Meet the new cidermaker at East End landmark Riverhead Ciderhouse

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This lifelong East End winemaker has just been tapped as the new head cidermaker at Riverhead Ciderhouse.

Meet Juan Micieli-Martinez, 46, of Riverhead.

His latest creations include ciders such as cherry, strawberry, even peanut butter and jelly. 

And they’re all currently kegged, barreled, tapped and ready to pour.

Juan, who double-majored in biology and psychology at Binghampton University in Broome County, has been working at wineries and breweries since he was a teenager.

But he really made his bones in the wine world as the head winemaker at Martha Clara Vineyard, where he came on board in 2007 and stayed until the property was sold in 2018.

“I was the last winemaker at Martha Clara,” which is now RGNY, he said.

According to Juan, the fermentation process for cider is more like that of wine, rather than beer.

“Wine and cider both come from fruit, so they share the most similarities,” he said.

But unlike with wine, cider has allowed Juan to get more creative than he’s ever been in his fermenting career. 

Keep scrolling to learn more, and for photos from Riverhead Ciderhouse.

How it happened

Juan Micieli-Martinez made his bones in the wine world as the head winemaker at Martha Clara Vineyard from 2007 to 2018. (Credit: Nick Picataggio)

Micieli-Martinez got started in the wine lab at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue in the late-1990s. 

He didn’t consider himself a cider lover during much of his adult life, which also included a stop at Southampton Publick House as an assistant brewer in 2000 to 2001.

In fact, he kinda disliked cider.

“I wasn’t interested, to be honest,” he said of the cider from his younger days. “It was all too sweet for me.”

That was, until he headed to England for the London Wine Fair about a decade ago.

He was at an English pub, where he saw nearly everyone ordering up ciders.

He decided to give it another shot.

“That was when I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” he said. “I was like, ‘OK, this is the cider I hear so much about, a cider that is perfectly balanced between the sugar and acidity.”

He’s been a fan ever since.

It also helped that, in the meantime, the U.S. cider market matured as well.

“The industry has changed quite a bit with an increased demand, especially among younger people who might not be interested in the craft beer or chardonnay or sauvignon blanc their parents drink,” he said. “That’s not to say they won’t circle back and discover those things for themselves later in life.”

He also credited the demand for gluten-free products for cider’s sudden surge in popularity.

“That’s definitely been a big, big factor,” he said.

Since Martha Clara’s closure, Juan took to working as a consultant, became president of the Long Island Farm Bureau and started his own wine label, Montauk Daisy, with his wife.

(Bottles of Montauk Daisy are also available for sale at Riverhead Ciderhouse.)

“Then the opportunity with the cider house came up,” he said.

The Ciderhouse

Bartender George Dematteis slings cider and doughnuts in the tasting room. (Credit: Mike White)

Doesn’t working in a cider house just sound romantic?

Juan especially loves coming in on Sunday mornings, when a pianist is tickling the ivories at one of the tasting room’s two baby grand pianos.

“It’s just such a nice, relaxing way to start a Sunday,” he said.

That also helps get the creative juices flowing.

Take the PB&J, a blend of cider apples and concord grapes with a roasted peanut butter essence.

“It’s definitely a unique experience,” he said.

The owners and staffers are thrilled to have such a pro in the cider room heading into the busiest months, especially in the fall when the place is bursting at the seams.

“We started planning this current batch in December and we’re all scheduled out for a second batch come fall when it’s harvest time out here,” said Brendan Corcoran, the manager at Riverhead Ciderhouse.

“It’s been so impressive to see Juan’s ability to elevate all kinds of flavors and colors,” Corcoran said. “The new batch is just so crazy good, just seeing how it all came out is amazing.”

“He’s brilliant,” added owner Sinead King. “What he’s brought to the table as far as quality and clarity and flavor profiles … He’s just absolutely brilliant.”

If you go

Riverhead Ciderhouse, located at 2711 Sound Avenue in Calverton, has quickly emerged as a must-stop, East End attraction since swinging its doors open for the first time in 2018. 

We recommend you try the ciders, which are all sourced from New York State apples and the property’s new apple orchard of nearly 200 trees. But local craft beer and wine is also available.

There’s a huge bar, those aforementioned pianos, two floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, a retail space with local goods and a café that serves up gourmet pizzas, sandwiches and seasonal fare.

(The apple cider doughnuts are among the best you’ll ever have.)

The place is also family friendly.

It’s cool inside during the high heat of the summer and the huge outdoor patios adjacent to the orchard is a great place to sip cider while sitting in an Adirondack chair on a perfect day.

There’s even spaces for private events and tastings.

Click here to visit the jam-packed entertainment calendar, headlined by dueling pianos. Private brunch tables will be available Sundays.

Click here to follow the Ciderhouse on Facebook. Here for Instagram.

Top: Juan Micieli-Martinez, 46, of Riverhead, in the cider room. (Credit: Nick Picataggio)

Staffers George Dematteis (L) and Nick Picataggio (R) with owner Sinead King in the orchard at Riverhead Ciderhouse. (Credit: Satin Widrow)