I asked Paul Kolling of Nana Mae’s Organics, how he became the Apple Man of Sonoma County, he laughed and said, “that’s a story for another time.” Nana Mae’s Organics is a local apple products company, growing apples in over 100 locations in the County. Paul named the company after his grandmother, who he spent countless hours as a child in the kitchen with, watching her make meals for him and his family. His family owned an apple orchard in Kenwood, CA, and he spent most of his childhood running around under the trees, throwing apples at his brother. As adults, Paul and his brother became engineers, working in Palo Alto, CA. “Sometime between fantasizing about a simpler life and listening to Led Zeppelin is when my brother and I said to each other, ‘Hey lets buy an apple farm, that’d be cool.'” 30 years later they are both still farming apples and making some of the best ciders, juices, vinegars and sauces in Northern California.
Paul’s passion for making high quality, organic products from Sonoma County, radiates from him. In fact, he even got a little teared up talking to me about how much the land, soil, and trees mean to him. For Paul, it’s not just about the apples, it’s about all the aspects of our terroir that make a utopia for the apples to grow. The redwood trees wick moisture out of the air and draw it back in to the soil. The blackberry bushes that grow wild around the orchard are the source for Nana Mae’s wild blackberry apple sauce. Paul’s philosophy is, “It’s all about farming with just the resources nature gives us.”
We sipped a freshly brewed batch of Nana Mae’s hard pear and apple cider as he gave me tour around the orchard. I especially enjoyed talking about the different styles of cider, and what makes his so unique. “Some call our cider sour, funky or tart, but that’s our style. We want a live product. It’s not about what label looks the coolest. It’s about the different flavors and everyone having their own little tricks.”
We talked a bit about vinegar and I asked Paul what his fermentation and pickling tips are. He explained that it’s best to use a homemade vinegar or something like Nana Mae’s Apple Cider Vinegar because it’s stronger, which makes for a better preserved product.
Paul really taught me a lot about fermenting fruit, pasteurization and the history of apple farming in Sonoma County. Stay tuned for our video interview to learn more, and check out Nana Mae’s products and locations at nanamae.com.