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Golden State Cider bought by Chris Jackson of Seismic Brewing Co.

After being raised in a wine family and venturing into the beer business, Chris Jackson has added a new drink category to the mix: hard cider.

Jackson, a proprietor of Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa, and his wife, Ariel, announced Wednesday they purchased Golden State Cider of Healdsburg from founders Jolie Devoto and Hunter Wade. That duo started the cidery 10 years ago by using apples from the Devoto orchard in Sebastopol.

The sale price was not disclosed.

“They just felt good about the future of Golden State by selling it to me as they knew it was going to go from one Sonoma County family who (is) focused on agriculture with the right craft brand to another,” said Chris Jackson.

The Jacksons in 2015 launched Seismic Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa as their own stand-alone business apart from Jackson Family Wines.

Under the new deal, the brewery and the cidery will fall under a new company, Sonoma Craft, which will have approximately 80 employees. Chris Lacey, chief executive officer at Golden State, will oversee management at both businesses and also become an equity partner.

“We’re excited for Golden State Cider to establish even deeper roots in our local agriculture by partnering with this cutting edge, sustainable local brewery,” Jolie Devoto said in a statement.

Devoto has been a childhood friend of Ariel Jackson as the two grew up near each other.

The sale comes as regional hard cider companies have become more in demand as the industry has long been dominated by large producers, most notably Angry Orchard, which is owned by Boston Beer Co.

Sonoma County has about a dozen hard cider producers given its long tradition of apple growing. There also has been more recent deals in the category. Full Circle Brewing Co. of Fresno bought the Sonoma Cider label and its cider recipes after the Healdsburg-based company liquidated in 2018.

And last year, Vintage Wine Estates purchased Ace Cider of Sebastopol and is helping with its expansion nationally.

The sale will help Golden State Cider expand its reach on the retail shelves as Sonoma Craft will be able to offer both wine and beer products to distributors, making it more attractive to stock the items, Lacey said.

The label was one of the first to go to canned products as opposed to glass bottles in the cider category, which proved popular with younger consumers who prefer such containers.

Golden State sold 500,000 cases of hard cider last year, almost all of it within California, he added. The drink is made from fresh-pressed apples from orchards located in the Pacific Northwest and California.

“I think there is a bright side for cider,” said Lacey, who noted the product is both gluten-free and vegan.

The companies also share another thing in common: both have their own taprooms in The Barlow shopping complex in Sebastopol.

“Most importantly, I got a new brand in my portfolio that I love the products and I think has tremendous potential,” Jackson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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