Back to it.. Franklin County Cider Days Part 2 of 3.
The Conversation and Tasting with Leading Cidermakers.
The panel, I believe chosen by author Ben Watson was a classic set of cidermaking characters. There are other fine examples, but no doubt we had a terrific cross-section today's best cidermakers speaking. Cidermaking experience, all of them passionate about the craft, all positive role models and leaders in the North American cider community... This might have been the best event of the day. Great cider tasting and great cider talk are two of my favorite things.
Who was on this esteemed panel of leading cidermakers?
As pictured above, from left to right: Judith Maloney - West County Cider, Steve Wood - Farnum Hill Cider, Diane Flynt - Foggy Ridge Cider, Nick Gunn - Wandering Aengus, Mike Beck - Uncle John's Fruit House Winery.
The Cider Tasting.
For the tasting portion(s) of the event each maker brought one choice selection from their offerings to pour. Ciders were presented one at a time. Each cidermaker talked a little bit about their selection, how they made it, varieties, blends and such. All followed by brief discussion from the panel. The ciders and each tasting also worked as a sort of improv topic and catalyst for further discussion on topics such as cider style and cidermaking theory. Cool stuff.
Wondering which ciders were brought? I know I was curious.
- West County Pippin Cider
- Farnum Hill's Extra Dry Still
- Foggy Ridge's First Fruit Cider
- Wandering Aengus Wickson Single Varietal
- Uncle John's Fruit House Winery's Seasonal Baldwin Single Varietal
If you don't like big acid this wasn't your afternoon. In fact at one point Steve Wood, himself accused of giving Farnum Hill a sharp cutting acidity, hilariously exclaims "These ciders are ALL more acidic than mine!" And that might have been... Cider on the sharp side is my preference so I was right at home.
Each and every one of the ciders was great. Tops in fact. Collectively I recall that each was on the dry side, well balanced, high in acidity, complex, good tannin. All the major earmarks of a great cider. Individually each presented it's own unique character and flavor profile. I'd buy and drink up each one anytime. No problems. If you have the chance to buy any of these selections don't hesitate to pick them up.
The Single Variety Ciders.
It was a real treat and a little unexpected to get the opportunity to taste two single varietal ciders in a sitting. It is rare and I know it isn't easy, but I like the idea that one apple can do it all. These two cider were both really great examples of what single variety ciders can be.
Uncle John's Baldwin Cider is in it's first ever bottling year and I have to say this cider really blew me away. The Baldwin apple turned out a shockingly well balanced single varietal cider. Sharp and I remember it having more tannin than you might expect from a popular heirloom variety. Really great cider. That cider might be my new favorite in the Uncle John's stable.
I've had the Wandering Aengus's Wickson a few times over the year and let me say I really do love this cider. It never ceases to amaze me. Pure joy. Cider nectar. Sweet-tart citrus aroma, smooth well-rounded flavor and a big body. Spicy. Sharp but not too sharp. Maybe too sharp for some. No one I know... I think one of the cool things about this cider is that the Salem Oregon based Wandering Aengus is using the West coast developed Wickson variety to craft what is a genuine West coast cider.
It was obvious that all the cidermakers were familiar friends and respected colleagues. They maintained a great chemistry, if they didn't all genuinely like each other they sure had me fooled.
Topics ran the spectrum. Everything one would expect or want to hear. Apples, orcharding, terrior. Some discussed their cidermaking process and shared theory. As there should be there was often varying and opposing opinions. To adjunct or not to adjunct, fermentation temperatures, using barrels, fermenting in barrels, blending at the press, blending after fermenting, nutrients, DAP, racking, aerating, filtering vs. unfiltered, carbonation forced or carbonation natural, pasteurizing good/pasteurizing bad. They seem to cover just about everything. When you consider the quality of all the ciders... All the answer you need was in the glass. There is no arguing that they all seemed to be doing something right.
That afternoon Judith Maloney shared the details of how longtime friend Steve Wood drove to West County Cider from New Hampshire each and every day after her husband Terry was tragically taken in an accident. Together Steve and Judith figured out what to do with the season's cider. She was ever so grateful and regardless of how embarassed Steve seemed, she was a woman determined to share the story. I thought was very touching and a terrific example of the great folks and unusual sense of community cidermakers seem too. I haven't had West County too often but Judith's Pippen Cider was easily on par with all the cider served that day. I can't wait to try it again.
Judith and Terry were one of the first to give cidermaking in America a serious try. They started CiderDays 16 years ago together as a way to celebrate and help bring to a close the end of the apple growing and cider pressing season. And they really did start something. CiderDays was by far the best cider event I've had the opportunity to attend. This year CiderDays and specifically the upcoming Harvest Dinner was in rememberance of Terry.
I can't say I knew Terry, but I wish I had. We did exchange a couple emails while I was searching for a place that shipped West County to Washington. Had I not gotten my hands on some he had offered to send it himself. He was passionate about cider and wanted to see it succeed. I've heard and read more than a few stories of Judith and Terry's generosity and cooperation helping the early craft cidermakers around the country. Thanks to Terry and Judith Maloney for giving all us cider drinkers and cidermakers so much.
Next up, thoughts on Cider Salon and the Harvest Dinner which will conclude the 2010 CiderDays posts.
Once again I'd like to mention that this weekend wouldn't have happened and was all made possible for me by the kind folks at Tieton Cider Works who offered to take me along and by doing so becoming my first ever "Cider Event Travel Sponsor". Super special thanks to Sharon, Craig, Cindy, Fred, and Marcus for their support. Their award winning ciders are becoming easier and easier to find every day.