For aspiring cidermakers, Branden Welshons and Connor Meznarich of California-based Jean Marie Cidery were given a golden opportunity: complete access to a small orchard in exchange for the maintenance and care of the trees. While taking on this tedious task, weekends for the two were nonexistent, but pulling weeds, pruning and fixing drip lines was worth it to get the foundation of their cider business built.
With the cider industry booming, the two combined Welshons’ business background with Meznarich’s local and international experience in both wine and cidermaking. Being able to open Jean Marie in their home of California’s Central Coast, close to friends and family, was of peak importance: so much that both of their mothers played a part in the cidery’s namesake.
“We went through probably 60 different names that we were thinking of… and Jean Marie is one that really stuck because it was personal and wasn’t just there,” Welshons says of titling the cidery for their mothers’ middle names. “It has more of a story and its really meaningful to Connor and I. It really holds our feet to the fire; we named our company after our moms, we better succeed, no pressure!”
Their admittance to their closeness with their mothers was revealed with the flagship cider, Mama’s Boy. “For Mama’s Boy, we use a local honey to bottle condition with it,” Meznarich says. “It doesn’t lend a lot of sweetness but it lends more of that honeycomb characteristic; the spiciness and the waxiness and a little bit of honey.”
Although jokes are made about the pressure from their mothers, Meznarich and Welshons are proud of their ciders and are excited to have their moms featured in the name of their Cider. “They’ve been nothing but supportive of what were doing,” Welshons says. “It’s kind of our ode to our moms.”
Having outgrown the orchard where they started, the majority of their juice is coming from the Pacific Northwest and great California. Kegged cider has just kicked off for Jean Marie, with seasonals, limited release ciders and expanded distribution outside of California in the pipline.
“We don’t want to flood the market too much, with so many different flavors and so many different combinations,” Welshons says. We want to “be more focused and pointed in directions that are going to work.”
As part of the 10-year plan, Jean Marie is hoping to have an in-house press, orchard and taproom. Although these goals might be further down the road, expansion achieved in 2017 will help fuel the fire into growth and future opportunities for this couple of mamas’ boys.