PICTURED: Cucumber ginger, rosé and pineapple habañero cider, enjoyed outside at Anna’s Cider’s new tasting room in Santa Paula. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Anna’s Cider Tasting Room
801 E. Main St., Santa Paula

Few local brewers can boast a story as dramatic as that of Anna and Dominic O’Reilly. Not long after making the first batch of Anna’s Cider, the entire operation — facility, equipment, the whole enchilada — was lost to the Thomas Fire. With a Kickstarter campaign, lots of community encouragement and the addition of Alex and Elaine Tombelli to the operation, Anna’s Cider rose from the ashes — literally — to start brewing its dry and semi-dry apple ciders once again. 

The company even acquired some space on Santa Paula’s main drag for a tasting room. It took months for plans to come to fruition, but in the words of Anna O’Reilly herself, “Things moved pretty quickly for us in the last six weeks.” Now, at the most unlikeliest of times, Anna’s Cider is finally open for business!

The new tasting room is on a nice-sized lot with a stylish patio, where several handsome wood tables — including one absolutely gorgeous live edge table smack dab in the center — and shade umbrellas (all socially distanced, of course) beckon guests to stop and stay a while. Several parking spaces on Main Street have been taken over, too, with large picnic tables situated under a canopy. 

The tasting room was fairly busy when we arrived on a balmy Sunday afternoon — not crowded, but well attended. Small groups, including a few families (kids and dogs are both allowed), were spread out, mellow and congenial. Everyone seemed grateful to be able to enjoy a bit of outdoor sipping and forget about their cares for a while.

Anna’s Cider had four ciders on tap opening weekend, plus some wines from Topa Mountain Winery, Martinelli’s apple cider and bottled water. Tacos, ceviche and chicken wings were available to order as well, due to an arrangement made with El Capricho Restaurant next door.

The golden-hued pineapple habañero cider was probably our favorite, although I should point out that it was notably less dry than a typical Anna’s Cider offering. If you like a cider where the fruit really sings, this is your drink! The habañero comes through on the finish, but it’s more of an echo than a crescendo. 

The cucumber ginger cider (also yellow) was more subtle in flavor. At first sip, I was unimpressed . . . but it somehow grew on me. Light, refreshing, with a hint of ginger (which could have been more pronounced, in my opinion) . . . it made for a great summertime beverage, and went particularly well with El Capricho’s barbecue sauce-slathered wings. 

Third up: the rosé, an Anna’s Cider staple and very characteristic of the style of cider upon which the O’Reillys and co. have built their brand. Dry, crisp, almost wine-like — and a beautiful rosy color to boot. This is an easy-drinking cider with broad appeal; no wonder it’s so popular.

After three glasses of cider, we wisely called it quits (leaving the Hazy Dry unsampled, unfortunately). But the memory of that golden afternoon, sipping cider under the Santa Paula sky, left us with a sunny disposition that lasted us clear through Monday. We just might have to make Anna’s Cider a weekend habit.