made by adding smoked apples (Heath uses his home smoker and fallen wood from the couple’s property) to pressed juice for fermentation. The resulting cider has a mouth-watering, smoky nose and finish. My first thought is to pair it with pulled pork, and Cavalli agrees, but also suggests “funky cheese.”
Our final sample was Barred Rock Barrel-Aged Cider, which (as the name implies) was aged in bourbon and rye whisky barrels. “Let it warm up,” advises Cavalli. She’s right: As the cider comes closer to room temperature, the aromatics kick in. There’s definitely a whisky essence—vanilla and amaretto, with a creamy, plush mouthfeel—derived from the “devil’s cut” working its magic. Other barrel-aged ciders include Inclinado (a California twist on a Basque sidra), which spends time in neutral French oak, and an upcoming collaboration with Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol for cider aged in gin barrels.
Already sold out (the next release is scheduled for later this fall) is Lost Orchard, which is sourced from a secret Sonoma County location. “In the 1980s, a couple planted a cider orchard, but they couldn’t make it profitable,” says Cavalli. “The land has since gone feral—completely wild and uncultivated.” They’ve been harvesting from there since 2011, and the resulting cider is described as having “notes of rose petal, lemon thyme, marzipan, dried apples, savory bitterness and a long mineral finish.”
Like wine, says Cavalli, cider pairs beautifully with foods. “They’re crisp and light, so they can brighten a heavy meal or stand up to spicy foods,” she says.
In addition to the ciders made for retail distribution, Heath has also begun experimenting with still ciders (a style not typical in the United States). “They’re made from some of the rare varieties,” says Cavalli, “and we’ve found they have an almost vinous quality. Some people who’ve tried them didn’t think it was cider—they thought it was a European wine. We’re proving that there’s terroir in apples.”
Cavalli will be launching a cider club soon, and members will have access to some of these special releases.
Tilted Shed ciders are available at local groceries (Andy’s, Oliver’s, Community Market) and specialty stores (Bottle Barn, Shed, BeerCraft) and at some North Bay restaurants, as well as at the tasting room and online. Additionally, the couple participates in events that support the craft beverage community (Farm to Fermentation, Cider Summit San Francisco). If this review has sparked your curiosity, seek them out and learn about your new favorite beverage.


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