October 28, 2013 by: Cider Week VA
By Jessica Strelitz, freelance food and libations writer | October 28, 2013
Professionals coaxing the best out of Virginia’s apples and grapes are collaborating in and out of the tasting room.
Foggy Ridge cidermaker Diane Flynt approaches her craft the same way winemakers do, with a lot of tasting and plenty of education. Cider and wine are both fermented beverages, and the processes are quite similar.
“The juice is different, but the chemistry is the same,” said Flynt.
Foggy Ridge was the first winery in the south to solely focus on cider apples. Flynt serves as a member of the Virginia Wine Board, and takes advantage of the industry education it provides. Through this work, she has connected with wineries eager to support Virginia’s growing cider industry including Chatham Vineyards, Chateau Morrisette and Cardinal Point — all of which now stock her products. Foggy Ridge has also included Virginia wines in its members-only cider club packages.
The state’s wine and cider industries complement each other, stimulating a collaborative environment instead of the heavy competition fermenters often experience in other markets.
Early Mountain Vineyard sommelier Michelle Gueydan on Nov. 15 will lead a workshop pairing food from the winery’s kitchen and Virginia cider, and the tasting room is showcasing an all-Virginia cider flight featuring Albemarle Cider Works, Foggy Ridge and two selections from Potter’s Craft Cider, including a reserve cider aged in apple brandy barrels.
“There are a lot of similarities between making cider and making wine — a process that begins in the fields. Great wine is derived from great grapes, and the same is true for hard cider,” Gueydan noted via email.
The opportunity to access winery tasting rooms is even more critical for the team at Potter’s, explained co-owner Tim Edmond. Since the cidery doesn’t have its own tasting room, it collaborates with vineyards around Charlottesville, including Meriwether Springs and Mountfair, to serve and sell its ciders.
“The biggest component is education. Without a tasting room, we lose a captive audience. In addition to exposure [for Potter’s], winery staffs are able to speak about our product knowledgably. It’s very different than selling it in a bar,” Edmond said.
“We watch what is happening in the wine world,” Edmond continued. “Cidermaking is historic, but the texts are from the 1800s. We don’t have the depth of knowledge that the winemaking industry has. One of the best parts of this job is taking field trips.”
Jessica Strelitz is a freelance food and libations writer based in Arlington, Va. Follow her on Twitter @jstrelitz and learn more about her work at jessicastrelitz.com.
October 16, 2013 by: Cider Week VA
By Colleen Levine, local cheese blogger at Cheese and Champagne | October 16, 2013
No celebration is complete without a cheese board, so I’m happy to be here to recommend some cheese pairings for Virginia Cider Week. Cider is a food-friendly beverage that is far less fussy to pair with cheeses than wine. Without wine’s harsher tannins to get in the way, just about any style of cheese will be right at home on your cheese board. And when you’re popping open a bottle of Virginia cider, there are a wealth of farmstead cheeses from our region to savor with it. I tested the following trio with ciders from Albemarle CiderWorks, but other Virginia ciders will have similar pairing success.
The effervescence of cider, much like a sparkling wine, cuts through the richness of a soft, bloomy cheese. Crottin d’Albemarle, a bloomy-rind goat cheese from Virginia’s Caromont Farm, is complemented by an off-dry cider like Albemarle CiderWork’s Ragged Mountain. And as their names imply, both cheese and cider hail from Albemarle County, making this pairing a terroirist’s dream.
A firm and nutty cheese, like Calvander from Chapel Hill Creamery, North Carolina, is always appropriate for fall, and the slight sweetness will be matched in a dry cider. The buttery, grassy Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy would also be a good choice for the middle-ground spot on the board.
When we think of apples, cheddar often comes to mind first. The fruity Talbots Reserve cheddar from Chapel’s Country Creamery — Maryland’s first raw milk cheese — has bright pineapple notes similar to those in Albemarle’s Royal Pippin.
If you’re feeling adventurous, seek out a cheese washed in cider, like Lorenzo from Meadowood Farms in central New York. A smoked cheddar, or even a smoked chevre like that from Goat Lady Dairy, NC, would add another flavor dimension and be especially fitting enjoyed around a fire pit on a chilly late autumn evening.
