A cider session with Windfall Orchard of Cornwall, Vermont
Forbes Magazine called Windfall Orchard cider the spectacular hard cider you’ve never heard of, because you just can't get your hands on this cider outside of Vermont. 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 to share a special offer limited run of Windfall Orchard Farmhouse Perry to subscribers and friends.
After we shipped the box in January, I sat down to a lunch of sublime leftovers with Brad at his home, overlooking his orchard in Cornwall, Vermont, to open and taste the offering and better understand how he approaches cidermaking.
While the meal was warming in a large sauce pan, we shared a wheel of Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere cheese, which is produced in the winter months when Jasper Hill's cows are fed a hay-rich diet. Jasper Hill describes the Winnimere as hammy, fruity and sponnably soft and tasting of bacon, sweet cream, and spruce. It really loved being paired with the perry. The rind is wrapped in bark, so we peeled off the lid and spooned the soft innards onto fresh, crunchy bread.
The word windfall has come to mean a piece of unexpected good fortune, but the word originated in the orchard, where it meant an apple blown down from a tree by the wind – and 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 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.
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 alone, providing you with a true taste of regional terroir.
(Brad's wife Amy, who is co-owner of Windfall Orchard, is also the author of The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir.)
In January we also 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.
Pair Eden Cider Cellar Series #5: Juliette with anything you might serve with a white wine—like a simply prepared salmon
We were excited to bring the hard to find Windfall Orchard to our subscribers in January, along with more stunning Eden ciders, but our return to Vermont was also fueled by necessity: We ran into a licensing delay with the small, regional Finger Lakes cidermaker we had hoped to share with you, which meant that we could not ship their cider as soon as expected.
We regret the delay, and appreciated your patience. We also remain committed to our model: CIDRBOX exists to not only share great cider with you, month after month, but to assist small, regional producers in their efforts to build a direct channel for their business. We don't warehouse and ship the cider to you as a retailer—we help the cidermaker find folks who love great cider, and deliver it under their direct wine shipper licenses, so that once we step away the cidermaker is well positioned to continue to ship direct to you and other cider lovers who are thirsty for their rare vintages. Going direct helps our cidermakers preserve their margins on a product that is cost-intensive to produce.
The question of using premium cider as a cocktail base came up, and Brad introduced us to Kir Normand as one way to enhance a fine cider without obscuring its finer qualities.