Hard cider is making a comeback, with Bold Rock leading the way

Who knew someone with a psychology background would wind up happily owning and operating a cider company, producing a popular brand of hard cider drinks.

John Washburn — a graduate of Duke University who spent over a decade as a psychologist and school counselor — has done just that.

“It’s been the most enriching thing I could have imagined,” Washburn said of his work building his brand, Bold Rock Hard Cider.

Washburn’s adventure actually began when he moved to Charlottesville in 1986 and purchased a farm in Nellysford on Va. 151 in Nelson County.

A few years later, in 1990, he moved to New Zealand and met Brian Shanks.

“He was the top-rated cider maker in the world,” Washburn said.

Washburn laughed as he talked about his return to the U.S. 10 years later, his decision to turn his loved property in Nellysford into a cidery, and his plot to lure Shanks into joining him in starting up that company.

“I flew him in here three times. The last time, he said, ‘let’s do it,’” Washburn said. The two have been partners in the business ever since.

The facility in Nellysford has been renovated several times since it opened in 2012. The Bold Rock Cider Barn simply had to get bigger, Washburn said.

“We couldn’t produce our ciders fast enough,” he said.

Hard ciders have gone through a resurgence in recent years, but have mostly leveled off this year — with Bold Rock being one exception.

In 2015, Bold Rock expanded, adding the Bold Rock Tap Room at Carter Mountain, just outside Charlottesville, and Mills River Cidery in Mills River, North Carolina.

The sites offer tours and tastings, spectacular views and — at Carter Mountain — the chance to pick apples at Carter Mountain Orchard. All of the sites use locally-sourced apples, Washburn said.

Recently, a second building was added to the Nellysford site, which they call the Barrel Barn, used for storing ciders and as a backup site for people to drop in to taste and purchase the ciders.

“We had to turn people away when we had private parties at the cider barn,” Washburn said. “Now, even if it’s rented out, we can serve people.”

Shanks operates from the Nellysford site, while Washburn is stationed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — the center of the company’s current 10-state distribution area, Washburn said.

He may be stationed elsewhere, but he is in Nellysford often, traveling there at least once a week most of the time. Washburn said he has been enjoying driving through his hometown of Danville and stopping to enjoy the changes being made, particularly in the River District.

Washburn is enthusiastic about sales, and said the company just keeps growing — and he has a few ideas he’s tossing around for new products to add.

“It’s been a fun, fun thing,” Washburn said.

The cidery currently produces a dozen hard ciders, eight regularly produced and four seasonal varieties.

Washburn said he is particularly excited about a new cider they are releasing this week, Orchard Frost.

“It’s amazing,” Washburn said. “We’re very excited about it.”

With a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, it might just be the perfect addition to your Holiday gatherings.


Full Article by Denice Thibodeau can be found on Work It, SOVA