The best cider starts with heirloom varieties of apples. At least that’s what Kanin Routson prefers. Kanin, along with his wife Tierney, brother Cody and sister in law Claire, operate Stoic Cider on a farm near Prescott, Ariz.
The quest to find just-right cider apples has taken Kanin to abandoned orchards and forgotten trees all over the Southwest. He uses genetic studies and tree-ring dating to identify unique varieties of apples and pinpoint ages of the trees. Apples like Newton Pippin, American Golden Russet, Winesap and others have proven best in Arizona’s climate.
All this work is part of Stoic Cider’s R.A.D effort—Restoring Apple Diversity.
Kanin obtains seeds and takes grafts from old heritage varieties and raises them in a nursery on a 60-acre farm in Williamson Valley. It was refurbished and certified in 2017 as a food processing facility, giving Stoic the green light to produce hard cider.
Apples are hand-picked from some 150 trees, mostly in the fall, while others are sourced from orchards across the West. White wine yeast is added to the fresh-pressed juice, then it’s fermented in a slow, cold process for about four weeks. After the primary fermentation, the cider is transferred into tanks and wood barrels for months of maturation. So far, they’ve bottled about 2,000 gallons a year but hope to scale up.
The process requires a close eye—because look, smell and taste tell when the cider is ready.
Kanin says the Stoic crew is constantly learning about the cider-making process. But one thing they know for sure, it always starts with the quality of the apple.