Don’t laugh but Fall is around the corner. My buddy Al takes us through his ingenious modification and conversion of a Harbor Freight Shop Press into a Rack and Cloth Apple Press. Step by step Al takes you through the pieces, where to get the parts, dimensions, what to do, what no to do, and how to install the parts. Start yours now and coast on into the apple picking season with a new rack and cloth cider press that should beat the pants of any barrel press. Maybe he’ll send me a list of the parts and source links to post in here.

Taste Washington!

Taste Washington! Seattle. March 27, 2010.

Taste Washington! Seattle. March 27, 2010.

I should have posted this days ago. If you are in or near Seattle tomorrow and Cider or Wine is your thing I suggest you think about attending Taste Washington!. VIP tickets are $125 or two for $240. $75 for general. VIP tasting from 2 to  4PM. Grand Tasting is from 4:00 to 7:00PM.

Website says over 200 Washington wineries, and 75 Seattle area restaurants.

Best of all you’ll find a good number of Washington’s Ciders for the first time this year. I’m counting 5 on the website and have heard 6 cider makers will be present. On the list are Tulip Valley (Red Barn Cider), Wildfire Cider, Tieton Cider Works, Snowdrift Cider Company, and Finn River Cider.

This is a pretty big deal for the cider in Washington. Go meet the cider makers and try their ciders. Should be a nice and welcome distraction from all that wine.

Farnum Hill Ciders from Poverty Lane Orchards

Farnum Hill Ciders from Poverty Lane Orchards

There is lots of discussion and news about New Hampshire and their cider vs. milk official state beverage dispute. I’d certainly hate to be the one to tell those poor kindergartners that in nearly any other country in the World, “Cider” (Cidre, Sidra, Chistr, Sidre, Cyder ), is strictly a fermented drink made from apples and not the sweet kid friendly “apple juice” drink they are lobbying for.

Amidst all the confusion and hubbub I do know of one place in New Hampshire that fully understands what real cider is.

Farnum Hill. Poverty Lane Orchards. Stephen Wood. If you don’t know who Steve is, where Poverty Lane Orchards is, or even what Farnum Hill is… Welcome to the reemerging world of exceptional American Craft Ciders.

If you haven’t tasted Farnum Hill Cider chances are you just don’t know how extraordinary a genuine American made craft cider can be. Living in the Northwest affords me relatively easy access to a number of really really excellent ciders. Having said that, Farnum Hill is really something special.

Farnum Hill Cider from Poverty Lane Orchards in located in Lebanon New Hampshire where they grow a wide variety of “Uncommon” and Cider apple varieties. Poverty Lane Orchards has been in the orcharding business in New Hampshire for quite some time. Frustrated by prices brought about by cheap import fruit these trailblazing individuals “went out on a limb” and had enough foresight to invest in heirloom apples and cider varieties. Farnum Hill have been everywhere over the past few years. Most notably in Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire, the book and the documentary, they’ve also been featured on NPR, Food and Wine, Gourmet Magazine, The Splendid Table, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV, Growing Magazine, and lots more. Chances are if you follow the slow food movement or enjoy fine beverage and food reading you might have run across them before.

Farnum Hill Semi-Dry LabelFarnum Hill Cider is a shining example in a rapidly improving craft cider movement here in North America. Steve Wood and Farnum Hill deserves a great deal of resepect and reverence for being one of the pioneer’s and catalysts in our nation’s rediscovery of true cider. Thanks guys! Their ciders are at the very top of the list among my very favorite American ciders. I’d like to think my admiration for this cider is held in such high regard because Farnum Hill is such a rare treat here in the NW and difficult at best. While rarity and consumption frequency might contribute a bit to it my opinion, Farnum Hill is certainly a worthy top list, top shelf cider.

On Valentines Day last month Heather and I opened bottle of Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider. Here are our collective observations.

Farnum Hill Cider Semi-Dry Cider

Farnum Hill Cider Semi-Dry Cider

Farnum Hill’s Semi-Dry is a very attractive brilliant cider, almost glowing, gold to medium gold color, and has absolutely perfect clarity. A steady stream of small bubbles making their seemingly endless journey to the cider’s surface.

The aroma was inviting, sweet, spiritous and spicy. Farnum Hill Ciders all have this amazing spicy character in their aromas. It is one of the characteristics I find in their cider that gives their whole line a solid cohesiveness. Very classic and cidery, we found traces of fresh strawberry, raisins, dried fruit and ripe apricots.

