We’re excited to share a taste of life at Apple County with you on our new blog. This post, we will be explaining what this special part of the world has to offer and also giving you a little insight into our lives as cider-markers.
Where is Apple County?
Our cider is made on Whitehouse Farm at Skenfrith in Monmouthshire. This lush county is nestled between the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is peppered with historic castle sites. From Whitehouse Farm, we enjoy stunning views across the Monnow valley where the river marks the Welsh border. The ruins of 3 Norman Castles which once controlled entry into Wales lie within just a few miles of the farm. [Skenfrith Castle, Grosmont Castle, and White Castle.]
Our cider orchards were planted in 1969. They were some of the first cider orchards to be terraced, allowing more sunlight to reach the trees. The fertile red earth of this area is rich in iron, and the micro-climate on the farm means cold, cleansing winters and a warm growing season. All these things keep the apple trees happy, producing bountiful fruit with great flavour.
Who are Apple County?
Apple County Cider is a family business. We are husband and wife Ben and Steph, plus our young son Francis who loves to run amidst the apple trees.
Before Ben answered the call to cider-making, he worked in music publishing and lived in London. But he held onto vivid childhood memories of walking the blossom-filled orchards with his stepfather and helping to haul in the apple harvest. Ben’s stepfather Jimmy grew apples under contract to a national cider-maker. It wasn’t until later in life, that Jimmy experimented with making his own real cider and encouraged Ben to join him.
Ben had always been a cider-drinker. Being a coeliac, he was happily never distracted by lesser, cereal-based drinks (i.e. beer). Since returning home to become a full-time cider maker in 2008, Ben has won many awards. Recent accolades include Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in the International Cider Challenge 2015, and 2 and 3 star Great Taste Awards, culminating in a prestigious Golden Fork award for the best food & drink product in Wales!
On a glorious summer day in 2011, as the new hay was being baled and gathered in, Ben and Steph were married at the local church at Skenfrith. The reception was held back on the farm and there was plenty of cider on tap to mark occasion. Indeed Skenfrith still has a few tales to tell of that night’s happy revelry!
Steph grew up in the North-West, but now whole-heartedly devotes herself to family life and Apple County. She is the vital right hand of the business, supporting customers, developing the Apple County brand and keeping the admin ship-shape. But being constantly busy, by no means dampens her creative spirit. She is passionate about opening people’s eyes to the joys of real cider, and exploring new frontiers in cider-craft.
We hope we’ve given you a little glimpse into life at Apple County Cider Co. If you are interested to learn more about why we make cider and how we do it, please do read on to the next post on ‘Craft and Graft’.