A  cider session with Kite & String Cider of Interlaken, New York

 

For Kite & String Cider it starts with the soil: A rich, resilient stew that organic farmers Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller cultivate through careful attention and the right application of grazers and growing things on the Good Life organic farm in Interlaken, New York.

Brother cidermakers Garrett and Jimmy Miller create their cider from a healthy harvest of New York-grown European bittersweets and sharps, as well as bright, acidic American heirloom fruit, grown in this living soil. It’s no coincidence that several of their ciders borrow their name from the earth itself, and the beverage in the glass evokes strong presence of place with aromas of damp earth and dark fruit.

A red flesh apple half way to harvest on the Good Life Organic Farm

A red flesh apple half way to harvest on the Good Life Organic Farm

Kite & String is a rebranding of the Good Life Cider label that won high praise from Mark Squires in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, where he describes their cider as: Pretty terrific. Clean, fresh and very dry, it has fine purity of fruit, an elegant demeanor and some controlled tension on the flavorful finish. Same cidermakers, same orchard, new name.

It was a joy to join Jimmy, Garrett and Melissa for a tasting at their organic farm and Finger Lakes Cider House in July to taste the same early release Kite & String ciders that we're sharing with our cidrbox subscribers in July. We also tasted a few rare remaining bottles of the Good Life Cider line, which included the still and dry Hickok, described by Meredith Collins of Along Came a Cider as: A total show stopper. It’s complex, dry, and fruity in the perfect combination. I adore it. (We agree.)

Good Life Hickok 2015 • 750 ML • 8% ABV • .7% RS • Complex, dry and still • Predominantly Gold Rush and Golden Russets blended with English bittersweets and American heirloom apples • Aromas of dark fruit and damp earth With perky acidity, a fragrance of green apples, and a cast of minerality, the Hickok stands alone as a sipping cider, and is also highly versatile for pairing—
a good goes-with-nearly-anything cider to have on hand.  We like it with a smooth Havarti cheese or salty Manchego, but also see it accompanying poultry, roast pork, choucroute garnie, or Piggery cranberry-sage sausage with a side of homemade sauerkraut. It’s a match with nearly anything porky, but can also balance out a serving of spicy blackbean cakes.

 

Kite & String Funkhouse 2016 • 750 ML • 7.8% ABV • 0% RS • Bone dry, lightly sparkling • Limited run: Only 97 cases produced • Bottle conditioned and aged sur lie • Blend of American heirloom, crab, and English bittersweet apples, including • Ben Davis/Funkhouse, Yarlington Mill, Dabinett and Pioneer Crab • Smooth, astringent mouthfeel with modest acidity Take the Funkhouse South with fried chicken or catfish and collard greeens cooked with ham hocks, and a side of cornbread made with fresh corn kernels and minced jalapeños.

Cidermaker Jimmy Miller and his fermentation notes

Cidermaker Jimmy Miller and his fermentation notes

Kite & String Cidermaker Garrett Miller

Kite & String Cidermaker Garrett Miller

Kite & String was formerly known as Good Life Cider and retained their hallmark bear and bee as part of their identity when they made the brand transition

Kite & String was formerly known as Good Life Cider and retained their hallmark bear and bee as part of their identity when they made the brand transition

Insanely delicious charcuterie and cheese paired to perfection with our cidrbox assortment by Finger Lakes Cider House chef Isaiah Parker @isaiahluke

Insanely delicious charcuterie and cheese paired to perfection with our cidrbox assortment by Finger Lakes Cider House chef Isaiah Parker @isaiahluke

Kite & String Organic Brut 2015 • 750 ML • 8.7% ABV • Dry, organic, and bottle-conditioned • Limited run: Only 80 cases produced • Blended from 100% organic American heirloom sharps including Goldrush, Liberty, Melrose and Hemlock Grove • Traditional champagne method • Aged on secondary lees for 10 months The Champagne of ciders, the Brut is dry and complex. Pale in the glass, it unleashes a blast of eye-lash-tickling bubbles, along with a perfume-y floral nose. And aged 11 months on the lees (that’s exhausted yeast, which gives it a pleasant bready flavor) it’s the closest thing to Champagne that an apple can produce. We urge you to rustle up some proper blini for this lovely bubbly. Fresh out of caviar? Then go for wild-mushroom ragout on toast, or fresh fig halves with gorgonzola.

Kite & String Northern Spy 2016 • 750 ML • 8% ABV • 1.9% Residual Sugar (RS) • Semi-dry single varietal • 100% American heirloom Northern Spy • Blended from four independent fermentations to maximize varietal expression and character • Lively effervescence produced through charmat method secondary fermentation We loved the sweet/tart balance of fizzy, charmat-method Northern Spy with a shrimp-and-salmon bisque, but could pair it with a variety of creamy main courses: Mac and cheese with three or four good cheeses would do; Appetizers: Crab cakes with chutney or garlicky rustic paté on sturdy peasant bread; Even dessert: Apple pie with walnuts (substitute cardamom for cinnamon) and a slice of aged cheddar, ricotta cheesecake with raspberries, or a not-overly-sweet crème brulée.

