Harvest time is upon us all of a sudden!
Although real cider apple varieties tend to be among the later ones to ripen, we’re going to have to get a hussle on if we are going to find and secure some real US cider apples from this year’s crop. Several previous posts documented our roadtrip around New England in search of real cider apples last winter, next up had to be Virginia and North Carolina, where America’s cider culture was historically very strong.
Riding solo on this trip, I settled on a plan to fly into NYC, test the temperature of the cider market there, then head down to Charlotte, NC and do a big anti-clockwise loop from there to Charlottesville, VA and back again.
Landing in NYC I got an email out of the blue from some potential investors (yes, we’re still chasing investment!) who wanted to meet right away, so preparing for that meeting along with other work demands meant my research on the NY cider scene was in the end pretty much restricted to Williamsburg where I was staying. Overall, the cider scene was still a little underdeveloped given that there’s some pretty decent cider being made not far north by people like Farnum Hill and West County, though there was a lot of genuine interest in cider from bar managers, cocktail barmen etc. I spoke to. Doc’s Hard Cider seemed to be on quite a few menus around Bburg, including the wonderful Fette Sau BBQ restaurant (whose brisket was pretty close to Franklin’s standard) and the incredible Hotel Delmano, where it featured in one of their amazing signature cocktails.
Doc’s seem to be doing as good a job as is possible of making cider from eating apples. It’s a nice, light, floral affair, without any of the harsh notes you generally get with cider from non-cider apples. Also available quite widely was Foggy Ridge Cider, a Virginia producer using real heirloom cider apples and some English cider varieties. The Foggy Ridge ‘Serious Cider’ I tried was bone dry and very good, though perhaps a little too dry to be able to detect as much of the heirloom cider apples’ characteristics as I would have liked.
I took a brief detour off the cider map to take in the tour at Brooklyn Brewery, one of the inspirations for the Austin Eastciders brand. As the tour ended I was extremely excited to receive a call from a true legend of the heirloom apple world. I had recently sent a letter to Lee Calhoun, author of the definitive book on Southern heirloom apples ‘Old Southern Apples’. It was from this book I had learnt all about apples like Hewes Crab, Winesap, Blacktwig and the Southern cider culture they had played such an important part in. Lee very kindly invited me to lunch with him at his home on my arrival in North Carolina . This was a huge win, it would be incredibly valuable to pick Lee’s brains in person and I was sure he could give me some leads on where I could find some real cider apples.
I left NYC a little disappointed that I hadn’t had time to fully research what was happening with cider in the Big Apple, but extremely excited to get on the road, meet with Lee and start tracking down the good stuff! I’ll leave you with the tune that I always hope will come on the radio when I’m driving in a cab in NYC, but never does…