About Maiden Rock Apples & Winery/Cidery
“Presenting a unique collection of gluten-free hard ciders and wines
– produced from fresh local fruit –
Flavored by Wisconsin”.
Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery
Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery is a small, family-owned business in western Wisconsin, near the quaint village of Stockholm. Started by Herdie Baisden & Carol Wiersma who, by 2008, had received all of the necessary permits and licenses to be able to open for business. This was not their first venture, as Carol had established and was running The Good Apple, while Herdie developed their apple orchard – Maiden Rock Apples – and was learning how to make wine and cider. The Good Apple sold “everything apples” – from wine, cider, and beer to apple décor, housewares, jams, jellies, and preserves as well as other apple-related products.
From its inception, The Good Apple was designed and operated by Carol to help her and Herdie do some test marketing and learn how to sell apple-related merchandise. While The Good Apple was sold in 2008, it served its purpose; and -- to this day – both their Cider Pub & Tasting Room and retail sales areas reflect what Carol and Herdie learned.
They have not ventured far from their original business plan of growing but remaining small enough to require limited staff and equipment. They choose to be distinguished – not by their size, fanciness of their equipment, number of people they employ, or number of ciders and wines they make – but the quality of their products. When distributors or other business partners have pointed out that they could use cheaper ingredients to reduce their costs and become price competitive, Herdie and Carol have pushed back. They want to create, produce, and purvey products for which they can feel proud. This approach has resulted in their winning awards in international competitions – sometimes out-competing other cideries and wineries that may be much bigger, have more sophisticated equipment, and a much broader distribution.
Gluten-Free Ciders & Wines from Fresh Local Fruit.
The marketing positioning of Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery was determined to be:
Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery – “Presenting a unique collection of premium hard ciders and wines – produced from fresh, local fruit – flavored by Wisconsin”. The underlined words reflect our focus and defines who we are.
When Herdie is asked how he got into making award-winning products, his usual answer is that it started as a hobby. This is partly true, in that he started as a homebrewer with the purchase of a wine starter kit around 2002. Several years before then, however, Herdie and his wife Carol Wiersma had purchased an 80-acre farm outside the village of Stockholm, Wisconsin, to establish their apple orchard, Maiden Rock Apples.
Maiden Rock Apples
The apple varieties Herdie and Carol planted included a number that are more often grown in southwestern England and were suitable for the production of hard cider and wine. So, from the beginning of their farming venture, Herdie and Carol planned to produce products made from fermented apple juice as well as fresh fruit, preserves, and baked goods.
Being new to agriculture required them to get up to speed quickly on what they needed to know to be successful. Their business plan focused around agricultural tourism, so they designed the orchard to make it easy for people to pick their own apples, picnic, enjoy wagon rides and other outdoor fun. Doing what Herdie calls “going to apple school”, he joined both the Wisconsin and Minnesota apple growers associations and gathered knowledge from attending field days and conferences and – most importantly – talking with other growers and getting consultation from UW Extension experts. Subsequently he was voted onto the board of directors for the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association (WAGA) and served as president. Carol joined the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association (WATA), was voted onto the board, and also served as its president.
On the way to developing the winery and cidery, Herdie began producing fresh-pressed unpasteurized non-alcoholic cider – using hard cider techniques. The result was award winning products for several years, in the state-wide Apple Cider Contest, sponsored by WAGA.
With their trees bearing fruit and a growing customer base, they were ready to take the next steps to establish their winery and cidery. While Maiden Rock Apples was positioned as an award-winning cider orchard that provides “Tasty Experience with Country Charm”, Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery was positioned as “Presenting a unique collection of premium hard ciders and wines – produced from fresh local fruit – flavored by Wisconsin”.
Special Events offered by Maiden Rock Apples have included Pumpkin Contests with Pepin 4-H, Barn Dancing, and Fields of Terror – a Halloween-themed event where Herdie used his psychology knowledge to instill fear and scare the begeevers out of some folks. Another special event -- Wassailing of the Apple Trees -- morphed into a full-fledged Medieval Feast, with costumed staff and guests, holiday foods and drinks befitting the times – including a roast pig with a Maiden Rock apple in its mouth! The event was theatrical, in all respects!