Ice cider success
by Lorne McClinton
Starting a new business is never easy. It is even more difficult when you have to learn everything about it from the bottom up. Charles Crawford and his wife Susan knew almost nothing about running a cidery before they purchased a 430-acre orchard near Frelighsburg, Que. in 2000. Fortunately, they were able to save a lot of time and avoid mistakes by hiring people who had the knowledge and skills they needed. Today, their cidery, Domaine Pinnacle, is one of Quebec’s leading producers of ice cider.
The Crawfords, like many Canadians, had a dream of some day living in the country. It might have remained just a fantasy for the Crawfords too until they spotted a for sale sign on the orchard during a family ski trip and fell in love with the place.
They knew if they ever wanted to make a living from the property, they would have to find something more lucrative than growing apples. “The margins were just too slim,” Crawford says.
Crawford found his solution by chance. During a tour of the orchard he was told about Christian Barthomeuf, a local man who had spent the last 10 years developing ice cider. The process is somewhat similar to that used to make ice wine. It starts with a late-season apple, picked after the first frost. The apples are pressed into juice and the apple liquor is separated and allowed to ferment for eight months. It takes about 80 apples to make one 375-ml bottle of Pinnacle Ice Cider.
Ice cider is becoming very popular in Quebec and is slowly gaining fans across Canada. It now accounts for 70 per cent of sales in the Société Des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) local product section.
“Christian is the father of ice cider, he basically invented it,” Crawford says. “I set up a meeting with him and tried some of the products he had worked on. I thought here is a great opportunity to do a little transformation business.”
There was just one problem. Crawford’s background was in marketing and distribution. “I didn’t have any knowledge about the apple business,” Crawford says. Fortunately, he didn’t feel the need to do everything himself and struck a deal with Barthomeuf to make ice cider for him.
Even with Barthomeuf’s help, Crawford still had a steep learning curve. But Domaine Pinnacle now has 10 full- and part-time employees with another 25 part-time people during picking, bottling and pressing.
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