Founder Melissa Madden tills the orchard with a traditional draft horses and analog farm gear acquired from Amish neighbors

Founder Melissa Madden tills the orchard with a traditional draft horses and analog farm gear acquired from Amish neighbors

Kite & String Rosé 2016 • 750 ML • 8.2% ABV • Naturally sparkling via Method Charmat • Bright acidity • Classic sharps — Baldwin, McIntosh, Goldrush, and Newtown Pippin — blended with Maréchal Foch red wine and unfermented Riesling juice • Strawberries and mixed berry fruit on the palate The assertive note of honey in the Rosé plays well with the spicy complexity of Asian foods: Suggested pairings are coriander-dusted ribs, grilled shrimp with pickled lime, or a Sichuan-style whole sweet-and-sour crispy fish with a side of white rice. On the milder side, try a slow-baked side of sockeye salmon with an avocado-lemon sauce. Or set out a bowl of summer strawberries and simply enjoy this delightful rosé chilled, along with the summer sunset.

Good Life Barrel Rye 2015 • 750 ML • 8.2% ABV • 1.2% RS Winner Good Food Award 2017 Award • Off-dry, naturally sparkling from traditional method fermentation • Featuring Golden Russets and a blend of English bittersweets including Yarlington Mill, Dabinett, Tremlett’s Bitter • Aged in American oak • Oak, smoke and shalestone on the nose • Buttercream with a backbone We suggest pairing the Barrel Rye with brunch: A creamy quiche with lots of bacon and Emmenthaler, pork rillettes on toasted crostini, or an omelet enclosing last night’s chopped vegetable leftovers.

Garrett and Melissa are also founders of the Finger Lakes Cider House which features the cider of other extraordinary producers in the region and has become a destination for cider lovers.  Our great thanks to food and wine writer Peggy Haine for providing our Kite & String cider pairings.

Garrett and Melissa are also founders of the Finger Lakes Cider House which features the cider of other extraordinary producers in the region and has become a destination for cider lovers. 

Our great thanks to food and wine writer Peggy Haine for providing our Kite & String cider pairings.

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow their own apples and fresh press and ferment their cider like fine wine — and we ship their cider direct to our subscribers. We also sit down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we share with you here at cidersessions.com.

We will be shipping Kite & String Cider from the Finger Lakes throughout July. Join us in August when we're featuring Prima Cider from the Great Lakes.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

A  cider session with cidermaker Steve Selin of South Hill Cider

 

Steve Selin creates South Hill Cider from apples both cultivated and captured. What he doesn’t press from the classic French, English and American cider apples varieties that he grows in his orchard outside Ithaca, New York, or acquires from carefully selected growers in the region, he gathers from wild and feral orchards on the nearby hills, where entirely unique apple trees have sprung up from seeds and grow far enough from the roadside that Steve and his crew must often carry them out in pack baskets. 

A wild apple tree in bloom in the Finger Lakes

A wild apple tree in bloom in the Finger Lakes

Apple trees that grow from seeds – rather than being cloned through grafting – are like human offspring, because they are entirely unique DNA mashups of their parent trees. It takes a mindful manner and an observant palate to understand what they can offer the finished cider. Selin has grown practiced in reading the fruit and achieving exciting, unique, balanced blends that Mark Squires describes in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate as “a cider that drinks like a fine wine” and Rowan Jacobson describes as “one of the best ciders I've had – crisp, mineral, and with a lovely richness – from both the bittersweet apples and the time in oak … really, really nice.” 

Selin’s attention doesn’t end with the cider itself: Several varieties of South Hill Cider bear handmade letterpress labels, designed by the maker, and are collector’s items in themselves. 

Pomme Sur Lie 2015 • 750ml • 8.2%ABV • Still, dry, unrefined, unfiltered • Barrel-fermented and aged nine months on the lees (sur-lie) • Wild and feral crabapples • Aromas of spice, roasted nuts, and apple skin • Substantial tannins tamed through slow fermentation • Smooth, astringent mouthfeel with modest acidity • 97 cases produced• Food writer Peggy Haine recommends pairing the Pomme Sur Lie with roast salmon with a whole grain mustard crust (try this version from Food & Wine) »

Vintage v. Pommage: Orchard cider is impacted by the harvest year in the same way that a bottle of wine is, but federal laws will not allow cidermakers to put the vintage year on their cider bottles. Steve and Peter discuss ways that cidermakers work around this restrictive provision.

