Dec 11, 2017
Kapnick Orchards wins Michigan cider contest

Kapnick Orchards won the 21st annual Michigan Apple Cider Contest at the Great Lakes Fruit Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids Dec. 8.

Scott Robertello

Cidermaker Scott Robertello owns Kapnick Orchards in Britton with Bruce and Sharon Shaffer. Robertello has been making cider for 36 years; the orchards were established by Sharon’s parents, Janice and Charles Kapnick, in the 1930s.

Robertello wasn’t present to receive the award Dec. 8 at a formal banquet — he was driving home and received the news by text message.

“I was really and totally in shock,” he said.

This year’s win is the first time Kapnick has had a top-three finish in the Michigan Cider contest – the best it previously had fared was an honorable mention (fifth place) in 2012.

Bob Tritten, district fruit educator with Michigan State University Extension began the Michigan Apple Cider contest in 1996 to improve cider making, promote the industry and educate the public. The sweet cider contest is sponsored by the Michigan State Horticultural Society, the Michigan Apple Committee and Fruit Growers News.

Robertello said winning cider wasn’t much different from previous year’s entries. Generally, he said, they blend juice from five or six varieties of apples, combining sweet and tart apples with more mild varieties.

“I think that helps give it body,” he said.

Robertello said it was a good year for apples, and the orchard’s cider is usually at its very best flavor at this time of the year, because they are using fully-ripened apples that were just harvested. Kapnick Orchards keeps its’ farmer’s market open year-round, and produces cider from the second week of September through May.

The runners-up are as follows:

From the left are Bill and Denise Schultz of Shultz Fruitridge Farms in Mattawan, Michigan State University Extension District Fruit Educator Bob Tritten and Fruit Grower News publisher Matt McCallum.

2nd place: Bill Schultz of Shultz Fruitridge Farms in Mattawan

3rd place: Mike Koan of Koan’s Orchard in Flushing

Honorable Mentions: (fourth place) Will Cartwright, Allan, Wanda and Shannon Spicer of Spicer Orchard in Fenton; (fifth place) Skip Sietsema of Sietsema Orchards in Ada.

Twenty-nine cider makers participated in the contest. A panel of nine judges scored the ciders for appearance and color, aroma and bouquet, acidity and sweetness, sugar/acid balance, body, flavor, finish and overall quality. The judges conducted a blind taste test of the ciders in the first two rounds of the contest, and in a third round ranked them from best to least-favorite.

Kapnick Orchards will have its name added to the traveling trophy and will get to keep it until next year’s competition.

At the Dec. 8 banquet, Tritten recognized Harold Thome of Comstock Park, who had served as a judge for the first 20 years of the contest, but this year retired from the responsibility.

“We missed you today Harold,” Tritten said. “Thank you for your great service.”

Michigan Apple Cider Contest founder Bob Tritton, left, and longtime cider judge Harold Thome.

— Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor

Tritten provided a complete list of the contest winners since 1997:

