Production begins at Riveridge Cider
Riveridge has expanded with the opening of Riveridge Cider Co., a 17,400-square-foot facility cold pressing and bottling blended fresh apple cider as well as varietal blends of Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp in Grant, Michigan. The facility will is fully operational with the capacity to fill and bottle 30,000 gallons a day.
Twenty-two-year cider veteran, Eric Rockafellow, has been leading the charge of the operation which began this past spring by converting existing controlled atmosphere storage buildings into a modern, year-round producing cidery. Rockafellow is tasked with managing every aspect of the supply chain – from sourcing apples to helping to service the customer making sure they’re getting the order quality and quantity promised.
“Having a backdrop of modern vertical and V-trellis orchards right outside our doors – a nearly 360 degree view of apple trees, makes Riveridge Cider Co truly farm to bottle,” said Rockafellow, operations manager. “Building a cidery from scratch provides a number of opportunities to pick and choose what’s important when it comes to equipment, variety blends, etc to make the cider we want to make – one with consistent flavor no matter the time of year.”
“Riveridge markets about 35 percent of the Michigan fresh apple crop positioning Riveridge Cider uniquely to source the best of Michigan’s cider apples,” the company said in a news release. “At the same time, often less than 50 percent of the fresh apples make it into a consumer package to be consumed as fresh apples. This extra inventory is poised for great tasting cider.”
When creating the vision for Riveridge Cider Co, one of the main goals was consistent flavor. This played a factor when selecting equipment for the operation. The company installed German pressing equipment purpose-built for high-end wine making. This precision equipment, all-stainless holding and mixing tanks and a continuous cold chain from pressing through to delivery, ensures quality of flavor and safety for the consumer. The entire operation is backed by a quality assurance team and an in-house lab for analyzing quality and safety.
“Thanks to our many years in the produce business and the invaluable relationships, we felt we were uniquely positioned to market and grow Michigan cider,” said Don Armock, president of Riveridge Produce Marketing. “We want to encourage the consumption of fresh Michigan cider year round and by building our own facility, we are able to get to the capacity the market has been calling for.”
The first bottles will roll off the line Sept. 8 beginning with the blended gallon and half gallons. As the Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp apple varieties are harvested, cider will ramp up production on the varietal blends.
Riveridge Produce Marketing is a vertically-integrated apple grower/packer/shipper/marketer headquartered in Sparta, Michigan, a unique growing region in West Michigan in part due to the elevation, proximity to Lake Michigan and ideal soil conditions.
The company said it represents one-third of Michigan’s fresh apple crop and is “leading the way in food safety, new orchard technology and innovation in sales and marketing.”
Photo above: Riveridge Cider’s half-gallon variety line.