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.