Published in SLO New Times Dec. 4, 2014
By Hayley Thomas/Photos By Kaori Funahashi
Owning and operating a small business is inevitably hectic. Luckily for the guys at Reef Points Hard Cider, a daily surf break is usually in order. When it comes to catching sweet waves, owners Patrick Martinez and Dane Jacobs are serious indeed: They hit the Cayucos water immediately after our seaside interview. Because when the surf’s good, you go for it.
Prior to the shred sesh, we sat down for a low key chat punctuated by joyful gulps of the duo’s bone dry Kid Neptune, a local favorite and recent Wine Enthusiast “100 Best Buys of 2014” pick. With the foam splashing against the Cayucos Pier and the November sun just beginning to dip behind the blue expanse, we agreed that there couldn’t be a better setting for sipping the fruits of their labor.
“This blend, in particular, is really light and subtle, a real beach cider,” Martinez said. “It’s a great before-dinner drink, and always a conversation piece.”
With holiday meals and parties stacking up—and the inevitable egg nog fatigue that will no doubt follow—Jacobs suggested pairing the slightly effervescent, ultra-crisp cider with pork, lamb, and meaty cuts of fish like halibut and yellow tail.
“This is what you want to be drinking when everyone’s gathered around the table and reconnecting over what everyone’s been up to,” Jacobs said. “What we do always comes back to sharing with good friends.”
The former roommates and pals, 29, relish living in Cayucos. Jacobs is a boat caption and owner of Red Anchor Charters, while Patrick commutes to Paso Robles’ Niner Wine Estates, where he proudly serves as cellar master.
When the friends aren’t making cider at a shared commercial facility in Paso, you can find them surfing, boogie boarding, body surfing, or just plain swimming with the fish. Their love of the Central Coast cannot be overstated—especially with a tagline like, “From our galley to your belly, may you drink and return to the sea.”
I should add that you don’t have to own a jar of surf wax to pop open a wax-covered Reef Points cap. Nor do you need to know a heck of a lot about cider. One helpful suggestion, from me to you: Forget everything you know about the saccharine sweet commercially-produced varieties.
Reef Points is unique, and it all starts with the fruit.
Their apples—pippins, golden delicious, and braeburns for Kid Neptune—are sourced from family-owned Gizdich Ranch, located in Watsonville. Unlike larger, more watery apples you might eat for a sweet snack, this fruit is grown and pressed for its cider-specific characteristics.
“The coastal influence and cooler climate make for a really great cider apple,” Jacobs said. “You are getting a lot more tannin, more acid, and less sugar.”
Less sugar also means less alcohol, and Kid Neptune sits at about 7%. Martinez creates his cider like he does his wine: With balance, diligence, and a scientist’s attention to detail. As it turns out, cidermaking and winemaking go hand in hand.
“I actually make our cider in the style of a red and a white wine,” Martinez said. “We put it through primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation, and then finish it off with a bottle fermentation. It’s this amorphous thing; it’s not like champagne, it’s not like red wine, and it’s not like white wine. It’s definitely a different beast.”
While Martinez tackles most of the production side, Jacobs, a Cal Poly business graduate, is the gregarious salesman with the glowing grin. After just two years, the company is producing about 1,200 cases annually and gearing up to take on new and exciting flavor profiles. Case in point: Reef Points’ olallieberry-spiked hard cider, a mix of apple juice and the tart, native berry. The limited release will be sold in champagne splits, and I can only hope they’ll be ready by Valentine’s Day.
“The color is absolutely incredible and the flavor is really unique,” Jacobs said, adding that three-month wait should be well worth it. “Everything that we do, we allow to barrel age and take its sweet time,” he said.
Ready to pick up your own stash of Reef Points for the holidays? Bottles are located throughout San Luis Obispo County with about 10 new locales popping up in the Santa Cruz area. Next up: Santa Barbara and San Diego (not surprisingly, also killer surf spots).
For Jacobs and Martinez, all work and no play makes for a dull cider. Every week, the duo drives up to Santa Cruz, which allows time to unwind, laugh, and talk business. Martinez is known to sing a little, too, truth be told.
“We have a truck with no radio, so we just talk,” Jacobs said. “We think up new ideas, head out to the orchard, and surf. As this business progresses and grows, we are looking forward to the opportunity to put 100 percent into this dream, and we are excited to see so many other local cider producers putting their name out there.”
Added Martinez, “There’s a lot of good apples out there.”
And, if their deep tans are any indication, a lot of good waves, too.