Jefferson County Cider Works, a brewery and orchard that recently opened in Fairfield, is arriving at the perfect time.
American thirst for hard cider has exploded over the past few years, with sales growing at a rate of 75 percent over the past year according to a study by IRI, and Jesse Narducci, the man behind Jefferson County Cider Works, hopes his model can help combat one of the bigger problems cider producers are currently facing: there aren’t enough apples.
“There is a cider fruit shortage and need in not only in the American market, but in the world,” said Narducci. “I have focused on seeking out rare varietals from all over the world, purchasing trees from different vendors as well as collecting budwood and grafting our own trees. I’m trying to create a diverse and unique stock of trees that have disappeared from the American landscape, where cider apples once thrived.”
Prior to starting Jefferson County Cider Works, Narducci has worked as a professional photographer in Los Angeles, but he has always dreampt of opening a cider brewery.
“Homebrewing was a hobby of mine, and I kind of just fell into cidermaking, it was a natural transition, experimenting with fermentation of all sorts,” said Narducci. “Jefferson County Cider Works was born at the start of the orchard transition — I have always had the goal to produce my own cider commercially. In late 2013, I decided to incorporate and get the ball rolling, moving from Los Angeles back to Iowa.”
Narducci says that he has been making cider since this past fall and expects to start selling in a limited number of bars when paperwork is finished. In the meantime, Narducci is focusing on building an effective infrastructure as his orchard grows and the operation transitions from hobby to serious business. He’s also continuing to purchase apples locally and from around the Midwest to expand his yearly yield.
“For the past five years, I’ve been planting cider trees,” said Narducci. “Each year one orchard gets closer to production, and/or produces more usable fruit. The yields are low now, but continue to grow. We will be adding another orchard to the west of our property with another 500 trees.”
Soon, Jefferson County Cider Works hopes to grow into the premier destination for all things cider in Iowa. In late summer or fall, Narducci plans to open a tap room and orchard where visitors can taste and learn about true American hard cider on the farm. He plans to distribute to many bars, restaurants and stores across Iowa.
“I think the American consumers’ palates are continually evolving, and it’s a natural progression from artisan wines, craft beer, as well as embracing American traditions,” he said. “People love the rich history of early America, and cider has played such a role in those years. It’s a crop that makes sense, and Iowa is the perfect place to embrace it.”