Forever living up to it’s appearance and aroma, tasting Farnum Hill Cider never disappoints. Where to start? The Semi-Dry, as with their other offerings, is an extremely well balanced cider with a refreshing medium body, and engaging complex character. Like myself, Farnum seems to favor a bright strong acid cider that has a good deal of tannin… or phenolics as it were with apples. Their cider has near perfect carbonation, just enough to add character not enough to overwhelm. Their Semi-Dry, is dry but certainly has a subtle sweetness.

Some of the flavors we pinpointed were sweet citrus fruit, orange, Meyer lemon and tangerine. We also got strong hits of tropical fruit like pineapple and dried fruit. We found the finish to be long and clean, with a spiciness we believe was brief traces and hints of clove, pepper and even cinnamon.

Who should drink this cider? Any and every cider enthusiast should get their hands on some Farnum Hill Cider at some point in time. If you like a dry to semi-dry cider this is certainly for you. New to Craft Ciders? Farnum Hill this Semi-Dry and/or their Summer Cider might be your best introduction. Their Farmhouse sounds like it too but I haven’t had that one yet. If you drink wine, like it dry are intrigued by the idea of traditional dry ciders with wine like characteristics… Go for it, make the leap, you’ll love it and may just find yourself a cider convert.

Big thanks to Steve and the Farnum Hill Cider Crew… especially Corrie and Brenda for all the great communication, and friendly cider chat.

Visit Poverty Lane Orchard’s website.

Farnum Hill Cider Videos on Youtube.

Find Farnum Hill Cider on Facebook.

Follow Farnum Hill Cider on Twitter.

Dartington Ultimate Cider Glass

Dartington Ultimate Cider Glass

Now for an affordable and accessible cider glass option.

Here is some info on the company and this particular cider glass design. A little searching revealed that Dartington seems to have 2 cider glass designs. The Ultimate Cider Glass here is the more affordable of the 2 and the only one I was able to locate a North American online source for.

The are out of stock at the time of this post but if you are as tempted as I am to pick a couple of these up you can order your Dartington Cider Glass here.

Here is a UK source for any European and English readers who may be interested.

Dartington’s glass making history dates back to 1967 when a group of Swedish glassmakers bought their skills to rural North Devon to start a very different glass company. Today, Dartington is the only remaining major UK Crystal and Glass manufacturer producing quality products for an international market.

Excerpt from Amazon.UK…

Glassware for Living. In a busy world of conformity it’s good to know that some things are still special. Dartington makes the discerning choice for Glassware in your home or to give as a gift.

Designed by Matthew Persson.

A generous shape helps release the ciders full flavour and aromas. The right glass can make all the difference between drinking and truly appreciating it. The Cider glass is perfect for circulating robust flavours. A delicate lip and easy to hold base keeps the hand from over warming the Cider.

Wanna buy a cider glass? It’s vintage… Circa 1775, $3350.00

An excerpt from the auctioneer’s website:

“A beautiful and extremely rare cider, or cyder, glass, featuring an elongated funnel bowl with very fine engraving of the word “cyder” and a fruiting bough with apples and leaves. The stem is surmounted with a double collar and contains a single series air twist (SSAT) with a 5 ply band. The form of this glass, combined with the rarity of any true cider glass, make this a highly desirable specimen.”

I think Washington State and the Northwest moreover is setting the stage to be a cider power house. This year in Washington we have not 1, not 2, but 3 brand spankin’ new cider makers. One based in the “Apple Capital of the World” Wenatchee WA., one working around Port Townsend WA., the last one and not-so coincidentally the topic of this post is located in a little place just outside Yakima Washington called Tieton.

The small town of Tieton is surrounded by some very large orchards and seems rife apple culture. Tieton Cider Works may be new but the primary stakeholders and partners are not new at all to the apple business. Tieton Cider Work’s origin stems from Harmony Orchards owned by Craig and Sharon Campbell. I was told Craig’s family had been in the area and the orchard business a long time. Craig is a third generation Yakima Valley farmer and trained horticulturist, and they’ve been at the forefront of organic agriculture producing organic apples and fruit for about 20 years now.

Craig and Sharon are only half of the equation in this story. The other half is made up of Cindy Richter and Fred Kasak. Cindy is Tieton Cider Works’ “chief cider maker” and also has a background in organic fruit and produce promotion. Gotta like that. As the story goes Cindy took cider class at Cornell in 2007, a discussion followed with Craig and Sharon and that seems to have been the main catylist and inspiration behind all these great folks to coming together to give the real cider business a try.

