He has more than 30 years of business experience, led two companies to initial public offerings and, in 2008, was named chairman of what is now the
But over the past 10 years, the couple has spent about
Their decade of work, which included battles with spring frosts, ravenous deer and living in a mobile home on the property, has finally paid off.
Last week, they released their first batch of Cider Farm Apple Brandy that had been aging since 2011 and was distilled by
Their first run yielded 352 bottles at 375 ml that sell for
"When we started 10 years ago, cider wasn't on anybody's radar screen," said Biondi, who is referred to as the Chief Tractor Officer when he's not at Xolve. "Now, cider is growing like crazy."
And so is craft distilling.
Nationally, there were 69 craft distilleries in 2003. Today, there are 400. By the end of 2015, according to the
Birmingham and Biondi have no plans to start their own distillery but have thought about creating their own winery. For now,
Their orchard, on a former dairy farm that dates to the late 1800s but went of business in the 1950s, is tucked into the hills of the town of
They purchased the 166-acre property in 2002 and began learning how to graft apple trees a year later. They planted their first tree in 2006 and today have about 2,400 trees in 12 varieties like
Most of the varieties are from
"The best ciders and best brandies are a blended product," Birmingham, Chief Executive Orchardist, said of the large variety of apples they grow. "We consider them the wine grapes of apples. You don't make a fine cider or brandy from just any old table apple."
Earlier this week, under a cloudless sky,
"They just take so much longer to find," said Ohlert, the knees of her bib overhauls stained in mud. "You just feel these lumpy things down there."
Birmingham, 57, grew up in the
She met Biondi in 1995 after she came to Madison to pursue a doctorate in agriculture at UW-Madison. The couple married in 1996 and later moved to
Besides adding orchards, Biondi and Birmingham have restored some of the land to prairie and also raise pigs and chickens. Their efforts come as interest in locally raised, handcrafted products are on the rise.
"People are looking for the real deal," Birmingham said. "We just fell in love with the land."
"When we started 10 years ago, cider wasn't on anybody's radar screen. Now, cider is growing like crazy." --
(c)2013 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)
Visit The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) at www.wisconsinstatejournal.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services