It is said that the soul of cider is grounded in the soil (the French term is terroir). In the Montezuma Valley, the deep roots of the old apple trees are also grounded in the agricultural community. The investments made more than 100 years ago in irrigation and trees make the Montezuma Valley unique on the map of cider apples in Colorado. The fruits of these trees are a testament to the knowledge and respect old-timers hold for this land and the heritage of the community.
Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project (MORP) went on an apple-picking spree to gather enough apples to run a mobile juice-press unit visiting Montezuma County in mid-October. This pilot project was designed to prove that Montezuma Valley apples can support the burgeoning apple-cider industry by producing and delivering apple from some of the rarest apple varieties in Colorado.
MORP volunteers worked approximately 250 hours to pick, gather, and haul 850 bushels of apples to the Russell Vineyard, where the father-son team of Ed and Ryal Schallenberger had moved their custom juice unit from Montana. The resulting 2200 gallons of raw Montezuma Valley Heritage Blend Apple juice was purchased by five different cider-makers located primarily in the Denver area. One drove an empty truck down from Denver to fill with juice. The remainder was transported to Denver at night to take advantage of natural refrigeration.
The success of the pilot project is best summarized in the $3700 that went into the hands of local orchard owners. The heirloom apples. would have fallen on the ground without this new market opportunity.
MORP is still calculating the final numbers and sorting through the lessons learned for the project.