Willow Oaks Cider ~ Eric & Lori Rice
Eric Rice bought a 35 acre farm in Middletown in 1985 with plans to build a diverse farm ecosystem. He helped develop the organic certification program in Maryland, and co-founded MOFFA, Maryland Organic Food & Farming Association. Country Pleasures Farm is the oldest certified organic farm in the state, and the only organic orchard.
While organic produce for farm markets in Maryland and DC has been grown on the farm for decades, Eric couldn’t stop dreaming of the dry, complex ciders he met while traveling in Europe. After years of small, test batches, Eric and his partner Lori Leitzel Rice began crafting hard cider from the dozens of varieties of organic apples, pears, and berries in their orchard, and Willow Oaks craft cider was born, circa 2015.
Our portfolio of ciders has grown to 12. We also make 4 port-style dessert wines. Our favorite, “Black Twig” won Governor’s Cup-bronze two years in a row. Lori’s favorite, “Gloaming” won a gold medal and best in class in the 2017 Maryland Governor’s Cup. We are incredibly proud of our collection of medals from Maryland as well as the San Francisco International wine competition.
Everything on our farm happens in collaboration with the ecosystem. The aromas and flavors of the fruit convey a unique sense of place. We try to relate the character of each cider and dessert wine through the images and names on the labels as well. We craft our farmhouse style cider from certified organic, American heirloom apples. Small batch, barrel aged, unfiltered, without added sulfites, fermented to a tart, dry finish, the ciders take 2-4 years from orchard to bottle.
The tasting room, deck, and gardens have abundant, comfortable, private space to tuck in with your dear ones for a glass of cider and a picnic. As appreciators, collectors, and longtime supporters of the local fine art and artisan community, we are thrilled to be joining the Valley Craft Network for the 40th anniversary year.