The Durango Herald
Outlier Cellars opens tasting room in Mancos
Artisanal cider showcases region’s apple heritage
By Mj Carroll Special to the Herald
Inspired by Southwest Colorado’s historic orchard legacy, the region’s soil, water and climate and the art of craft cider from around the world, Sam Perry and Neal Wight, owners of Outlier Cellars, have opened a tasting room in Mancos, featuring their locally produced Fenceline cider.
Fenceline cider is crafted from a blend of fruit from both Montezuma County and Animas Valley. Some of the fruit is grown on trees that are nearly 100 years old. Now available at their 12-tap tasting room in the heart of Mancos, several single varietal ciders, a reserve cider and a barrel-fermented cider are on draught, along with other ciders from Colorado, including Teal Cider from Dolores and Stem Cider from Denver. Wine and non-alcoholic sparking cider is also on tap.
The simple and refined rustic décor of the tasting room at Outlier Cellars presents a warm atmosphere, inviting locals and travelers to sip and learn a thing or two about craft cider.
“We want to show people what craft cider is and how different our products are from the super sweet commercial varieties,” Perry said. “We want to be a connection point where people can taste and learn about cider, production practices, the orchards and local apple history.”
With the goal of enlightening the people of Southwest Colorado to the taste of craft cider and its historical significance in the region, Fenceline hopes to become the go-to, gluten-free alternative cider option on tap across all local bars, restaurants and liquor store shelves in the area.
The idea has been three years in the making, but it wasn’t until a year ago that Perry and Wight co-founded Outlier Cellars and began production of the cider. The partners leased the tasting room and production facility in Mancos beginning in September 2017. Outlier is on the banks of the Mancos River, across from Absolute Bakery.
Perry says the outpouring of support from the local community has been helpful. The tasting room hours and location are prime for a Mancos local drinking hole, a place for tourists to unwind after a day at Mesa Verde or an après-ski, hike or bike spot for those passing through Mancos.
“Our vibe is Old West meets New West,” Perry said. “We welcome you to ride a bike or a horse to Outlier Cellars. It’s a place where everyone can come get a taste of the best of Montezuma County.”
With a vision that goes beyond cider, Outlier Cellars will eventually begin to produce wine and other craft alcohol products, all under separate brand names, like “Fenceline Cider,” to allow for creative development of the specific beverage. Outlier Cellars will also let farmers rent a portion of their facilities to ferment their own wine and cider products as a “custom crush” business.
The cellar specializes in cold, slow fermentation techniques that allow the lighter, more delicate flavors to be preserved in the cider. These fermentations can last as long as four months, producing a blend of acid and tannin for a dryer, less sweet, higher-quality cider.
The meaning behind the name “Fenceline” comes from a way apple trees can propagate. Most hand-planted orchards grow apples for eating but lack the acid and tannins for cider. However, when an apple tree sprouts naturally from a seed, it doesn’t always stay genetically true to the parent apple. These seeds are often found growing along a fence line, not planted by people but instead by birds resting on a fence line eating a ripe apple and propagating a new varietal of apple, best for cider.
The tasting room is available for public and private events.
“Neal and I are both very interested in the natural world and hope to get a monthly lecture series going in the tasting room that centers around biology, geology, archaeology and botany. We also have a gallery space for art shows,” Perry said.