The Gravenstein apple is the pride of Sonoma County’s little town of Sebastopol. There are roads named after the sweet-tart fruit as well as an annual fair and a Main Street parade. In spite of all this apple appreciation, the fact is the Gravs are being supplanted by more profitable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. In the 1940s there were nearly 10,000 acres of Gravenstein orchards. Today, there are less than 600.
"The Gravenstein apple is the pride of Sonoma County’s little town of Sebastopol"
But the apple has a future thanks in part to Sebastopol’s Golden State Cider Co. The 10-year-old company started at the local farmers market and is now California’s No. 1 cider brand. In addition to the aforementioned Gravenstein, the company is dedicated to showcasing California and Pacific Northwest apples varieties through its ciders. The company is part of a cider renaissance that is reviving appreciation of lesser-known apple varieties like the Black Twig, Newtown Pippin, and Ozark Gold.
"Golden State Cider is part of a cider renaissance"
The company’s Harvest Series of ciders celebrates the taste and terroir of California apples from Ventura County to Mendocino County. The Core Series feature apples from Oregon and Washington with subtle, but distinct natural flavors added like ginger root, lemon grass, hibiscus, and even Columbus hops. The small run Specialty Series features hard-to-find apples and taproom-only cider. The Farms-to-Cider features a wide variety of apples from over 100 tiny and not so tiny orchards in Sonoma County. Proceeds from the cider support Farm to Pantry, a local nonprofit that tackles food insecurity.
"The Harvest Series of ciders celebrates the taste and terroir of California apples"
While the ciders each showcase their unique flavors, all are on the dry side, making them thirst quenching and food friendly and a great (and gluten-free) alternative to beer. Golden State is a small company that makes a big difference by buying from family farms, minimizing their water use, and employs a closed loop system that uses its pressed apples for livestock feed. Packaging is 100 percent recyclable. The can holders are made from recycled milk jugs. The company’s environmental ethos expands even further. For purchases of their Mello Green, hop-flavored cider, a portion of sales are donated to support the Joshua Tree National Park Association and the Redwood Parks Conservancy. In a nod their sea otter mascot Seamus, a portion of Seamus plushy sales are donated to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
"Golden State is a small company that makes a big difference"
To really appreciate the ciders and their homegrown roots, stop in at their airy and inviting Sebastopol taproom. Located in the Barlow market district, home to Travel Agent favorites like Acre Pizza, Crooked Goat Brewing and Guayaki yerba mate, you can belly up to enjoy the full line-up of ciders, in-house specials, live music on Fridays and even an apple brandy cocktail made from - you guessed it - local Gravenstein apples and aged in French oak barrels.