One of a Kind Orchard 2015 • 750ml • 8% ABV • Dry, sparking blend of single orchard fruit from the East side of Cayuga Lake, NY • Delicate effervescence • Aroma of cloves, clementine, sour cherry, and leather • Contains over 200 apple varieties, many rare and heirloom, including: Baldwin, Binet Rouge, Cameo, Dabinett, Court Du Pendu Plat, Fall Pippin, Father Abraham, Freedom, Cameo, Chisel Jersey, Gilpin, Hardy Cumberland, Higdon, Honey Cider, Jubilee, King David, Leathercoat, Liberty, Margil, Melrose, Nickjack, Padukah, Ralls, Red Flesh, Red Gravenstein, Sam Young, Sharon, Sir Isaac Newton, Spy-Gold, Summer Orange, Sun Fuji, Sweet Caroline, Tom Putt, William Crump, Winesap, Zabergau Reinette, Virginia Beauty

Pizza pairs perfectly with One-of-a-Kind Cidertry this woodfired-without-the-woodfire recipe »

     

In May, we spent a lovely waterlogged Spring day walking the wild orchards of New York's Finger Lakes and tasting some of the remarkable South Hill ciders that Steve curated for our May cidrbox.

I hope you enjoy our cider tasting as much as we did, taped at the home of Peter Hoover and Peggy Haine, cider illuminati in their own right. The majority of the cider and food pairings were provided by Peggy, who is a food writer. 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.

 

Packbasket Sparkling 2015 • 500ml • 8.3%ABV • Naturally sparkling, bone dry • 100% wild pears and Pippin apples • Complex, fruity, toasty on the palate • 157 cases produced • This cider "welcomes you at the door," says Peggy: Try pairing it with a welcome course of gougere »

“With a bit of luck we found one stand of wild trees in a high valley with a good crop. These hidden trees were far enough from the dirt road that we could only retrieve the fruit by hauling it out on our backs. Hence the name, Packbasket.” ~South Hill Cidermaker Steve Selin

South Hill cidermaker Steve Selin

South Hill cidermaker Steve Selin

South Hill uses American Guinea Hogs—who overturn the earth and feed on the roots of small plants—for weed control in the orchard

South Hill uses American Guinea Hogswho overturn the earth and feed on the roots of small plantsfor weed control in the orchard

Packbasket Still and Dry 2015 • 750ml • 7.4%ABV • Still and dry • A later season blend of foraged wild seedling apples • Intensely fruity finish, tending to sour green apple • 96 cases produced • Peggy Haines recommends pairing the Packbasket Still and Dry with a salty cheese like Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper, along with pale green fruits, like grapes and kiwi.


Soundpost 2015 • 750ml • 8.2%ABV • Sparkling, semi-dry blend of Dabinett, Ellis Bitter and additional classic English bittersweets • Aged in bourbon barrels • Full bodied and smooth • Notes of chocolate and clove • 120 cases produced  Try pairing Soundpost with an award winning blue cheese like Muranda Blue Cheese from the Fingerlakes, coupled with candied walnuts »

Old Time 2015 • 750ml • 7.5%ABV • Naturally sparkling charmat method producing soft effervescence • Feral fruit from abandoned homestead trees blended with cultivated bittersweets • Controlled fruit flavor, harmonious and friendly • Notes of strawberry, grapefruit seed, butterscotch, musk • Pairs well with old-time music and Thai food

Stone Fence Farm 2015 • 750ml • 7.5%ABV

"This field blend is sourced from a biennial, single orchard, only about 1/4th of an acre, planted specifically for hard cider in 1995-2000. This is balanced, the fruit nicely lifted, but not showing quite as much of that "sour green apple" nuance, although there is some. It is not as intensely fruity, either, but the "just-crushed" feel to it makes it gloriously fresh and invigorating just now. This is quite fine. If you want to see why you pay a bit more instead of buying the mass market stuff, this is a good example with purity, a serious feel and nice texture. It is a cider that drinks like a fine wine. There were 88 cases produced." ~Mark Squires, Robert Parker Wine Advocate

Try pairing the Stone Fence Farm still cider with Wild Mushroom Toasts with Ham and Fried Eggs for a late weekend breakfast »

Peter Hoover of Stone Fence Farm planted the orchard that gave birth to South Hill Cider's Stone Fence Farm single orchard still and dry cider. Peter and his wife and food writer, Peggy Haine, joined us for our cider tasting.

Peter Hoover of Stone Fence Farm planted the orchard that gave birth to South Hill Cider's Stone Fence Farm single orchard still and dry cider. Peter and his wife and food writer, Peggy Haine, joined us for our cider tasting.

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers. We also sit down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we share with you here at cidersessions.com.

We will be shipping South Hill Cider from the Fingerlakes in New York throughout May.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

A  cider session with cidermaker Stuart Madany of Castle Hill Cider

 

Local legend has it that Thomas Jefferson spent many hours on the grounds of Castle Hill as a young man—his guardian owned the place. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Doctor Thomas Walker built Castle Hill in 1764, a day’s travel on horseback from the land at Monticello where Jefferson would lay down his first orchard plantings five years later in 1769.

