The Williams family knows apples. And they should: For more than 100 years, five generations of Williams have lovingly tended millions of trees on the West Slope of Colorado, growing fruit primarily for the grocery aisles. For the past ten years or so, they have also used this proven expertise to transform their apples (as well as a few pears, plums and peaches) into hard cider, with Kari Williams at the head of their field. Snowy cider Mark.
Williams has spent much of the past decade honing her craft of cidering, learning all she can about the age-old practice, and drawing inspiration from high-end French and English styles. Now, she’s put all that study, hard work and experimentation into Snow Capped’s new line of specialty and reserve ciders, which features unique varietals and aged blends ranging from still to sparkling. All are made exclusively with fruit grown in Williams’ Orchards, which include some 1.5 million trees grown throughout Delta County.
Williams and her husband Ty Williams, a fourth-generation grower in the family, started making cider as a hobby about 10 years ago (the family also grows grapes and makes wine under the name Williams Cellars). Williams quickly realized they were doing something special. Because their orchards are at such a high elevation (6,130 feet), apples are subjected to sun and UV exposure, which puts them under stress. Trees pump acid through their branches, which leads to high sugar content in apples. All of this translates into a delicious cider. “I want to compete with France and England with Colorado apples,” she said. “We hope to put Colorado on the map with our hyper-expressive flavors.”
The reserve line is Williams’ “love letter” to her apples, she said. Working in small batches and adjusting the process as they went, Williams tested dozens of unique apple varieties before narrowing it down to four: Ashmead’s Kernel, Dabinett, Harrison and Kingston Black. Each single-varietal cider, many of which have already been awarded Great American Cider Competition, is different but highlights the high altitude terroir of the western slope: Harrison cider, for example, is balanced, lively and sweet, while Dabinett gives off an inviting aroma of toffee. Kingston Black, made from a distinctive dark red apple first popularized by English cider growers, has black pepper and leather notes.
Williams has also spent years perfecting the ciders in its specialty line, which includes unique varietals and elaborate blends with experimental and traditional finishes. The Spiced Peach English Apple is a blend of English cider apples, peaches and fall spices aged in bourbon casks for 18 months, while the Wickson Crab uses the scrappy crab apples the Williams planted for promote pollination in their orchards. Blanc Mollet is made from a sweet and sour apple, specific to French cider, which has been aged in pear brandy barrels. “I love her and call her my romantic French lady,” Williams says of the Blanc Mollet apple variety. “The cider has pear notes and is just lovely.”
While growing apples and making cider are far from easy, Williams says she wouldn’t have done it any other way. The orchards, and now the growing cider business, are central to the family’s history, and she hopes they will be part of Colorado’s as well. “All of our livelihood comes from growing apples, it’s our heritage,” she says. “Honestly, it’s just loving food and drink the way I do and figuring out what I can do to put Colorado on the map. I am very passionate about teaching consumers about premium ciders and the flavors we can produce. I want people to understand cider like wine, with the terroir, that what I can do with apples at this altitude is unmatched.
Ciders can be found at Front Range retailers like Molly’s Spirits, Wyatt’s Wet Goods, or Hazel’s Beverage World. Or use the Cider search on the Snowcapped Cider website to find your nearest dealer.