The owners and founders of James Creek Orchards and James Creek Cider House, Ann Marie Thornton and her husband David have been growing old Southern apple varieties and making hard cider since 2008. Partners in most everything, they share the orcharding responsibilities as well as the cidermaking. At least a couple evenings each week find them tasting and blending ciders, analyzing flavors and asking themselves, in the immortal words of Tom Oliver, “What does this cider want to be?” At Ann Marie’s urging in their first year as commercial cidermakers, they started along the path of becoming sommeliers, testing their palates with wines. When the path to pommelier opened, they lined right up. Ann Marie says training her palate to recognize aromas, flavors, and distinctive characteristics of ciders and wines helps her discuss James Creek’s ciders with food and beverage professionals and informs her blending choices during cidermaking. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.