We don’t have a record of Walker’s orchards, but we know that Jefferson focused his attention on 18 different apple cultivars, including a concentration of trees renowned for cidermaking: Hewes Crab, Albemarle Pippin, Esopus Spitzenburg and the lost (?) and much longed for Taliaferro (pronounced “Toliver” by some accounts).  

2013 Celestial • 750ml • 7.4% ABV • .8% residual sugar • The Celestial is an off-dry blend of bittersweet Dabinett, Ellis Bitter, and Yarlington Mill blended with heirloom Albemarle Pippin, Winesap, and Grimes Golden. Try it with the simple citrus notes of Patricia Wells Lemon and Rosemary Chicken »

 

The Virginia estate hosted many American luminaries in its early history, including Presidents Washington, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and Buchanan. Time has passed, of course, and Castle Hill is now under new management. The current proprietors are making orchard cider that taps into the local heritage of American cidermaking—using regional varieties like the Albemarle, Winesap, Harrison, and Grimes Golden—in new and compelling ways. 

In April, just a day after Thomas Jefferson's birthday, we spent the day walking the Castle Hill orchard with cidermaker Stuart Madany and tasting some of the remarkable Castle Hill ciders that he curated for our April cidrbox.

 Castle Hill 2015 Serendipity • 750ml • 7% ABV • ~2% residual sugar • The arrested fermentation of the Serendipity gives it just a hint of residual sweetness which may be why, when we tasted it outside in the sunshine, it tasted to me of summer, and I was ready to pair it with a bacon burger. Madany recommends holding it back for the end of the meal and trying it alongside a simple flan, for dessert »

 

Among the techniques that Madany applies in his cidermaking is the fermentation of his signature Levity cider in egg-shaped qvevri vessels, imported across the Atlantic from the Republic of Georgia, where these vessels have been used to ferment wine for the last 8,000 years. Made of terra cotta and lined with beeswax, the qvevri are submerged in the earth (locked away behind OSHA required padlocked lids) which helps to manage the temperature acceleration that occurs during the fermentation process. The embracing earth absorbs the heat and cools the vessel to slow and help manage the ferment.

The qvevri vessels are submerged in the earth and protected via a padlocked lid

 

An architect by training, Madany was drawn to the qvevri as much by its form as by its historical application. The egg shape of the vessel appealed to his sympathies for the work of Viktor Schauberger, a 20th century naturalist and inventor whose inventions and theories were driven by the astute observation of nature and its natural energies. Madany spoke briefly to Schauberger's theory concerning levity, a complement to Newton's theories of gravity, and how he used Schauberger's theoretical ideas to approach the making of the cider that came to bear the levity name. We've shared that audio clip below, alongside our tasting notes of Madany's remarkable wild yeast, qvevri fermented, bottle conditioned Levity cider.

I hope you enjoy our cider tasting as much as we did, taped on a beautiful spring day in Virginia. 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. The voice you hear is Castle Hill Cidermaker, Stuart Madany.

 
Castle Hill cidermaker Stuart Madany

Castle Hill cidermaker Stuart Madany

A partial example of a qveveri vessel—this one cracked on its trip across the ocean. Its cousins are submerged underground, nearby.

A partial example of a qveveri vessel—this one cracked on its trip across the ocean. Its cousins are submerged underground, nearby.

Castle Hill Cider 2016 Levity • 750ml • 8.3% ABV • variable residual sugar• Folks often hesitate the serve cider with red meat, but there's something about the unique character of the qvevri fermented Levity that suggests a possible pairing with beef or bison short ribs braised with pancetta – try substituting a dry, tannic cider for the red wine called for in this recipe » 

Castle Hill 2013 Celestial  750ml • 7.4% ABV • .8% residual sugar • Winner GLINTCAP Silver 2015 and 2016 • Celestial is a dry cider blended of classic cider apples, including Winesap, English bittersweet, and Albemarle Pippin – also known as Newtown Pippin. Consider pairing it with Carolina smoked barbeque or a simple grilled pork roast »

Castle Hill Cider 2012 Gravity • 750ml • 7.1% ABV • 1.2% residual sugar Gravity is a semi-sweet still cider that pairs well with coconut milk based dishes – chill a bottle the next time you grab try take away Thai curry, or decide to try your hand at cooking up your own classic Green Curry Chicken »

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers. In May we're sharing South Hill Cider from the Fingerlakes in New York. We also sit down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we share with you here at cidersessions.com.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

Fantastic collection! Nicely done!
— David C. on the Castle Hill Cider featured in the April 2017 cidrbox

A  cider session with the Bishops of Alpenfire Organic Hard Cider

 

At around the 2:40 minute mark in the Pirate's Plank tasting notes below you'll hear Bear Bishop (his folks named him Steve) talk about applying flame to his orchard and inflicting terror on his trees. 