Year Winner Second Place Third Place # of entries
1997 Alvin Hill John and Mike Beck Richard Friske 39
  Hill Brothers Orchard Uncle John’s Cider Mill Friske Orchards  
  Grand Rapids, MI St. Johns, MI Charlevoix, MI  
1998 Alvin Hill Mike Koan Dan Beck 25
  Hill Brothers Orchard Koan’s Orchard Beck’s Cider Mill  
  Grand Rapids, MI Flushing, MI St. Johns, MI  
1999 Bill Erwin/Bill Emery John and Mike Beck Rob and Cheryl Nelson 19
  Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill Uncle John’s Cider Mill Parmenter’s Cider Mill  
  South Lyon, MI St. Johns, MI Northville, MI  
2000 Bill Erwin/Bill Emery Lucie and Chuck Hiner Ray and Linda Little 21
  Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill Past Tense Cider Mill Little Orchard Company  
  South Lyon, MI Lapeer, MI Bay City, MI  
2001 Bill Erwin/Bill Emery James Goldstein John and Mike Beck 28
  Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill Hy’s Cider Mill Uncle John’s Cider Mill  
  South Lyon, MI Romeo, MI St. Johns, MI  
2002 Bill Erwin/Bill Emery Jim Hill Mike and Therese Bossory 29
  Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill Hill Brother’s Orchard & Cider Mill Alber Orchard & Cider Mill  
  South Lyon, MI Grand Rapids, MI Manchester, MI  
2003 Mike Koan Rob Long Mike and Therese Bossory 32
  Koan Orchards Long’s Family Orchard & Farm Alber Orchard & Cider Mill  
  Flushing, MI 48433 Commerce, MI Manchester, MI  
2004 John and Mike Beck Jim Hill William Verellen 29
  Uncle John’s Cider Mill Hill Brother’s Orchard & Cider Mill Verellen Orchard  
  St. Johns, MI Grand Rapids, MI Romeo, MI  
2005 Jim Engelsma II William Schultz Jim Goldstein 34
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Schultz’s Fruit Ridge Farms Hy’s Cider Mill  
  Walker, MI Mattawan, MI Romeo, MI  
2006 Jim Hill Jim Engelsma II Jim Goldstein 33
  Hill Bros. Orchards Engelsma’s Apple Barn Hy’s Cider Mill  
  Grand Rapids, MI Walker, MI Romeo, MI  
2007 Jim Engelsma II Jim Hill Bill Erwin/Bill Emery 34
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Hill Bros. Orchards Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill  
  Walker, MI Grand Rapids, MI South Lyon, MI  
2008 Jim Hill Ray Porter Mike Beck 30
  Hill Bros. Orchards Porter Orchards Uncle John’s Cider Mill  
  Grand Rapids, MI Goodrich, MI St. Johns, MI  
2009 Jim Hill Bill Erwin/Bill Emery Tom Rosenfeld 34
  Hill Bros. Orchards Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill Earth First Farms  
  Grand Rapids, MI South Lyon, MI Berrien Center, MI  
2010 Jim & Becky Engelsma Abbey & Bill Jacobson William Erwin/William Emery 40
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Westview Orchards Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill  
  Walker, MI Romeo, MI South Lyon, MI  
2011 Skip Sietsema Jim Hill Jim & Becky Engelsma 31
  Sietsema Orchard & Cider Mill, Ada, MI Hill Bros. Orchards Engelsma’s Apple Barn  
    Grand Rapids, MI Walker, MI  
2012 Jim & Becky Engelsma Mary Emmett Jim & Michelle Goldstein 23
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Plymouth Orchards & Cider Mill Hy’s Cider Mill  
  Grand Rapids, MI Plymouth, MI Romeo, MI  
2103 Mary Emmett Jim Hill Jim & Becky Engelsma 34
  Plymouth Orchards & Cider Mill Hill Bros. Orchards Engelsma’s Apple Barn  
  Plymouth, MI Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids, MI  
2014 Jim & Becky Engelsma Pete and Paul Blake Stephen Klein 30
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Blakes Orchard & Cider Mill Klein Cider Mill  
  Grand Rapids, MI Armada, MI Sparta, MI  
2015 Jim & Becky Engelsma Mike & Dede Beck Kenny Miller 38
  Engelsma’s Apple Barn Uncle Johns Cider Mill Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard  
  Grand Rapids, MI St Johns, MI Romeo, MI  
2016 Kenny Miller Chris and Corey Buerge Alan and Wanda Spicer 34
  Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard Apple Barrel Cider Mill Spicer Orchards  
  Romeo, MI Ithaca, MI Fenton, MI  
2017 Scott Robertello and Bruce Shaffer Bill and Denise Schultz Mike Koan 29
  Kapnick Orchards Schultz Fruitridge Farms Koan’s Orchard  
  Britton, MI Mattawan, MI Flushing, MI  

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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