By Karen West
Richard Wasson’s creative energy is flowing out the back door and up the hillside at the ever-expanding Methow Valley Ciderhouse.
A spacious new back yard that includes a stage for live music, a dance floor, picnic tables and much more opened in early July. Diverse musicians ranging from the opening act for the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival to a string quartet performing as part of the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival already have played the venue. And Wasson has live music booked for upcoming Friday and Saturday nights. Need more choices? How about the open mic night or the drum circle open to all?
“We want people to have fun,” says Wasson, as he points out back yard opportunities for kids and adults to play games from corn hole to horseshoes, bocce ball to foosball. There’s a new fire pit (for cooler days), a landscaped hillside with beach-chair seating and a concrete pad where barbecue will be served one or two nights a week as soon as the equipment arrives later this month.
Wasson and his wife, Lynne, opened the ciderhouse and restaurant, on Highway 20 just outside Winthrop, in May 2016. The couple owns 15 acres of orchard up the East Chewuch Road, where their cider fruit is grown and where they opened a tasting room in 2007. But the new place propelled them into a new world just as interest in cider exploded.
“Cider is the fastest-growing segment of the beverage industry,” Wasson says. “We were one of 14 cideries that joined the Northwest Cider Association in 2010. Now there are more than 100 members.”
They’ve also gone from two employees at the orchard/tasting room 18 months ago to a staff of 15. Cidermaker Dave Thompson and Wasson are brewing six ciders. Thompson will continue his training this fall at a week-long class taught by British cider guru Peter Mitchell, whose classes trade publications credit with boosting domestic interest in the craft.
Wasson is very proud of the medals bestowed on two Methow Valley Ciderhouse brews at this year’s Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, commonly called the GLINTCAP.
“We won a gold medal for our Howling Wolf cider and a bronze for Pinnacle Goat,” Wasson said. But it’s the Town Deer brew that’s making his day this summer. Sales are up 60 percent over last year, he says.
As for the future, the ever-exuberant Wasson has plans for his something-for-everyone establishment — a “trail of laughter” along the hillside, perhaps a slack line. Stay tuned.