A  cider session with Dragon's Head Cider of Vashon Island, Washington

 

Cidermakers Wes and Laura Cherry grow 75 varieties of French and English cider apples and pears in the distinctive microclimate of Vashon Island to make their award winning Dragon’s Head Cider. They fresh press this uniquely suited fruit, along with additional fruit of exacting standards acquired from nearby family farms, to ferment and blend a cider that fully captures and conveys the aromas and flavors of this singular place in the Pacific Northwest.

Vashon Island is only accessible from nearby West Seattle and Tacoma via a brief ferry ride—there’s no other way to get here. There are no bridges connecting this small island to the mainland.

Growers have long prized the growing conditions on Vashon where the surrounding saline waters of the Puget Sound impose cool rainy winters and warm, dry summers that rarely swing to extremes in either direction. 

The Dragon’s Head orchard—named for the dragon of Greek mythology who guards Hera's golden apples of immortality—is planted squarely within Washington State’s only AVA, or American Viticultural Area, and it bears an uncanny climatic resemblance to Somerset in England where some of the world's best cider apples are grown. This regional resemblance has informed many of the Cherrys' growing decisions, including the grafting of the renowned Kingston Black.

In October we shipped an assortment of Dragon's Head cider, curated by cidermakers Laura and Wes Cherry, from their orchard and cidery on Vashon Island. Their colleague Stephen Buffington joined us for a cider tasting of the varieties that we shipped with the box—you'll hear all three of their voices in the tasting clips below. 

Each tasting can be heard from this page, wherever you see the Soundcloud "play" button, and they're also available in their entirety on Soundcloud. You will need either the Soundcloud app for Android or iOS or Adobe Flash installed on your smartphone or web browser.

 
Cidrbox subscribers received the limited run Harvest Perry blended from Hendre Huffcap perry pears and 100 year old homesteader seedling pears unique to Vashon Island in their October Cidrbox assortment. The 33 case run of Harvest Perry has sold out, but the Dragon's Head perry awarded the GLINTCAP Gold Medal in 2017 is still available online and through the Dragon's Head tasting room on Vashon. 

Cidrbox subscribers received the limited run Harvest Perry blended from Hendre Huffcap perry pears and 100 year old homesteader seedling pears unique to Vashon Island in their October Cidrbox assortment. The 33 case run of Harvest Perry has sold out, but the Dragon's Head perry awarded the GLINTCAP Gold Medal in 2017 is still available online and through the Dragon's Head tasting room on Vashon. 

2016 Dragon’s Head Harvest Perry • 750ML • 7.1% ABV • 0.4% RS • Limited run: Only 33 cases produced • Dry, lightly effervescent, hazy straw hue • Blended Hendre Huffcap perry pears and 100 year old homesteader seedling pears unique to Vashon Island • A share of the blend is aged 9 months in a French oak pear brandy barrel • Resinous pine and pear skins, with a hint of brandy on the nose • Honey, confectionary, tartness, pomelo rind, and subtle pear on the palate • Medium-bodied mouthfeel with a slightly astringent lingering finish

You will find that the Harvest Perry has the kind of beautiful acidity that is expected in a well balanced apple cider but rare in a pure perry. Pair the Harvest Perry with fatty fish such as a smoked bluefish paté, pan-seared mackerel with sweet peppers and thyme, or lake trout with fingerling potatoes and bacon. We also like the Harvest Perry with pork carnitas tacos with pico de gallo.

2015 Dragon’s Head Traditional Cider 750ML • 7.4% ABV • 1.4% RS Semi-dry, unfiltered, lightly effervescent traditional heritage cider Single orchard blend of more than 20 traditional English and French cider apple varieties grown on Vashon Island in Western Washington State Predominate apple varieties include: Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Chisel Jersey, Reine des Pommes, Brown Snout, Nehou, Porter’s Perfection Aromas of butterscotch, spice, hay, and a hint of leather Dried apple, honey, tangerine zest, and fennel on the palate with a slight bitter finish Medium bodied mouthfeel with balanced, layered tannins

Fruity and full-bodied, the Traditional Cider pairs well with strongly flavored foods, among them deep-fried Chinese-style whole fish in black bean sauce with garlic, ginger, and plenty of chilis; ribeye steaks—well marbled, well salted and charcoal-grilled to a juicy medium rare; or a colorful antipasto plate, with crusty bread a meal in itself, including your choice of spicy Italian cured meats, such as prosciutto, pancetta, capicola, soppressata, and guanciale, along with pickled pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, aged Provolone, Gorgonzola, and a chunk of Romano.
Opal the orchard cat keeps an eye on the crabs

Opal the orchard cat keeps an eye on the crabs

red flesh apple
Dragon's Head Cidermakers Wes and Laura Cherry sample a "spitter", an affectionate name for cider apples that comes from the adage that advises: "Take a bite: The worst it tastes—the farther you spit it—the better the cider it will make."

Dragon's Head Cidermakers Wes and Laura Cherry sample a "spitter", an affectionate name for cider apples that comes from the adage that advises: "Take a bite: The worst it tastesthe farther you spit itthe better the cider it will make."

Porter's Perfection
The Dragon's Head orchard is surrounded by native Douglas Fir trees and accessible only by boat—as is the rest of Vashon Island—from nearby Seattle and Tacoma. The tasting room at the orchard's edge is open weekends, year round, between Noon and 5PM.

The Dragon's Head orchard is surrounded by native Douglas Fir trees and accessible only by boatas is the rest of Vashon Islandfrom nearby Seattle and Tacoma. The tasting room at the orchard's edge is open weekends, year round, between Noon and 5PM.

2016 Dragon’s Head Kingston Black • 750ML • 7.9% ABV • 1.2% RS• Limited run: Only 100 cases produced • Semi-dry, lightly effervescent, clear gold hue • 100% classic English Kingston Black apples, known for their well-balanced sugar, acid, and tannin • Confectionary aroma with dried apricot, rose petal, orange liqueur, and cedar on the nose • Resinous on the palate with dried apple, clementine, and hints of butterscotch • Traditional “cidery” bittersweet apple aroma • Medium mouthfeel with a slight bitter finish

Rich in body and tannins and low on acid, the Dragon's Head Kingston Black single varietal is buttery with a hint of oak and pairs well, for the adventurous, with rabbit in a mustard cream sauce—or chicken or pork, which work equally well in the same sauce. The Kingston Black is also a fine pairing to ratatouille or Sicilian caponata.

Laura and Wes
crabs
blush
apple sorting and pressing
applecrates-dragonshead-_DSC4605_1381.jpg
steven-dragonshead-_DSC4657_1433.jpg
long arm
Our great thanks to food and wine writer Peggy Haine for providing our Dragon's Head cider pairings

Our great thanks to food and wine writer Peggy Haine for providing our Dragon's Head cider pairings

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Once upon a time, cidrbox.com connected people seeking orchard-driven cider with American cidermakers who are a credit to their craft. Each month we visited a single, distinctive heritage orchard — where small producers grow their own apples and fresh press and ferment their cider like fine wine — and we shipped their cider direct to our subscribers. We also sat down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we shared with you here at cidersessions.com.

Regrettably, the regulatory landscape for shipping cider direct is unfriendly to third party providers like ourselves, so we are no longer shipping cider on behalf of our cidermakers. But we hope you'll stay in touch: We intend to remain true to our mission of sharing the best of American heritage orchard cider with you. Sign up for our mailing list and we'll keep you posted on our plans »