Ellen Cavalli looks forward to standing behind her small tasting room bar and telling customers the story of Tilted Shed hard ciders.
“I feel like sometimes it’s infectious,” said Cavalli, who owns the Windsor cidery with husband and cider maker Scott Heath. “When I get to talk with you about it, you’ll want to learn more.”
Tilted Shed on Saturday will hold the grand opening of its new tasting room. The public tastings, which follow a “cider appreciation” seminar, will occur from 4 to 7 p.m. at the cidery, 7761 Bell Road.
Cider has become America’s fastest-growing alcoholic beverage segment, though still tiny compared to the nation’s beer market.
Even so, North Coast winemakers last month got the sobering news that for the first half of the year, cider sales increased by 3.4 million cases, or 69 percent, compared to an increase of 2.5 million cases for wine, or 1.5 percent.
Sonoma County has a handful of mostly small-scale cider makers who have recently been garnering national media attention. The local industry generally remains young and, unlike wineries, most cider makers don’t yet have tasting rooms.
Ace Cider, which at a million gallons a year is by far the region’s largest cider maker, on Friday afternoons opens the Ace in the Hole Pub at its California Cider Company operations on Gravenstein Highway North in Sebastopol, according to the company website. Owner Jeffrey House has been featured within the last two months in both the Los Angeles Times and the BBC America website.
As well, Sonoma Cider is planning next summer to open a tasting room at its Healdsburg operations, said CEO and cider maker David Cordtz. This spring, Forbes Magazine named the company one of the “hottest startups,” noting that it had raised $2 million in venture capital and crowdfunding and projected its 2014 revenue at $2.3 million.
The nation’s major beer makers now produce hard cider and are introducing the drink to millions of Americans, said Tom Wark, who writes the CiderJournal.com blog. But much of the mass-produced beverage reminds him of “Jolly Rancher Green Apple” candy.
In contrast, Tilted Shed and other artisan producers are making complex, subtle ciders that are akin to fine wine.
“They’re really making revelatory drinks,” said Wark.
Wark, who has done public relations for wineries for a quarter century, will speak Saturday at Tilted Shed’s cider appreciation seminar. The $30 seminar is by reservation only through email@example.com.
On Saturday, tasters will be able to purchase different styles of cider, ranging in price from about $10 for 375 milliliters to about $15 for a 750 ml bottle.
Cavalli and Heath formed Tilted Shed in 2011 and released their first cider the next year. This year they expect to produce about 5,000 gallons.
The tasting room generally will open by appointment only and at times announced on social media, Cavalli said. For example, she hopes to open for events with other neighboring beverage producers, including a winery, a distillery and a brewery.
“We’re really excited to be working with our neighbors,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @rdigit