The story: Sonoma Cider is just a 4-year-old company established to create craft cider in the middle of Sonoma County where wine reigns supreme even though heirloom apples orchards can also be found here. The young cider company opened a taproom last October to showcase its variety of craft cider as well as create a modern, family-friendly gathering spot off the Healdsburg circuit.
Why I went: Awhile back when I was visiting Healdsburg with my niece Margot, I suggested we grab lunch at Sonoma Cider Taproom because I was curious to see how a non-wine focused restaurant would be like in wine country. The one tricky thing, though, is finding the place. It’s not in the heart of Healdsburg’s popular town square, but is actually in the back of a strip mall before you get into the cute shops and restaurants of Healdsburg. (It’s behind the Parish Cafe and antique shops at the roundabout.) A plus though: lots of parking!
The vibe: The open, industrial space (the fermentation happens on location) is focused at the bar where 23 ciders are poured from tap, and the flat screen TV gives it a sports bar vibe. The patio faces the parking lot, which isn’t the most exciting view, but it’s popular because it’s also dog-friendly. It’s less touristy than downtown Healdsburg, which draw a lot of visitors during the summer. There’s definitely a local, neighborhood vibe.
The booze: The star, naturally, are the ciders, created by David Cordtz and his son Robert. I’m not an expert on cider, and I always forget that cider can feel alcoholic. Sonoma Cider offers really creative flavors, and just as fun names with the likes of “The Pitchfork,” “The Jack Breakfast Cereal,” and “Bananaweizen.” The best way to go is ordering the flight, where you can try six 3-oz. pours for $10 (you can also order a 3 oz-tasting for $2 each).
Of the six ciders I ordered, I was amazed at how different one was from the other, from the color to the taste. My favorite included “The Pulley,” which has a slight absinthe flavor that had that subtle anise and black licorice hints. The “Hopped Cherry” delivers on the name, with the sweet hints of cherry (almost like a cherry beer).
Side note: The menu also includes a selection of wine, beer and specialty cider cocktails if you want to explore something else.
The menu: We got there too late for brunch, so checked out the lunch menu. It’s a bit all over the place, with fresh oysters and charcuterie to a few small bites, a couple of salads, several sandwiches and mac n’ cheese. It’s a bit like a gastropub, which also means there are several fried items, which is why the menu became limiting for me since I don’t like to eat deep-fried foods. Salads sounded healthier, but the two options seemed pretty basic. Margot and I both ended up gravitating to the same item: the pork banh mi ($14), which is the Vietnamese sandwich but using braised pork shoulder. They get their baquette from the nearby Costeaux French bakery. The sandwich was hefty and good, but it wasn’t necessarily a flavor bomb.
We actually were more impressed by the wild yellow fin poke ($13), which came out looking a bit sloppy, but the flavor was spot on for the diced yellow fin tuna with tamari and sesame oil on crunchy wonton crackers that retained their crunch (I always hate soggy wontons).
My favorite dish: While the poke was good, I actually felt the highlight of my lunch was the cider tasting. It was fun and I enjoyed the refreshing cider with my food.
The last bite: Sonoma Cider Taproom is a nice alternative of you’re looking for something to breakup your day of wine tasting. The food is a bit predictable but it’s delivered with friendly service in a casual, unpretentious environment. With the crowds at Healdsburg Square, Sonoma Cider Taproom is a quiet escape from the crowds.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Sonoma Cider Taproom, 44F Mill St., Healdsburg, Calif. PH: 707.723.7018. Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Website
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