Paso's Lone Madrone launching pirate-themed hard apple ciders

jrobillard@thetribunenews.comJune 28, 2013 

Lone Madrone has four new varieties of hard apple cider on deck.

The Paso Robles winery’s hard cider brand Bristols is launching a Pirate Series of distinct styles named after legendary plunderers such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack. The additions bring Bristols’ cider total to five, and with new branding comes ramped-up production.

Lone Madrone is not new to the cider business. Owner Neil Collins made the first batch in 1994, but recently, he and the winery’s other owners — Collins’ sister, Jackie Meisinger, and Collins’ wife, Marci Collins — have been wanting to do more.

“It’s ‘a sky’s the limit’ kind of deal,” said Connor Meznarich, a Lone Madrone assistant winemaker who’s heading up cider production. “It’s crazy how fast people in Paso picked up on it.”

Meznarich said that when he started at Lone Madrone in January 2012, the winery’s hard cider production was about 900 gallons a year. Since then, the number of gallons has jumped to 2,500, an amount that could double in the next year, he said.

Hard cider makes up about 5 percent of Lone Madrone’s overall production, according to Meisinger. She would not disclose specific financial information but said year-over-year profits are up.

Bristols uses Lone Madrone’s winery equipment, as well as its own press to juice apples from See Canyon, San Miguel and Paso Robles orchards. For the new varieties, it experimented with hops and yeasts. The Calico Jack and Black Bart hard ciders, for example, are dry hopped; Anne Bonny was aged in bourbon barrels for several weeks; and Blackbeard, which finished with an alcohol content of 13 percent — the highest of the ciders — was aged in bourbon barrels for a year and includes a yeast common in sour beer.

Much of the production is taking place at Grey Wolf Cellars on Highway 46 West, where Lone Madrone rents space.

For now, Meznarich said, Bristols will stick to the five varieties, though there are plans to expand distribution.

The 22-ounce and 750-milliliter bottles, priced $10 to $18, are available for sale only at the winery’s new tasting room at 5800 Adelaida Road. The hard cider also can often be found on tap at about a half-dozen locations in San Luis Obispo County.

“We want to start to move more out of Paso; that’s the goal for distribution,” Meznarich said. “Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Los Angeles would be good.”

The cider business gets its name from Bristol, England, the hometown of the brother-and-sister winery owners.

To celebrate the new releases, Bristols will be selling flights and pints of the hard ciders from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at 15 degrees c in Templeton.

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