He is not speaking in metaphors.

Bear is a former Hotshot fire fighter for the National Park Service, and one of the tools that he deploys in the Alpenfire orchard—the first orchard ever certified organic in Washington State—is fire. 

The cider and heirloom apple trees that Bear planted with his wife and colleague Nancy all wear silver skirts to protect their trunks from the blow torch that he periodically strokes across the orchard floor, to simulate the fiery lick of a controlled burn. When I visited in March the soil of the orchard was a springy, soggy sponge still waterlogged with the rains of winter, and the counterpoint of flame, in this damp corner of the Pacific Northwest, made perfect, elemental sense.

Wet and cold: Meet dry heat. Dark cloudy day: Meet firelight.

Fire fighting was a family affair—both Bear and his son Philipe worked the fire line—and now cidermaking is too. The Bishops—Steve, Nancy and Philipe—grow, press, ferment and market a spectacular line of organic orchard cider conceived from over twelve varieties of cider and heirloom apples that they grow along trellises in a bowl carved within the Olympic rainforest, ringed by majestic Douglas Fir. 

Pirate's Plank is perfect with pub food: Burger and fries, pizza, even fried clams if you're in the Pacific Northwest within spitting distance of an Ivar's (or their clam chowder will do in a pinch). True to pubs, avoid salad with this cider: The wrong vinegar can make it get all tangled up on your palate. Bear likes his Pirate's Plank with barbecued lamb chops »


As Washington state natives who grew up a short ferry ride away from the Canadian border, the Bishops were introduced to cider by their neighbors to the North. 

In 2001 they toured the cider countries of Europe to learn more about traditional production methods and discovered that many cideries were producing on a small scale, driven by family orchards. This was perfectly suited to what they had in mind. 

And they learned something else, equally important: That true cider apples were key to producing the cider they loved to drink. A hard cider rich in tannins, lively acids, and aromatics that, when properly fermented, allowed the flavor of the fruit to shine through.   

After studying with renowned UK cider producer and educator Peter Mitchell, Nancy and Bear invested in 900 French and English cider apple trees and laid down their first orchard acreage near the town of Port Townsend, just opposite Seattle on the other side of the Puget Sound. The Bishops committed to organic orcharding practices at the outset, and in 2007 Alpenfire became the first certified organic cidery in the Pacific Northwest.   

Pair Alpenfire Ember Bittersweet Cider with cream based seafoodmussels in cream or, better yet, mussels steamed with cider and baconand save some to accompany a marzipan rich dessert like prinsesstårta »

 

Today the cider varieties that the Bishops planted in the early 2000s continue to thrive in the low nitrogen, bare bones soil of the Olympic Peninsula where they grow their Dabinett, Foxwhelp, Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black, Brown Snout, Vilberie, Muscadet de Dieppe and other heirloom apples. In recent years they have also laid in early American Varieties and five types of Perry Pear trees. 

From this fruit has emerged a line of cider varieties named after the wildfires that Bear and his son Philipe once battled as Wildland fire fighters across the US, and which gave birth to the cidery’s name: Alpenfire.

Alpenfire's Glow received Best of Show and the Chairman's Award at Dan Berger’s International Wine Competition in 2016. Ember Bittersweet received a GLINTCAP Bronze for French Style Cider in 2014 and the Spark! Semi-sweet received a Silver from Sip Northwest Best of the Northwest for Traditional Apple Cider in 2016.

 

I hope you enjoy our cider tasting as much as we did—they're available on 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. The voices you hear are cidermakers and orchardists Nancy, Bear and Philipe Bishop.

 
Pair Alpenfire Spark! with Steamers with Linguini. Trust me.

Pair Alpenfire Glow Rosé Hard Cider with salmon, in season, preferably Chinook. BBQ works, but take it off the spit quick to preserve the rich fatty quality of the fish. You might want to investigate The New York Times guide to How to Cook Salmon, and if you must top it with something, try this native Northwest recipe featuring ginger and lemon »

Subscribe to orchard cider

Subscribe to orchard cider

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers. We also sit down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we share with you here at cidersessions.com.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

The rose cider: wow.
— Denise M. on the Alpenfire Organic Hard Cider featured in the March 2017 cidrbox

A  cider session with Foggy Ridge Cider of Virginia

 

Diane Flynt planted her American heritage apple orchard in 1997 with an eye to producing fine cider with the same careful attention to slow fermentation and artful blending that a winemaker attends to when making wine. 

Like a winemaker, she started with the place where the fruit is grown. Foggy Ridge is sited at 3000 feet in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where, in Flynt's words: “Steep hillsides drain frost; quartz rocks lighten loamy clay soil. Cool nights and warm days … result in crisp acidity and ripe sugars.” 

