So here we are, gearing up for Virginia’s first EVER Cider Week. Cider Week runs from November 9th through the 18th, which goes to show that cider does what it wants. Seven day weeks are for grape-based frippery. Cider makes a week as long as it wants! While we’re talking about fermented beverages with a rock star attitude, this is a good time to roll out Get to Know Your Cidermaker by featuring Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Virginia. After all, if you’re talking about Virginia cider you may well be talking to Diane.
Where did you grow up?
West Point, GA, about 90 miles south of Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River.
How long have you lived in Virginia?
We purchased our 250 acre farm in SW VA in 1997 and I’ve lived in VA since.
What brought you to cider?
I’m one of those beverage makers who believes that great wine or cider begins in the vineyard or orchard. Our mountain farm is ideal for apple growing, and is a traditional apple growing region of VA. Gary Nabhan, the author and first farmer to wine a MacArthur Grant (and our Scholar in Residence for Cider Week VA, believes the Southern Appalachians have the greatest genetic apple diversity of any region in the US. I came to cider from fruit.
How long have you been making cider?
We planted our first orchard at Foggy Ridge in 1998, got our ABC license in 2004 and began selling cider in 2005 from 100% estate grown fruit. Since then we’ve added two more orchards and have found old orchards in our part of VA where we can purchase additional cider fruit.
Where else (besides your current cidery) have you made cider?
I apprenticed with cidermakers in CA and New England while educating myself on cidermaking.
What characteristics do you enjoy in cider?
“Crisp and refreshing” are the terms most often applied to fine hard cider, and I like cider with a clean acidic line. Since at Foggy Ridge we made cider from cider apples, many quite tannic and inedible, I am a fan of tannin in cider, especially soft tannins from apples like Dabinett and Tremlett’s Bitter. And while I appreciate a fruity cider with spicy food, I like a dry cider that still expresses the fruit.
Since many in VA are new to tasting ciders, what should they be looking for when trying your cider for the first time?
First, try cider made from apples. Second, try cider that is not chaptalized. Many Factory Ciders, mostly sold in six packs or beer style packaging, are actually made from apple juice concentrate, and all Factory Ciders are chaptalized, which creates a thin cider lacking character or body. Third, and this will be much harder to find, taste cider made from cider apples as opposed to grocery store apples. Just like fine wine requires grapes with specific characteristics, well made cider must come from fruit suited to fermentation, with character that will carry through fermentation without having to be “tricked out” with added flavoring. Go for what I call Farm Cider.
If you could visit with any cider maker in the world, who/where would it be?
That’s easy—Terry Maloney was the first winemaker in the US to focus solely on growing cider apples and making a craft hard cider. He was a physician, a brilliant man and lovely individual who died in 2011 in an accident in his winery. West County Cider in Colrain, MA, is now operated by his widow and son, and they continue to produce beautiful cider, including my favorite called Redfield, after an apple Terry and Judith discovered at the Geneva Fruit Station in upstate NY. This red fleshed apple makes a lovely pink cider. Sadly, Redfield does not grow well in our corner of VA.
What is your favorite food and cider pairing?
Another easy question, any washed rind stinky cheese and Foggy Ridge First Fruit Cider. I’m a fan of Grayson, from Meadowcreek Dairy near us in Galax, VA. But I love Tallegio and other highly flavored washed rind cheeses, dirty socks and all.
Who is your favorite cartoon character?
Daisy, the dog from Dagwood & Blondie. Don’t ask why.
What is one thing we haven’t asked you that you want Virginia cider fans to know about you or your cidery?
We grow apples. Cider apples. We make cider—without tricks. It is delicious. We will never, under any circumstance, sell scented candles or host a wedding.
If you could buy any one item from SkyMall, what would it be?
Litter Kwitter 3 Step Cat Toilet Training System. Could this really work? No more litter boxes for Bandit and Lilly?
The Get to Know Your Cider Maker – Diane Flynt by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.