Read more on Tieton Cider’s story on their website.

I was classmates with Sharon and Cindy for Peter Mitchell’s “Principles & Practice of Cider Making” class held at the WSU Experimental Ag Station in Mount Vernon, WA. I remember them fairly clearly. There were no other “pairs” of people who knew each other in class, and they seemed down to business, diligent and dedicated to their notebooks. A little over year later Sharon, Cindy, and I ended up emailing quite a bit which eventually led to Heather and I being asked over for a visit their cider house to “help” with their last day of cider pressing.

We were up at 5:15 or so, very early for us, and headed out the door for our 3 hour drive at around 6AM… The drive over Highway 12 turned out to be absolutely gorgeous in all it’s Fall splendor. Once we crested the top of White Pass we found golden colored Lyall Larches dotting the mountainsides. I can’t say I recall ever seeing anything quite like it before. Absolutely gorgeous.

Golden Spruce on White Pass in Washington State.

Golden colored Lyall Larches on White Pass in Washington State.

We arrived at around 9:30 or so to find the Harmony/Tieton crew hard at work since 8. Our 3 hour drive turned into a 3 and a half our drive after a 20-30 minute construction delay on the East side of White Pass. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few cider makers over the past few years; 3 of which we visited during the cider class. Tieton pressed for the ’08 season and using their experiences commissioned a brand new apple sorting and cider production line to help streamline the ’09 season and increase output. Needless to say I was thoroughly excited to check it out.

Apple bin at Tieton Cider Works. I don't recall which variety this was. Dabinett?

Tieton Cider Work’s operation was smack dab in the middle of a giant working organic orchard in the heart of orchard country. Down the dirt road I could see the massive pressing area surrounded by double orchard bins filled to the brim with varying varieties of apples… Condemned and waiting their turn at the grinder and press. To put it simply I thought their processing line was amazing… Equipment envy!

It all starts with the bins of apples that are fork lifted into a hydraulic bin lift which ever so gently believe it or not moves apples onto a large white conveyor belt for sorting that is about 6 foot wide by 8 or so foot long, just wide enough to put a person or two on each side. From there the apples find themselves forced under a shower of water/so2 solution for sanitizing and onto a long line of roller brushes that brushing the sorted apples sparkling clean.

Apple on the sorting conveyor being funneled down, rinsed then brushed.

No looking back now as the apples are conveyed up a belt fitted with rubber fingers that grab and push the unsuspecting but clean apples up only to find themselves tossed down down the throat of an industrial apple grinder, shredded and pomaced into oblivion. And yeah it is pretty much as dismal as it sounds. Watch your hands!

Tieton Cider Work's future 2009 vintage cider headed to grinder. These are Winter Banana

From the grinder the apple pomace is pushed out in a never ending ribbon of shredded apple maybe an inch or two high onto and sandwiched between the two pressing belts of their Continuous Belt Press. I know I said it already but… Amazing! The whole thing was an exquisite sight of grandeur this gadgety cider guy.

Exiting the grinder and into the continuous belt press. Efficiency.

After the belt press extracts the all the juice the fairly dry remains of apple are scraped off the belt and fall into a waiting orchard bin. What do they do with the remains? Well there was a fairly steady stream of folks coming to shovel it into containers and haul it off to use as free and tasty feed for the farm stock or as compost. Nothing goes to waste and nothing hits the landfill. It’s been said before but done like Tieton does it cider has got to be one of the most environmentally friendly beverages to produce. It takes a community to help out, kudos to the person organizing and arranging the pick ups.

Cider maker Cinder Richter at Tieton Cider Works

Cider maker Cinder Richter hard at work in Tieton Cider Works cider house.

From the outside the must (apple juice) is whisked inside the cider house through an inlet piped straight through the wall into very large poly fermentation vessels, 500 Gallon I think. Amongst the giant tanks there was also a few carboys on racks and some larger scale experimental fermenting being started in 55 gallon stainless wine barrels. Cindy could be found in the cider house sterilizing barrels, monitoring levels in tanks, switching the hose from full tanks to empty, taking notes on apple varieties, testing batches for pH, starting gravity and acidity. If that weren’t enough she was starting and pitching yeast in tanks filled during the previous days pressing. More never ending busy work.

Heather sorting apples at Tieton Cider Works.

