When he was a boy, Jeff Peterson, MD, fondly remembers that he would help his dad pick blackberries and watch intently as the berries were transformed into wine.
“I liked it when my dad offered me a sip because the wine tasted very sweet,” Dr. Peterson says. “It was a special family moment.”
These days, Dr. Peterson, a rheumatologist with the Western Washington Medical Group, Bothell, president of the Washington Rheumatology Alliance, and a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, has earned a reputation for his own work as a cidermaker.
Typically made from apples, cider can also be made from other fruits. When cider is made with pears, it’s called perry. Unlike beer, which is brewed, cider is fermented using a process similar to winemaking.
From Terrible to Tasty
Dr. Peterson’s first attempts at making alcoholic beverages began when he was a medical student at the University of Washington.
“A friend was growing grapes in their backyard, and I decided to try making wine,” Dr. Peterson says. “I remember throwing them in the bathtub to crush and thinking I could easily make wine [after] the years I spent watching my dad, but the first batch was terrible.”
Several years later, while completing his fellowship in rheumatology at the University of Washington, Dr. Peterson tried making the blackberry wine he remembered from childhood. With each batch, he noticed an improvement.
After he and his wife, Jennifer, bought a 34-acre horse farm east of Bellingham, Wash., Dr. Peterson got serious about making cider. He planted cider apple trees and took a course in cider and perry production at Washington State University to hone his craft.
“I installed trellises and a crop system and began growing apples, [with] varieties including Brown Snout, a bittersweet variety, and Kingston Black, which is bitter-sharp,” Dr. Peterson says. “The key to making a great cider is to find the right blend of apple, or pear, juice and balance the sweetness and tartness with the alcohol content.”
In 2017, Dr. Peterson launched his own company, Twin Sisters Cider, featuring several unique ciders, including Cider Perry, a lightly sweetened pear cider, with hints of pear, peach and citrus; Harrison Hard Cider, made from the Harrison apple variety; Legend, an English dry cider, and a lemon ginger blend.