For the love of cider
At its core, Tilted Shed Ciderworks is a hobby gone wild. The trouble started in 2007. We were living on a small farm in Northern New Mexico, trying our hand at organic market farming while freelancing and raising our baby. On our land was an old, gnarled, neglected apple orchard. Being a bit of a mad scientist with a fermentation habit, Scott decided that our bumper crop of Jonathans, Goldens, and Red Delicious would make good drink.
So, with our infant son in one arm, Ellen lobbed apples into the hopper of our barrel press, while Scott cranked and pressed. Scott then put up the juice in the barn for a long, slow fermentation. A few months later, we were amazed with the results. Inspired, we began tasting regional ciders made from European and American cider apples. It was like trading up from a Concord grape–based wine to a premium Cabernet. An obsession began.
After a few years of studying, researching, and making cider with the intent of going pro, we moved to the historic apple-growing region (now wine country) of west Sonoma County and launched Tilted Shed Ciderworks in the spring of 2011. We believe that the same terroir that produces spectacular Russian River Valley wine grapes translates to growing phenomenal cider apples.
We harvest, hand-sort, wash, grind, and press up to 24 heirloom and traditional cider apple varieties in season and in small batches. All of our apples are grown in Sonoma County, and most are certified organic. We don’t rush the process or cheat: no imported apples, bulk juice, concentrate, colorings, flavorings, or fast fermentations. Just apples, yeast, and time. We do not filter, fine, or use pectic enzymes and are moving toward an even less-interventionist approach, with minimal to no sulfites and pasteurization, and bottle conditioning. The results are food-friendly, savory, vinous ciders of unexpected complexity, elegant structure, gorgeous aromatics, and long finish.
And yes, there really is a tilted shed on our farm. It’s probably a hundred years old and so decrepit it’s a wonder it’s still standing. But we consider that a good sign. If it can beat the odds, then so can a cidery smack-dab in the middle of wine country!
In praise of human-scale cider
Scott Heath is co-owner, cidermaker, orchardist, and graphic designer. He studied with UK cider expert Peter Mitchell, and has a certificate in cider sensory evaluation from the UK’s National Association of Cider Makers. Scott is a Master Printer of intaglio art (etchings), and his woodcut prints and illustrations grace our labels.
Ellen Cavalli is co-owner, sales and marketing director, and self-anointed cider evangelist. She also helps with the cidermaking work and managing the farm. A longtime book and magazine editor, she uses her communication skills to spread the word of cider.
Bay Area natives, Scott and Ellen grew up in Alameda, CA (across the Bay from San Francisco), have known each other since the first grade, been together since 1996, and married since 2001. Nomads in search of a place to set down roots, they have lived in New York City and New Mexico. They found their forever home on a 5.4-acre Sebastopol farm, which they share with their son, dog, chickens, and sheep.
Our mission is to elevate the apple to greatness by making world-class ciders that are revelatory and sublime, with a distinct sense of place and point of view. To achieve this goal, we have planted a
2-acre cider orchard at our Sebastopol farm. It’s a pomological research station. We are conducting trials of approximately 100 traditional cider apple and perry pear varieties, some of which are so rare we are likely the only ones growing them in Sonoma County. The tannic cider varieties were selected throughout the centuries, primarily in the UK and France, specifically for cider production. They are our version of Vitis vinifera, providing the nuance, structure, and elegance that common eating apples cannot.