When pairing cheese and ciders, it helps to match the two in intensity and to save the sweeter ciders for your stronger cheeses — as you work your way from mild to strong cheeses, sip from each of two different cider glasses and see how the interaction changes your impressions of the cheese. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment.
October 10, 2013 by: Cider Week VA
By Diane Flynt, Owner of Foggy Ridge Cider | October 6, 2013
In my southern Appalachian orchard, summer slips into fall like a hand thrust into a well worn glove. Reading on the porch at dusk, I pull on a sweater and squint in fading light before my brain registers “It’s chilly and dark”. Blue New England Aster compliments goldenrod, and our hills ring with rifles sighting in for hunting season. Before I know it, apples are off the trees and fermenting in tanks. When the Black Gum turns rusty red, I can’t ignore this soft season.
In his latest book, More Scenes From A Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about Fall: “I have the feeling that a time of year is almost here where I’ll again know just how to do what needs to be done.” I always feel smarter, wiser, more in control in fall…not bad traits for an apple grower and cider maker. But I began this fall humbled in the face of my colleagues’ smarts at New York Cider Week. This annual celebration, originated by Sara Grady of Glynwood in Cold Spring, NY, celebrates Hudson River Valley growers and producers, along with neighbors from New England and one “spiritual neighbor” from the south.
Virginia grows good fruit—both apples and grapes—but the best cider fruit grower around is in New Hampshire….Steve Wood of Farnum Hill Cider.
The short story is “Steve grows tannin”, apple astringency that adds body and depth to his complex cider blends. But as one who had enjoyed Steve’s cider, and occasionally purchased his fruit, Farnum Hill apples are much more than bitter. Ferment Yarlington Mill, Dabinett or
Kingston Black and you can see why cider made from 100% dessert fruit is doomed to second place. I like the tropical fruit in Farnum Hill Semi Dry, but if you get the chance, try Steve’s still cider made with the bittersharp (high tannin/high acid) Kingston Black apple, Farnum Hill Kingston Black Reserve.
While Steve has been my fruit mentor, Eleanor Leger of Eden Ice Cider in Vermont, is my “all things role model”. She is smart, creative, collegial, committed to her craft and just damn good at everything she touches. Start with Heirloom Blend, Eleanor’s flagship ice cider with, as she writes, “Russets for full-bodied sweetness, Calville Blanc and Esopus Spitzenberg provide acidity and citrus notes for balance, and Ashmead’s Kernel provides tannin for structure.” You can’t achieve this complexity with Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Move on to Eleanor’s aperitif ciders, Orleans Herbal and Orleans Bitter. These innovative ciders, based on the centuries old tradition of infused wine, are made with apples and herbs—no tricks here. Your sophistication quotient will rise a notch when you serve a cocktail made with Orleans Bitter.
CiderWeekNY aims to educate, and I was pleased to participate in David Flaherty’s session on “Ciders of the World” at Astor Center. David is a self proclaimed “uber-cider geek” who manages the cider and beer programs at New York’s Hearth and Terroir restaurants. David was an early champion of cider, and I’m happy to say a Foggy Ridge Cider fan. Beverage professionals sampled cider and heard from Steve, Eleanor, Bill Barton from Bellwether Cider in the NY Finger Lake District and your’s truly about cider made from real cider apples. As always, I learn from my colleagues and I know the enthusiastic NY audience did too.
When I returned to my Virginia mountains, the big beech tree at the curve in the drive glowed yellow on top. We picked Ashemead’s Kernel and Roxbury Russet and I thought about CiderWeekVA right around the corner, November 15 through 24. Our southern version features a Cider Salon for beverage pros and many events across the state for everybody else. While we’re a young “cider industry” here in Virginia (at least the 21st version), we’re making fine ciders that show well on the national stage. So I anticipate our southern version of Cider Week with high hopes that Virginia cidermakers will “know just how to do what needs to be done”…which in my book is plain and simple: grow more ingredients (cider fruit) and craft even better cider. So start your engines, fall is here and cider is on the move!