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.