Then she planted the right fruit in this hospitable soil: “I wanted to grow the very best ingredients for cider, which meant apple varieties that offer two qualities that don’t work so well in a pie or in your mouth—tannin and acid. The best cider apples are bitter, full of bracing acidity and not for sissies. Tremlett’s Bitter, Dabinett, Harrison and Hewe's Crab contribute tannin; Ashmead’s Kernel adds sharp acids. Highly flavored apples like Pitmaston Pineapple and Cox’s Orange Pippin offer layers of spice and floral notes.”

We don’t want a place to hide in our beverages. I don’t want to hide the flavor of my apples behind anything. So we don’t use oak, we don’t add flavoring, we don’t add hops or assertive yeasts. I want the fruit to speak for itself.

—Foggy Ridge Cider Maker Diane Flynt

 

Flynt has nurtured and restored a rich diversity of apple varieties across her three Virginia orchards—some of which have never been grown in the south and others which haven't been seen in the region since Jefferson maintained his orchard at Monticello. Apple varieties include (but are not limited to):

• American heirloom Harrison, Graniwinkle, Hewe's Crab and Roxbury Russett, prized by early colonists for the fine cider they made 

• The Muscadet de Berney, a tannic “spitter” which lives up to the old cidermaker’s adage: Take a bite: The farther you spit it, the better the cider

• The Pomme Gris, which looks like a potato and tastes of ginger

• The highly tannic Foxwelp

• The classic English Kingston Black cider apple

• The lively acidic Ribston Pippin  

Diane was a kind and generous host when we visited in February for a cider session and tasting of her Foggy Ridge Cider. You can play the tasting notes for each cider below, or visit SoundCloud for the whole tasting at one throw »

 
Foggy Ridge Serious Cider 750ml • 7% alcohol by volume Rated No.1 in a New York Times panel tasting of American dry ciders Contains traditional English cider apples Tremlett’s Bitter and Dabinett, and American aromatic heirlooms Grimes Golden and Newtown Pippin Rich apple and citrus aroma Bright, dry and lively Creamy mid-palate Full-bodied, soft minerality Focused acidity Textured, dusty tannin Long, pleasant, dry finish Pairs well with rich, high-fat foods and creamy cheeses

Pair Foggy Ridge Serious Cider with classic Baltimore-style crab cakes or keep it veggie with a shallot tarte tatin with goat's cheese » 

The Foggy Ridge orchards were planted with cider in mind, and boast an abundance of true cider apple fruit and heirloom varieties

The Foggy Ridge orchards were planted with cider in mind, and boast an abundance of true cider apple fruit and heirloom varieties

A small creek runs under the ridge road that connects the Foggy Ridge Tasting Room to the cider apple orchards. No cell signals here: The perfect place to slip away and unplug and sip stunning cider. Foggy Ridge even has a small cabin to let for weekend retreats »

A small creek runs under the ridge road that connects the Foggy Ridge Tasting Room to the cider apple orchards. No cell signals here: The perfect place to slip away and unplug and sip stunning cider. Foggy Ridge even has a small cabin to let for weekend retreats »

Foggy Ridge Cider Founder, Maker, and Orchardist Diane Flynt

Foggy Ridge Cider Founder, Maker, and Orchardist Diane Flynt

Foggy Ridge First Fruit Cider • 750ml • 7% alcohol by volume • Historically prized blend of early season Virginia Hewe's Crab, Parmar, Graniwinkle and Harrison • Tart apple aroma with notes of tropical fruit and lemon curd • Lively, crisp acidity • Apple and pear flavors • Lingering strawberry notes • Clean apple finish • Pairs well with assertively flavored foods like sharp cheese and grilled or smoked meats

Try Foggy Ridge First Fruit alongside these pork and ricotta meatballs, this simple citrus-dressed salad of celery-root, fennel and parsley, or (if you can find it): Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson cheese » 

Foggy Ridge Stayman Winesap • 750ml • 7% alcohol by volume • Off-dry in the style of a semi-dry Riesling • Classic Stayman cider apples blended with heirloom Winesap, Grimes Golden and Cox’s Orange Pippin • Intense, spicy, rich apple aroma • Touch of caramel and ripe cherry • Complex, fine-grained tannin • Balanced acidity • Lingering finish of apple and berry • Pairs well with BBQ, aged gouda, and brick-oven pizza

Pair Foggy Ridge Stayman Winesap with whole-hog BBQ (accept no substitutes) »

The Foggy Ridge Cider Tasting Room

The Foggy Ridge Cider Tasting Room

Snow in the orchard, lichen on the limb

Snow in the orchard, lichen on the limb

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers. We also sit down for a cidertasting with the maker, which we share with you here at cidersessions.com.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

The cider was amazing! As a certified sommelier I was excited about your product and think it is an incredible pairing for lots of cuisine!
— Stephen F. on the Foggy Ridge Cider featured in the February 2017 cidrbox

A  cider session with Brad Koehler of Windfall Orchard

 

Forbes Magazine called Windfall Orchard cider the spectacular hard cider you’ve never heard of because it's nearly impossible to get your hands on this cider outside of Vermont or Massachusetts. In January we shipped two hard cider varieties from Windfall Orchard: Windfall Orchard Ice Cider shipped to all CIDRBOX subscribers, and the native yeast fermented Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Hard Cider shipped to all 6-bottle and 12-bottle CIDRBOX subscribers.

