by Mandi LeCompte
Snowdrift Cider has grown apples, pears, cherries, and grapes in the Wenatchee Valley since the 1940s. The orchard of today was planted in the late 1960s and Peter and Mary Ann started farming it in 1974. In 2003 they got hit with the cidermaking bug. Between discovering a new world of ‘lost’ apple varieties and some coaching from one of the United Kingdom’s premier cidermakers, they found their way into the world of artisan cider. By November 2009 they were in business and produced 200 cases of four blends and released their first bottles. From tree to table they are involved in every step of the process to bring you the best cider in your glass.
How were you introduced to cider, and when did you first start making Cider?
I was introduced to cider back in the early 2000’s by my business partner and father in law. He had a vision for converting part of the orchard over to cider apples so that we could start a small family business making cider. Like most people at the time, I thought cider was fresh apple juice. When he had me try some actual cider for the first time I definitely enjoyed it, but I was a bit dubious about turning it into a business. I was quite a beer nut at the time, having cut my teeth on craft beer in Portland while at school. It took me a couple years to catch the vision and start to appreciate the rich, complex flavors that cider apples bring to cider. By the time we opened our doors in 2008 I was hooked and already starting to prefer dry tannic ciders that are so common in England and so rare here. I’ve been heavily involved in the business since we started, but it wasn’t until I came back from an extended trip to England in 2010 that I started making the cider. That trip was really formative for my cidermaking philosophy.
How would your friends describe you?
Great question, you should probably ask them. I’m an energetic guy and like to keep busy. I like to laugh and love spending my free time in the outdoors. I’m fairly quiet unless you know me well in which case you’ll have a hard time shutting me up.
If you could only drink one cider for the rest of you life, what would it be?
Wow, tough question. I’d probably spend the rest of my life using a wine thief pulling samples out of Tom Olliver’s barrel rooms.
When you’re not making Cider, what are you doing?
I love spending time outdoors. Long distance bike touring is my passion. My wife and I have traveled all over the US, Canada, Iceland and Europe on our bikes. When I’m not doing that, I’m out hiking, enjoying good coffee or reading a good book. Whatever I’m doing, it’s always with my wife and daughter.
What goes into making the perfect cider?
Lot’s of love, time, blood sweat and tears. Good cider apples too. I don’t really believe in the idea of a perfect cider. I get the question all the time what my favorite cider is and I always answer that it depends. What time of year is it? What am I eating with it? There’s a cider for every occasion. What goes into making a great cider is a lot of attention to detail and years of hard work cultivating the right cider apple trees. When you are lucky and the planets align to give you a beautiful harvest to work with, it will still be at least a year before you can make a great cider. Letting harsh tannins mellow into soft complexity is hugely important (and often overlooked!) in the cidermaking process. To me, a great cider is balanced, just off-dry, rich, full-bodied, complex and lightly astringent. I’ve only been able to achieve what I would call a great cider once or twice in the years I’ve been making cider.
What sets Snowdrift apart from other Cideries?
I think what really sets us apart is our cidermaking philosophy. We don’t flavor any of our ciders or perries. We use 50 different cider apple varieties to blend into our products. For us, it’s all about expressing the natural complexity and richness of the apples we cultivate.