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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 10/02/13
Above, cider ferments in barrels at Westview until it becomes hard cider.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
Orchards expand to
create hard cider, wine
Locally-grown fruit to be
used in adult beverages
by CHRIS GRAYThere will be more than one type of spirit floating around local orchards this fall.
Observer Staff Writer
With Halloween drawing closer, local cider mills are prepping haunted attractions, but are also preparing to uncork their newest feature<making and selling hard ciders and wines.
Michigan's craft-beer industry is growing in popularity, including the use of locally grown crops to produce hard cider. The alcoholic cider is an alternative to beer and wine, having the fizziness of a beer but a sweeter taste drawn from apple blends or a combination of apples and other fruit.
The product can be aged in oak barrels, but fermentation takes place in large barrels with yeast. The cider is ready for drinking after three months of fermentation, but can be aged further.
Locally made wine, on the other hand, can take anywhere from nine months to two years after the juice is harvested from the fruit before it is ready to drink.
Westview Orchards in Washington Township has spent the past year preparing its wine-tasting room and business, dubbed "Westview Orchard Winery." Though the orchard is already in the middle of the process, the products aren't expected to hit the shelves until November in its new wine-tasting room.
Abby Jacobson, Westview co-owner, said the orchard received its winemaker's license in September 2012, noting that the industry is growing by leaps and bounds.
"We have seen the trends where people are really enjoying going to small wineries or large wineries," she said. "If you look at the age group that comes to wine-tasting it could be another group that would be interested in coming to the farm that wouldn't normally come."
Westview will offer a variety of wines, ranging from strawberry and apple to peach wines as well as hard cider. Grape wine will also be available, with the orchard shipping grapes in from southwest Michigan until it begins growing its own.
"We have more fruit than what we can sell at the market, so this is another outlet for our fruit we raise here," she said. "It's a whole new world for us, it's really interesting."
She said with other orchards in the area starting up similar operations, the goal is to collaborate and help bring in more people to the area.
Paul Blake of Blake's Orchard and Cider Mill in Armada is among those joining the trend of making hard cider and wine locally. He said the hard cider industry alone is expected to grow by roughly 20 percent each year.
"The younger generation is drinking it in lieu of beer, it's becoming very popular," he said. "We're pretty excited about it."
He said the orchard has worked for the past year on its fermentation operations, bringing in equipment from Germany. He admitted last year's low crop yield due to April freezes helped motivate the decision to expand.
"We're trying to diversify our operations and use a product we're good at growing," he said. "It's a good extension of our normal business."
Blake said the orchard is hoping to open its new 3,000-square foot wine-tasting room and patio in early October. He said the orchard is going through the final phases of the licensing process to obtain a winemaker's license in order to sell the product.
"We hope in time, a year or so, to market it in the Detroit area," Blake said.
The two orchards are working to become part of a newly-forming wine trail created by the Thumbs Up Wine Trail organization. Charles Ruthruff, president of the organization and owner of Sandy Shore Winery, said the idea is to promote tourism and economic growth in the trail's regions.
"From the consumer side, you don't always have to get something from Europe or from California, you can buy locally and it can be just as good, if not better," he said. "It's looking at vista and view of the orchard, talking to grower, talking to winemaker that has cared for those trees or vines."
The trail organization has applied for non-profit status and is seeking membership from both wineries and other businesses in the region such as restaurants or hotels that would benefit from the trail's traffic.
"We want everyone to share in the success of what growers are experiencing right now," he said.