The Williams family knows apples. And they should: For more than 100 years, five generations of Williamses have been lovingly tending to millions of trees on Colorado’s Western Slope, growing fruit primarily for grocery store produce aisles. For the last 10 or so years, they’ve also been using that time-tested expertise to transform their apples (plus some pears, plums, and peaches) into hard cider, with Kari Williams at the helm of their estate-grown Snow Capped Cider brand.

Williams has spent much of the last decade honing her cider-making craft, learning everything she can about this centuries-old practice and drawing inspiration from high-end French and English styles. Now, she’s put all that studying, hard work, and experimentation into Snow Capped’s new bottled line of specialty and reserve ciders, which feature single varietals and aged blends that range from still to sparkling. All are made exclusively with fruit grown in the Williams’ orchards, which encompass some 1.5 million trees grown all over Delta County.

Williams and her husband Ty Williams, a fourth-generation grower in the family, started making cider as a hobby roughly 10 years ago (the family also grows grapes and makes wine under the name Williams Cellars). Williams quickly realized they were making something special. Because their orchards sit at such a high elevation—6,130 feet—the apples are subjected to harsh sun and UV exposure, which stresses them out. The trees pump acid through their branches, which leads to a high sugar content in the apples. All of this translates to delicious cider. “I want to rival France and England with Colorado apples,” she says. “We hope to put Colorado on the map with our hyper-expressive flavors.”  

Snow Capped Cider owner Kari Williams. Photo courtesy of Snow Capped Cider

The reserve line is Williams’ “love letter” to her apples, she says. Working in small batches and adjusting the process as she went, Williams tested dozens of single apple varietals before narrowing it down to four: Ashmead’s Kernel, Dabinett, Harrison, and Kingston Black. Each single-varietal cider, many of which are already racking up awards at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition and the Great American Cider Competition, is different but shows off the Western Slope’s high-elevation terroir: The Harrison cider, for example, is balanced, crisp, and sweet, while the Dabinett gives off an inviting butterscotch aroma. The Kingston Black, made from a distinctive, dark red apple first made popular by English cider-makers, has hints of black pepper and leather.

Williams also spent years perfecting the ciders in her specialty line, which features single varietals and blends made with experimental and traditional finishes. The Spiced Peach English Apple is a blend of English cider apples, peaches, and fall spices aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months, while the Wickson Crab uses the scrappy crab apples the Williams have planted to help promote pollination in their orchards. The Blanc Mollet is made from a bittersweet, French, cider-specific apple that’s been aged in pear brandy barrels. “I adore her and I call her my romantic French lady,” Williams says of the Blanc Mollet apple varietal. “The cider has notes of pear and is just lovely.”

Although growing apples and making cider are far from easy endeavors, Williams says she wouldn’t have it any other way. The orchards and, now, the growing cider business, are at the core of the family’s story—and she hopes they’ll be part of Colorado’s, too. “Our entire livelihood comes from growing apples—it’s our heritage,” she says. “Honestly, it’s just loving food and beverage the way I do and understanding what I can do to put Colorado on the map. I’m very passionate about teaching the consumers about high-end ciders and about the flavors we can produce. I want people to understand cider as they do wine, with terroir, that what I can do with apples at this elevation is something that’s unsurpassed.”

Ciders can be found at Front Range retailers like Molly’s Spirits, Wyatt’s Wet Goods, or Hazel’s Beverage World. Or use the cider finder on Snowcapped Cider’s website to find your nearest retailer. 

Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta
Sarah Kuta is Colorado-based writer and editor. She writes about travel, lifestyle, food and beverage, fitness, education and anything with a great story behind it.