We recently revisited Albemarle CiderWorks, and with that visit, I was reminded how much I enjoy cider. I’m also a regular reader of Frank Morgan’s blog. Cider has been popping up all over it lately with posts about Thomas Jefferson’s preferred cider apples, Jefferson’s cider making science, VA cider 101, and a tasting of VA cider to close out an introduction to VA wine Frank hosted in CA. Frank and I clearly both care about VA cider as well as VA wine (join us in using the #vacider hashtag on twitter to spread the love as we have with the #vawine hashtag). What’s also clear is that I’ve been missing out. There’s a common thread to the posts on Frank’s blog: Diane Flynt and Foggy Ridge Cider. Diane wrote the first three posts as a guest blogger and arranged to have some of her cider shipped to CA for the introduction to VA wine tasting so that cider could be represented as well. Foggy Ridge is located in southwestern VA, and we’ve yet to make it to that part of the state for a tasting trip – our location’s good for wine tripping, but that is definitely not an out and back day trip. Given this, I was really excited when I found out that Diane would be doing a cider tasting at a local wine shop.
The Frenchman’s Cellar in Culpeper hosts a series called Winemaker Wednesdays. On select Wednesdays, a winemaker from VA comes to the shop and chats with interested customers while sampling 3 to 5 wines (or in this case, ciders). Diane brought all 4 of her ciders with her for tasting (as well as some apples so we could taste the raw fruit), and Jeffrey provided some cheese parings to round out the tasting experience. The tasting began with the First Fruit ($19.95*). Early season heirloom apples (including some sweet crab apples apparently – who knew there was such a thing) are used to make this light, bright cider. I wasn’t taking notes as I tasted, but I remember lots of pure sweet apple flavors from this one. It’s as if the fresh pressed cider I grew up with in New England went to finishing school and came back as this adult beverage. The Serious Cider ($16.95*) was probably my favorite of the night – but, it was a really hard choice to make. This was definitely a more tannic cider. You could feel it coat your tongue in a way that was, for me at least, a bit unexpected. It’s also the driest of the ciders (about .5% residual sugar). This one was definitely all about crisp acid while retaining the bright fruit flavor you want from quality apples. Number 3 was the Sweet Stayman ($16.95*). I was surprised when Diane told me this one had about 2% residual sugar. It was clear that it was not dry, but I thought it had a lower level than this thanks to all the acidity from the fruit. These are some really well balanced ciders. The notes suggested paring this cider with spicy food. My mind didn’t go there, but I’d definitely try it. We paired it with some blue stilton out for sampling – and that worked really well. This could be a great palate cleanser at the end of a meal with a fruit and cheese tray for dessert. The tasting ended with the Pippin Gold ($24.95 for a 375 ml bottle), a cider fortified with apple brandy – basically a cider port! I haven’t loved white “ports” in the past, but I was really enjoying this one. I’m not quite sure what I’d pair it with or when I’d drink it, but I’m more than open to experimenting (assuming I can get my hands on a bottle – there was none for sale when I was there).
I’m clearly a VA cider fan! Just as there’s room for plenty of diversity among the VA wines in my life, I feel the same way about VA cider. The offerings from Albemarle CiderWorks are very different than the ones from Foggy Ridge, and that’s what makes this great. I now have twice the number of local cider options in my life (probably more – who else is making cider in VA?). Do any of you also love wine and cider? What cider food pairing should I definitely try? Who else should the Frenchman’s Cellar have visit for a Winemaker Wednesday? Inquiring minds want to know….
*prices give are those from the tasting sheet from The Frenchman’s Cellar and may be different at the tasting room or other retail locations
The The Forgotten VA Wine: Cider by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.