Elevating the apple to greatness since 2011

At its core, Tilted Shed Ciderworks is a hobby gone wild. The trouble started in 2007. We were living on a small farm in Northern New Mexico, trying our hand at organic market farming while freelancing and raising our baby. On our land was an old, gnarled, neglected apple orchard. Being a bit of a mad scientist with a fermentation habit, Scott decided that our bumper crop of Jonathans, Goldens, and Red Delicious would make good drink.

So, with our infant son in one arm, Ellen lobbed apples into the hopper of our barrel press, while Scott cranked and pressed. Scott then put up the juice in the barn for a long, slow fermentation. A few months later, we were amazed with the results. Inspired, we began tasting regional ciders made from European and American cider apples. An obsession began.

After a few years of studying, researching, and making cider with the intent of going pro, we moved to the historic apple-growing region (now wine country) of west Sonoma County and launched Tilted Shed Ciderworks in the spring of 2011. We believe that the same terroir that produces spectacular Russian River Valley wine grapes translates to growing phenomenal cider apples.

Our mission is to elevate the apple to greatness by making world-class ciders that are revelatory and sublime, with a distinct sense of place and point of view. To achieve this goal, we have planted a 2-acre cider orchard at our Sebastopol farm. It’s a pomological research station. We are conducting trials of more than 100 traditional cider apple and perry pear varieties, some of which are so rare we are likely the only ones growing them in Sonoma County. The tannic cider varieties were selected throughout the centuries, primarily in the UK and France, specifically for cider production, and provide nuance, structure, and elegance.

We harvest, hand-sort, wash, grind, and press up to 65 heirloom and traditional cider apple varieties in season and in small batches. Nearly all of our apples are grown in Sonoma County (we also like to work with Newtown Pippins from Pajaro Valley), and most are certified organic. We don’t rush the process or cheat: no imported apples, bulk juice, concentrate, colorings, flavorings, or fast fermentations. Just apples and time. The results are food-friendly, savory ciders of unexpected complexity, elegant structure, gorgeous aromatics, and long finish.

And yes, there really is a tilted shed on our farm. It’s so decrepit it’s a wonder it’s still standing. But we consider that a good sign. If it can beat the odds, then so can a cidery smack-dab in the middle of wine country!

Scott Heath was a master printer of intaglio with a fermentation habit until he traded in his etching press for the apple press in 2011, launching Tilted Shed Ciderworks with his wife, Ellen Cavalli.

Scott is the Tilted Shed cidermaker and orchardist, handling all aspects of grower relations, orchard practices, pressing, fermentation, and bottling. He has studied with UK cider expert Peter Mitchell and toured Spanish cider country, meeting with and learning from top orchardists and cidermakers there.

Ellen is ostensibly the sales and marketing director, but considers herself more of a cider evangelist and educator, on a mission to increase the public’s cider IQ. A longtime book and magazine editor, she is also the editor and publisher of Malus, a quarterly print zine that is focused on elevating the national conversation about cider in America.

Together, Scott and Ellen graft and grow over 150 varieties of rare cider apples, perry pears, and seedlings on their Sebastopol farm; source organic apples from local growers, make fine ciders that showcase the terroir of Sonoma County; and preach the good word of cider and cider apples to whomever will listen! Scott and Ellen both have a profound respect for the rich, ancient heritage of cider, and read, research, learn, and drink (!) as much as possible to further expand their cider worldview.

San Francisco Bay Area natives, Scott and Ellen grew up in Alameda, California, have known each other since the first grade, been together since 1996, and married since 2001. Nomads in search of a place to set down roots, they have also lived in New York City, New Jersey, and New Mexico. In 2010, they found their forever home in west Sonoma County, on a 5.4-acre Sebastopol farm, which they share with their son, dog, chickens, cats, and sheep.

They and their ciders have been featured in Wine Spectator, Vogue, PUNCH, Outside, Sunset, San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, North Bay Bohemian, Sonoma Magazine, Edible Marin & Wine Country, San Jose Mercury News, NPR, and Serious Eats, among many others. They regularly present and host cidermaking, educational, and cider pairing workshops, are proud members of Sonoma County Farm Trails, and support other local community and agricultural efforts.

David Ridenhour started out by giving us a hand back in 2013, and has since become our Exterminatore Malus (Apple Destroyer), in charge of the apple washing, sorting, and grinding. He is also our field sales rep. A Sonoma County native and Gulf War veteran, David also runs Agrestic Ferments, making cider, wine, and mead.