We were also able share with our subscribers a limited run of Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Perry available by special order. After we shipped the box, I joined Brad for a lunch of sublime leftovers at his home in Cornwall, Vermont, to learn more about his cider and his philosophy of cidermaking.

While the chicken and fennel warmed on the stove, we spooned Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere cheese onto fresh, crunchy bread, and nodded approval at how well it paired with the first glass of perry that Brad poured into champagne flutes ("it's better for the bubbles," he said).

The word windfall means a piece of unexpected good fortune, but that good fortune began in the orchard – the word originally meant an apple blown down from a tree by the wind. Windfall Orchard received its name from the country doctor, Ted Collier, who pulled it from a poem by his neighbor, the poet Robert Frost, who taught just down the road from here at the Bread Loaf School of English.

Collier acquired the orchard when it was just a strip of Rhode Island Greenings planted in 1918. In the 1950s, Collier and his friend and orchardist Art Blaise grew the acreage to over 50 varieties of heirloom apples including Northern Spy, McIntosh, Cortland, Roxbury Russet, Esopus Spitzenburg, Winter Banana and the Westfield Seek-No-Further.  

Our lunch of orange braised chicken and fennel adapted from Yotam Ottolengthi's Jerusalem cookbook (also available from Amazon) paired beautifully with both the Windfall Orchard hard cider and the perry.

Our lunch of orange braised chicken and fennel adapted from Yotam Ottolengthi's Jerusalem cookbook (also available from Amazon) paired beautifully with both the Windfall Orchard hard cider and the perry.

Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Hard Cider • 2016 GLINTCAP Gold Award Winner • Wild yeast fermentation • Dry, light and bottle conditioned for natural effervescence • Each bottle contains 50% classic cider apple varieties including Wickson Crab, Dabinett and Yarlington Mill • 500ml • 9% ABV

 

Since acquiring the orchard in 2002, orchardist Brad Koehler has expanded the apple varieties to over eighty, through the careful grafting old McIntosh or Red Delicious trees with heirloom, cider and dessert apple varieties. Koehler’s Farmhouse Hard Cider contains over twenty of these apple varieties; Windfall Orchard Ice Cider contains over thirty. Windfall Ice Cider also includes old chance seedling varieties that only exist at Windfall Orchard, and are picked by hand when perfectly ripe to ensure that the fruits’ peak aromatics and flavor carry through to the finished ice cider. All of the apples in Windfall Orchard ciders are sourced from their Cornwall orchard or immediate area, providing you with a true taste of regional terroir.  

(Brad's wife Amy is co-owner of the orchard and, perhaps not incidentally, the author of The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir.)

 

Windfall Orchard Ice Cider • 375ml • 10% ABV GLINTCAP Best in Show 2013 • Complex, delicious, sweet dessert cider showcasing apple, pear and peach on the palate • Each bottle contains 8lbs of traditional cider and dessert apples, including Roxbury Russet, Esopus Spitzenberg, Northern Spy, McIntosh, and Cortland • Juice is cold-concentrated prior to fermentation in Vermont’s northern climate to coax out the optimum balance of sweetness and acidity

If cheese for dessert isn't your thing, Brad suggested that an apple cake with bourbon would pair well with his Windfall Orchard Ice Cider—and we suspect that this apple and olive oil cake with maple frosting would also be pretty spectacular.

Brad Koehler, Orchardist and Cidermaker at Windfall Orchard, grows over fifty varieties of apples in his Cornwall, Vermont heritage orchard. The Koehlers will be opening a tasting room at Windfall Orchard in the Spring of 2017.

Brad Koehler, Orchardist and Cidermaker at Windfall Orchard, grows over fifty varieties of apples in his Cornwall, Vermont heritage orchard. The Koehlers will be opening a tasting room at Windfall Orchard in the Spring of 2017.

Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Perry • Limited run: Only 5o cases made • Contains 50% wild perry pears foraged around Cornwall, Vermont • Bottle conditioned for natural effervescence

Pair eggs benedict with Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Perry the next time you kick back over a long weekend breakfast.

 

In January we included an encore round of Eden Specialty Ciders in the CIDRBOX: The three bottle assortment contained the Eden Semi-Dry, which subscribers have not yet experienced, and Guinevere’s Pearls, which six and twelve bottle subscribers received in the December box.

