Castle Hill Cider.
Cider celebrates the joy of the harvest, and now you can celebrate it, too. For the first time, the state of Virginia has declared November 9 to November 18 Cider Week—letting you enjoy the fruits of regional makers. If you’re willing to take a trip down south, you can buy from producers like Albermarle Ciderworks, Blue Bee Cider, Bold Rock Cider, Castle Hill Cider, Foggy Ridge Cider, Old Hill Cider, Potter’s Craft Cider, and Winchester Ciderworks.
“Cider is the fastest growing segment of the alcohol business,” says Diane Flynt, owner of Foggy Ridge Cider (1328 Pineview Roadâ€¨, Dugspur, Va., 276-398-2337). “Artisan hard cider is made just like white wine. You pick fruit, in our case apples, at optimum ripeness. Then you press the apples, yielding full-flavored juice. Then you ferment the juice in tanks, often stainless steel temperature-controlled tanks, very carefully. Next you allow the cider to age, then bottle. But like wine, the quality of the finished cider is due to the quality of the ingredients, in this case cider apples.”
The range of flavors can be astounding. “We planted 28 different varieties with flavor profiles from bitter to sweet,” notes John M. Rhett, general manager of Castle Hill Cider (6065 Turkey Sag Rd., Keswick, Va., 434-296-0047). “Our ciders are all food-friendly. They can pair with savory to spicy. …In the fall a bottle of cider is great with charcuterie and cheese.”
And these ciders can be enjoyed either straight up or in a cocktail. “Cider is a great mixer. Its subtle apple flavors provide a great base for many cocktails and punches,” says Brian Shanks of Bold Rock Hard Cider (1020 Rockfish Valley Hwy., Nellysford, Va., 434-361-1030). “For example, adding lager-style beer to cider is a ‘Snakebite,’ which has become popular with many younger people. Others try adding stouts to cider for ‘Black Velvet.’ Your imagination is the only limiting factor.”
During the week-long celebration, choose from more than 30 Cider Week events, including special tastings and workshops (find more info at ciderweekva.com). Or visit the eight featured producers some other time to try and buy authentic varieties.