After a hailstorm wiped out their stone fruit crop in summer 2021, a family of third-generation farmers at Kranicz Orchards in Harrow, Ont., searched for a creative solution to mitigate the damage.
The new path they were looking for soon led them to Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), but began when Susane Kranicz and her son Joe Bouzide Jr. went to their local homebrew shop. There, they hoped to learn more about experimenting with cider making and sought the advice of Eric Robert on fermenting their fruit.
With Robert’s background in brewing and the Kranicz farm at their disposal, the team trialed several small pilot fermentations. As the number of trials continued to grow, the idea for a business blossomed and with it the desire for a foundational knowledge of cider making.
The group looked to the experts at CCOVI and enrolled in the intensive five-day Cider and Perry Production Foundation program.
“One thing led to another and it just kept getting a little bigger. We thought we could probably do this on a larger scale but decided we wanted to get a cidery course under our belt,” said Robert. “We jumped on the CCOVI program in August 2022 and after completing the course, we made 2,500 litres of peach cider, which was our first big jump into the industry.”
With the bottling of their peach cider, Windmill Ridge Acres was born. In addition to cider, the craft beverage company also specializes in beer and fresh fruit juices.
For Bouzide, who manages the business aspects of Windmill Ridge Acres, the Brock program provided a thorough understanding of each step of the cider-making process, from orchard to shelf.
“As a business owner I personally believe you should understand, even if you’re not an expert, you should know how to do every job,” he said. “I now know every step of the fermentation process and understand the science behind it, and I think that’s huge from a business perspective.”
Robert, who is experienced in brewing beer, appreciated that the program went beyond production.
“The program really gave me an understanding of the legalities, the history of cider, the variation in crops from year to year and how that changes your approach,” he said. “It gave me a good overall picture of the business as a whole.”
Windmill Ridge Acres is scheduled to open this summer and though their home farm focuses on stone fruit, the team has big plans for the upcoming season.
“We’re not counting anything out. If it’s got sugar in it, we plan on fermenting it,” said Robert. “Once the big season hits, we’ll be doing different styles of cider and sparkling fruit juices, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Wherever our dream takes us for now.”
Since Bouzide and Robert completed the cider and perry program in 2022, CCOVI has received approval from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for Ontario’s first micro-credentials in winemaking and cider production.
Both the Cider and Perry Production Foundation and Foundations in Winemaking programs are eligible for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funding. Cider and Perry Production Foundation program will be offered as a micro-credential for the first time beginning Monday, April 17.
For more information or to register for a micro-credential program, visit CCOVI’s professional and continuing studies page.