A New Tasting Room has opened up in Sonoma. It’s something new! Yet, something old and very American – Hard Cider!

Rick Tranchina & Jessica Olson-Ealy just opened one of the few places dedicated to hard cider. Pomme Cider is on Broadway in Sonoma, CA less than a block from the historic plaza. Photo by Jonathan Farrell

As summer heats up in wine country, a new tasting room has just opened steps away from Sonoma’s historic plaza. Yet what makes Pomme Cider unique is instead of grapes it’s all about apples. – hard cider that is.

With recent annual sales of $428.2 million in hard cider in the U.S. owners Rick Tranchina and Jessica Olson-Ealy have found their niche. “We are lucky, said Rick because we wanted to open our business as soon as the pandemic shutdown was over.”

The former frozen yogurt shop on Broadway was ideal because as Rick explained “just about everything was in place, the bare bones was there. “It took about six months said Rick but I did everything myself (in terms of the concept/the interior, etc.) All we had to do was adjust it, remodel it to meet our needs.”

With more than 300 varieties of hard cider, the new cider shop and tasting room in Sonoma has plenty for visitors to taste and enjoy. A nice compliment and also alternative to wine or beer. Photo by Jonathan Farrell

Classified in a similar category as craft beer, hard cider is growing in popularity. Not many people know that at one time apple cider, especially hard cider was the drink of choice for most of America. Think of the legendary “Johnny Appleseed.” At one time, there were more hard cider drinkers than beer drinkers. But Prohibition in the 1920s sought to eradicate all forms of alcohol drinking, including hard cider.

With the rise of the craft beer boom in the 1990s, hard cider can and is definitely following that lead. Yet as Jessica pointed out. “Cider is closer to winemaking than beer brewing.”

In researching before embarking on starting the business, Jessica said. “Whenever I reached out to beverage distributors or various wineries, the overall response was ‘Sonoma needs this.’ It surprised me. Responses from beverage distributors has been encouraging,” she added.

Much of Jessica’s inspiration for hard cider comes from Europe. Jessica who grew up in Davis but went to college at Sonoma State University, discovered the extensive array of ciders while traveling. “Ciders of all sorts can be found all over Europe,” she said.

When Jessica and Rick met, their mutual appreciation of food, drink and hospitality grew into considering opening a business. “We’ve been here in Somoma for over 15 years. And Jessica and I envision something new and refreshing, that compliments wine and food,” said Rick.

For all its beauty and prestige, wine country of Northern California attracts people from all over the world. Many of them are not wine drinkers. “And hard cider is gluten free,” Rick exclaimed. Still, even for the most fervent of teetotalers, Pomme also has a selection of non-alcoholic ciders.

Hard cider is a welcoming alternative, cool and refreshing like beer and chilled wine but it’s not soda either. “That’s one of the things I like about cider, it’s not soda,” said Jessica. It can be mildly fermented (referred to as soft cider) or a bit stronger like an apple bourbon. “Some can even be a bit funky,” said Jessica.

And then there’s food pairings too. “Believe it or not, said Jessica, hard cider goes well with caviar, some ciders can be like champagne; it just depends upon the type of cider.”

Sure there’s beer gardens that serve hard cider. But as Jessica noted they usually only have a few. “We look for interesting ciders from all over, both domestic and imported,” she said. With more than 300 varieties in the United States alone, Jessica & Rick are pulling out all the stops, taking hard cider to another level.

One of the reasons hard cider is served in stem glass is because, ” want people to see the sparkle and take in the aroma, just like wine,” said co-owner Jessica Olson-Ealy. Photo by Jonathan Farrell

Who serves hard cider in a stylish stem glass with a contemporary chandelier overhead? Not many, if any and yet Pomme has a selection on tap, giving the atmosphere an at-ease friendly pub feel. “The reason for a stem glass said Jessica, is because I want people to see the sparkle and take in the aroma, just like wine.” 

Perhaps it’s Rick’s growing up in Santa Cruz, that he is able to blend a subtle leisureliness with a touch of class. In someways that’s what Sonoma is all about.

“We will be making our own cider soon,” said Rick. Meanwhile, people have been making their way to Pomme at 531 Broadway, less than a block from the plaza, the heart of Somoma. For more info visit Pomme Cider on Instagram