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Sonoma Cider closes operations in Healdsburg

Sonoma Cider has abruptly shut its entire operation, a year after opening its Healdsburg taproom and restaurant in a bid to introduce wine tourists to hard cider.

Chief Executive Officer David Cordtz said in a statement that his company “suddenly and without warning” lost its investor funding and closed Wednesday. “To say that we are in shock is the understatement of the century,” Cordtz said. He could not be reached for further comment.

Cordtz and his son, Robert, started Sonoma Cider in 2013 and it became known for its organic ciders in such flavors as pear, bourbon and sarsaparilla vanilla. The taproom, which offered a full-service menu, had more than 20 ciders on draft, from one fermented with banana and beer yeast to one inspired by Apple Jacks breakfast cereal.

“This was a total surprise,” said Mickey Head, chief operating officer of Eagle Distributing Co. of Santa Rosa, which distributed Sonoma Cider. About a month’s worth of supply will be available at local retailers that sold the brand, such as Whole Foods Market, Oliver’s Market and Safeway, Head said.

The family was ambitious among local cider makers, most of whom tend to focus on artisanal batches that can sell for more than $10 for a single 750 ml bottle. Sonoma County’s top producer, Ace Cider of Sebastopol, carved out a much larger stake of the domestic market over its 25 years in business. Cordtz had previously worked at Ace Cider.

Sonoma Cider produced 100,000 cases in 2016 and was on track to grow 15 to 20 percent annually, Cordtz said in an interview a year ago.

The company employed more than ?30 workers. Its cider was available in about 30 states and the company had started putting its product into cans.

Cordtz said he’s had offers from larger beverage producers to purchase the company outright, but didn’t want to sell out. “We want to grow the brand and do our thing,” he said during the interview.

In November, the company also ventured into wine with its Ahoy Wines brand, offered in aluminum cans as a four-pack.

The taproom was located just west of Healdsburg’s delayed roundabout project, which is about one year behind schedule from completion. Sonoma Cider suffered a 30 to 40 percent loss in gross sales during a two-week period last summer when a deep trench was cut near the taproom’s driveway, Cordtz said in September.

Rhea Borja, spokeswoman for the city of Healdsburg, said she didn’t want to speculate if the construction delays contributed to Sonoma Cider’s closing without speaking with Cordtz. “It was a surprise to me,” Borja said.

Two nearby businesses had filed claims earlier this year with the city of Healdsburg to recoup losses from the construction project. Café Lucia claimed $153,000 in losses while Spoke Folk Cyclery asked for $25,000.

Both claims were denied by the Healdsburg City Council in a recent closed session, Borja said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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