Kevin Zielinski is the founder of E. Z. Orchards cider. E.Z., which stands for his great grandfather’s name, Edward Zielinski, walked off the Oregon trail and started the family agriculture business about 150 years ago. It's an operation unlike any other in the US.
Kevin is still working the family farm, shepherding the orchard, growing every apple he uses, right there on his plot in the Willamette valley. He presses into the final blend, he naturally ferments, and he takes it very, very slow. All this effort, and in some cases, withholding intervention, results in some of the most exquisite ciders being made in the US and, some would argue, the world.
This past year, I had a chance to work with Kevin. He was looking for some help with his story and website (he didn’t have a website at all), and I went out to spend a few days with him in the orchard. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. And for a photographer like me, it was sublime. In fact, I’m heading there again this weekend to shoot the harvest. Kevin’s already been texting me photos from the top of the old tractor, showing me the apples, peaches, and pears that are ready to go. Sometime this fall, you’ll see the fruit of that labor as well.
But after hearing Kevin’s story, and the story of the family farm, his process, and his vision for cider, I was motivated to share it with you all through the podcast. He was in Chicago dropping his son off at college downstate, and I asked him to come to the studio, share some of his best cider, and tell us everything he could. And it’s important to me, because as these US cider makers start to consider putting trees into the ground for the first time, I hope they can find some wisdom in Kevin’s approach. If nothing else, it’ll result in the craft cider segment finding a real voice.