Eden Sparkling Semi-Dry • 750ml • 9.5% ABV • Good Food Award Gold Award 2016 • GLINTCAP Gold Award 2016 • Blended from heirloom and bittersweet apple varieties grown in Vermont and Poverty Lane Orchards, NH • Beautifully balanced tannins and acids • Naturally sparkling due to in-bottle secondary fermentation • Each bottle is hand-disgorged for a clean cider that is unpasteurized and unfiltered

Eden Sparkling Semi-Dry is a main course cider: Pair it up with mustard braised chicken or a rich quail dish. You can also warm up the palate (or round out the meal) by sharing a ripe aged cheddar or a grassy goat cheese like Lake's Edge, produced by Blue Ledge Farm in Vermont, and named one of the Best 100 Cheeses of the World by Wine Spectator Magazine.

We were excited to bring the hard-to-find Windfall Orchard to our subscribers in January, along with other stunning Eden ciders.

We will be announcing our next small maker boxes soon—thanks again and stay tuned.

The oldest tree in Windfall Orchard is a Rhode Island Greening planted in 1918

The oldest tree in Windfall Orchard is a Rhode Island Greening planted in 1918

When we asked about using premium cider as a cocktail base, Brad steered us to Kir Normand as a way to enhance fine cider without obscuring its finer qualities:

KIR NORMAND
2¼ oz hard cider
½ oz crème de cassis

Serve chilled in champagne flute

 

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.

The Windfall hard cider was fantastic!
— Jake C. on the Windfall Orchard cider featured in the January 2017 cidrbox

A  cider session with Eden Specialty Ciders of Vermont

 

In December we traveled to Newport, Vermont to ship our first CIDRBOX and sit down with Eden Specialty Ciders at the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center and taste their American heritage fine cider. We've shared that cider session—with its tasting notes, recommended pairings and conversation with cidermakers David Biun and Eleanor Léger and cider tasters Briana and Andrea—here for you. All of the ciders featured in this tasting shipped in the December 2016 CIDRBOX, curated by Eden Specialty Ciders.

Eden ciders originate in the crisp climate of the American Northeast along the 45th parallel, where the juice of their New England and Old-World apple varieties is naturally cold concentrated outdoors in the long Vermont winter prior to fermentation. Given the latitude, it’s no surprise that Eden first gained critical attention for their award-winning ice cider, produced from New England and Old World heirloom apple varieties. In recent years the Eden team has applied the same cidermaking philosophy to create award-winning traditional ciders from the same regional orchards.

Eden ciders have won Best in Show/Class at the Great Lakes International Cider Competition in each of the past 5 years. Most recently their Sparkling Dry Cider won GLINTCAP Best in Class: New World Heritage in 2016. Eden was also awarded the Good Food Gold in both 2016 and 2015 for their Heirloom, Brandy Barrel Heirloom, and their Sparkling Semi-Dry ciders.   

Eden is also the only cidery in the US to be awarded the Slow Food Snail of Approval for being good, clean and fair. 

 
Pair Eden Sparkling Dry Cider with Pork Roast with Apples and Onions—or, if you're lucky enough to live where oysters are fresh and plentiful, try it with several on the half-shell, unadorned.
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Founder and cidermaker Eleanor Léger surveys apples, soon to be pressed

Founder and cidermaker Eleanor Léger surveys apples, soon to be pressed

Eden sources their apples from their own Eden Orchards, where they grow thirty-five varieties of apples holistically, as well as from six other notable regional orchards. Among them: Scott Farm of Dummerston, VT, Heath Orchards of Stanstead, QC, and Poverty Lane Orchards of Lebanon, New Hampshire. 

Pair Eden Cider Cellar Series #5: Juliette with anything you might serve with a white wine—like a simply prepared salmon.
For dessert? Pair it up with a simple shortbread cookie. For something surprising? Pair Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider with Fois Gras during the meal.
For all its sophistication, Eden Cellar Series #4: Guinevere's Pearls makes a killer pizza cider. This cider was born to pair with cheese and smoked meats—which makes it a perfect fit with a cheese and charcuterie plate, too.
Try the Eden Imperial 11° Rose Cider with a really good burger, or pair it up with the salty tuna of a classic Salade Niçoise.

Maple crème brule. Salty caramels. A pear tart on a walnut shortbread crust. Or a stunning blue cheese. Any of these, paired with Eden Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom Blend Ice Cider, will beautifully finish your meal.

Orchardist Benjamin Applegate and Eden Founder Eleanor Léger

 

Cidrbox.com connects people seeking orchard-driven cider with the artisans who make it. Each month we visit a single, distinctive American heritage orchard — where small producers grow, harvest, press, ferment and refine their cider — and we share their cider with our subscribers.

p.s. When we say cider, we mean hard cider: Artful fermentations of heirloom apples by master cidermakers. You must be at least 21 to drink what we deliver, and you will be asked for your ID and signature at the door.