A Slice of Union Hill's History

Apple growing has been a part of our family for over 50 years.  

We use apples and we focus on apples 

We are not a flavored apple liquor company; we are a cider company. We make cider because we love living where we live, and we love farming apples.  

Cider connects us with our community and our community with the things we love to do. 

-Andrew Handley 

See Drew's Story

During the last 10 years, our industry has been moving radically to super high-density plantings, and it really felt too corporate and business like for me. Farming became all about the numbers and not the fruit.

These changes in behavior made me begin to think. What is going to happen when we all get to that point of maximizing all of our trees and all of our land? I began to reflect on the orchards of the past. Our country has been producing fruit since the pilgrim’s landed on Plymouth Rock. The only difference was that most of that fruit was not produced for fresh consumption but pressed and preserved with fermentation to be enjoyed later. Prohibition played a huge role in the decline of cider making and consumption. It has only been in the last 10 years that a surge of interest in ciders has reemerged.  

2008-2018: A change in the apple industry

I had finished college and had been working outside of the family farm. My dad was needing help and I wanted a change in environment from the corporate world. I came back and helped him start to replant the orchards we had planted after the big freeze. During this time, I also started to buy land and plant new apple varieties.  

1989: A new path & new apples

Times were tough in these years. To supplement our family income, my father, Gene Handley, became a journeyman welder. The valley was bustling with new projects to support all the new plantings with water. Main steel trunk lines were being built to carry water from the Columbia river and its tributaries to new orchards across the valley. My dad left his family at home to help care for and tend to the new orchards as he worked both jobs to make ends meet.

Farming was a family affair. Everyone pitched in and my grandfather Harmond Handley followed and bought and planted orchards in the valley. He used his brand for cattle to name his first orchard, Double H. 

1968-1978: Hard times

Earlier that year, my family had purchased its first orchard of Winesap apples and prepared to move in January to our new farm. Temperatures plummeted to -40 killing most of the orchards in the valley. Little did we know of the impact such a hard winter would have on the trees. Prior to living in the valley, we lived and farmed row crops including cotton and wheat in Texas. Our future had now fallen victim to this untimely and unfortunate weather event. Instead of owning and harvesting a fully grown apple orchard, we cut it down, pulled it out and started over. 

1968: Our first orchard & the coldest winter on record

Apples were first planted in the Wenatchee Valley

Early 1900's in Wenatchee

You cannot have cider, let alone a cider company, without the base element; Apples. It is fitting that our story starts with our family farm.
-Andy handley 

Andy's Story

See Andy's Story

It was not until 2019 that we sold our first bottle of cider. Pinkheart, Hard Harvest, and Hopped and Hazy were our first cider blends that we created. From there we have developed over 18 different cider blends. There are so many different styles of cider and influences from wine and beer industries that we are able to use and intertwine to create unique and amazing experiences with simple ingredients.  

2019: Our First Cider Blends

In 2016 we planted our first orchard of cider apples and by 2018 we started our cider company by picking probably on average about 1 apple per tree on our new cider trees. Through experimenting I found that most cider varietals need a minimum of 6-8 months of aging after fermentation for tannins to settle down

2016-2018: Cider Apples in the ground

The first blend we ever did as an official experiment was to ferment out a 50/50 blend of Cripps Pink and snowdrift crab. It was intense. The pink lady on its own is rather mild and has a nice touch of acidity but the snowdrift crab is overpowering in its tannins and acid. What we had created wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it was a far cry closer to what I had hoped to create with my first delving into cider making years earlier. With this blend I become much more optimistic about not just selling these cider apples to other people but in actually using them to make cider that we could share with people. 

2017: Our First Blend

2014: New apples & a new venture

A few years later, my father Andy was ready to start planting a new orchard and replant some pieces of our existing orchards. He was concerned about the abundance of apple orchards that were being planted at the same time by the entire industry. Wanting to diversify he started looking in to and became fascinated by the new emerging cider industry. Almost nobody was growing cider specific apples at that time. We decided that we wanted to grow apples like Kingston Black, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, ect. Then sell these apples to local and upcoming cideries to allow those without the land or ability to benefit from using apples grown just for cider. But I didn't think it prudent to sell something that we had no idea the value of. In order to know better which apple varieties would be more desirable to a cider maker, I decided to try my hand at fermentation again.

We bought a couple of small ½ BBL fermenters and a small glycol system to control temperature. It takes new trees about 3-4 years before they can and should be allowed to bear fruit. In order to not need to wait 4 years to experiment I decided to use what we had to familiarize myself with process. Fortunately, we did have about 50-100 trees of snowdrift crab as pollinators throughout our granny smith orchard.

After letting our store-bought apple juice ferment in our closet we were ready to taste the fruits of our labor! It was about as delicious as you could imagine, if you can imagine bland yeasty tasting boozy water. Thus, our journey into cider began! Our first attempt was much like many people's first endeavors into cider making. After our first failed attempt we took a break and went back to our regular lives.  

One Month Later: The Taste Test

My roommate and I had decided a fun way to pass what seemed to be unlimited free time in our early 20’s was to make hard cider. I was growing apples and could use as many apples as we could possibly need, and he had experience brewing beer. What better thing to do than combine those two elements. Unfortunately, it was early summer and out of season for apples. We went down to the grocery store and bought a few gallons of apple juice and a packet of yeast along with a carboy.

2012: Let's make cider!

We had never intended to be anything more than apple, cherry and pear growers until around 2012. 

Drew's Story

The Journey

The whole family

Shane Handley
Tasting Room manager &
Cider club leader

Andy Handley
Orchardist & Manager

Katja Handley
Social Media & Events
Cider quality control

Drew Handley
Cider maker & Orchardist

Welcome To The Family