Salt of the Earth: An Interview with Courthouse Creek Cider

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Liza and Eric Cioffi of Courthouse Creek Cider make their cider with heart, courage and a wholesome mindset. From the time they started planning their agribusiness in 2012, they knew their value was in their family, and hard work meant great reward.

Cider Culture recently had the opportunity to interview Eric, and his passion for cider, family and agribusiness came through loud and clear.

How Things Grow

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Eric and Liza have reminisced on the imagery of an old-world community sharing stories around food and wine. Their hope is to build that same spirit of society around their orchard and products.

They filter their cider, made in a rustic style, through that vision as well. Their method of cider-making is analogous to the natural wine movement. Eric admonished, “I don’t like the idea of manipulating the juice with chemicals and things of that nature.”

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Part of their rustic approach has 80–85% of their juice fermented in wooden barrels. It is “not overly industrialized,” he emphasized. The couple works with holistic and organic methods “to create cider with minimal intervention.”

They do this with their orchard as well. Eric conveyed that they “let the tree figure things out on their own.” As with people, endurance builds character. “Natural stress produces better fruit. Better fruit produces better cider.”

Family Life

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Liza and Eric are growers in more than one sense.

What does it look like to take care of acres of trees, run a cider business and parent four children? “Controlled chaos!” exclaimed Eric. “We look at it as running multiple businesses. The most important one is being parents to four children.” He cherishes the experience. “To do this as a family has been freakin’ awesome.”

As with apples, endurance builds character. The kids may protest the sweat and effort that go into the farm, “but that’s life,” Eric said. His confidence is that they will be able to return to the orchard with friends from college and say, “I helped plant every single one of those with my folks.”

“We do it because it enriches our lives and because we believe in the value of building a small family business.”

Agribusiness

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Eric is a proponent of small agribusiness. “I hope more and more people make the effort or attempt to create agribusiness.” This mentality aspires to build up the people who participate in it and their communities.

“The reality is that small agribusinesses in America face seemingly Sisyphean tasks every day,” noted Eric, referring to the god-defying Greek who was cursed to eternally roll a stone up a hill, only for it to roll down before he reached the top. “We know this is a tough thing to do, but we are committed.” Curses aside, there is still progress.

Eric suggested that within a local network of agribusinesses, “the more opportunity and choice, the better.” This orcharding and cider-making experience is a journey meant to be shared with others.

Courthouse Creek invites you to its Cidermaker’s Dinner on Saturday, November 12, part of Cider Week VA. Chef Michael D’Aquanni will craft a four-course meal to be paired with Courthouse Creek ciders. Email courthousecreek@yahoo.com or call (804) 543-3157 to reserve your spot!

Find Courthouse Creek Cider at the farm at 1581 Maidens Rd. in Maidens, Virginia, and at South of the James Market; you can also contact the cidery to schedule a visit; phone: (804) 543-3157.

  • Top three photos: Mary Bigham
  • Remaining photos: Courthouse Creek

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