Heather sorting apples headed towards the press.

They put Heather and I on one side of the sorting table where we quickly took up sorting the good apples from the bad with some consult from Roy Harmony’s orchard manager. Soon enough we both had the details straight and were sorting like unseasoned amateurs. I don’t care what they say… 1 apple doesn’t necessarily spoil the whole barrel or even the bin for that mater. Actually there weren’t many bad ones to be found at all. The art of the sorting job as we found out was mostly in hands the apple bin operator’s control. The hydraulic bin dumper carefully finessed should keep a steady stream of apples traveling down the belt. Not too many, not too few. I know there were kinks worked out and all but the process seemed absolutely seamless from an outsider’s presepective. Always running, constantly grinding and forever pressing. Minus a minor belt adjustment and tightening come mid-afternoon the production seemed never ending.

If the experience weren’t enough we were treated to an awesome lunch outside next to the press set up. Among the many delicious things there was homemade Carnitas and Salsa, some of the best I have ever tasted I should add. After lunch we were able to sneak in a quick sampling, some tasting of their new line of ciders, not to mention a little cider talk with Cindy. I think there is never enough cider talk or tasting, however we tried to keep it as brief as humanly possible as to not abandon our quality control apple sorting posts for too long.

The Northwest cider making community is a small, warm, friendly and cooperative family. Heather and I had an excellent day with our friends at Tieton. The experience was great, we met lots of great folks like Orchard Manager Roy and family, and Orchard Mechanic/Handy Guy Kelly. Sharon, Craig, Cindy and Fred were generous enough to send us home with containers of juice to ferment. Thanks guys!

I hear Tieton’s limited run of first year cider, the ’08 vintage, sold out quick. Well they may have no more. I was glad that we picked up a case while we were there, but even that went quick. Between sampling out to our local bottle shop here in Oly, gifting to Megan – Heather’s sister and our chief dog watcher for the day, we ran out quick too.

Good things are going to come from these folks. I know I’ll be impatiently awaiting the bottles from ’09 to hit the shelves.

Additional Information:

If you’d like a taste of  Tieton Cider Works I hear they have stock at 99 Bottles in Federal Way, WA. and Full Throttle Bottle in Seattle, WA. Both excellent bottleshops and great supporters of and sources for the traditional ciders of Washington State. They stay on top of the game and seem to get carry them all old and new. Thanks for supporting cider Washington guys!

Tieton also ships cider in Washington State. The website says they can start to ship out of state starting February 2010.

Tieton Cider has a Facebook Fan Page here and you can find the Tieton Cider blog here.

My complete set of pictures from our trip to Tieton Cider Works is here on Flickr.

Tieton Cider Works 2009 Vintage Ciders: Dry, Semi-Dry, and Cherry.

Just got word via Twitter post from Lars at Snowdrift Cider Co. in East Wenatchee WA. that the GLINT CAP (Commercial) results were in. Here are the results from the link he posted. I’ll update if anything turns out to be inaccurate.

A lot of great folks got the praise and appreciation they deserve. Special congrats to Snowdrift Cider Co. who has barely released their cider and yet brought home two medals a bronze for their Dry in the English Style and a gold for the Semi-Dry in the New England Style category. Rich Anderson at Westcott Bay Orchards Cider got another gold for his Dry and silver medal for his Very Dry in the English Style category. Drew Zimmerman at Red Barn Cider got a Silver in the common Perry category for Red Barn Perry “Moulton’s Dry”.

I’d also like to give special recognition to Mike Beck of Uncle John’s Cider Mill. Uncle John’s really cleaned up apparently with what looks to be about 10 medals. Way to go guys. Mike also sent me a load of ciders from their Great Lakes International Cider Festival which are in my refrigerator awaiting a quiet moment for Heather and I to evaluate and potentially write about a number of them. I didn’t get any Uncle John’s in the package but it certainly looks as though I need to get my hands on some.

Congratulations to all the winners and all the entrants. Keep up the great work cider makers.

I urge you all to pick up any of these ciders on the list or even any local craft cider you can find. Many of the winners can be found on my map and the ones I don’t have at the time of my post will be up shortly.

The results

Category 25a – Cyser (1 Entry)

Gold – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Cyser, St Johns, MI

Category 26c – Open Category Mead (1 Entry)

Silver – Robinette Cellars, Cyser, Grand Rapids, MI

Category 27a – Common Cider (21 Entries)

Gold – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Uncle John’s Hard Cider, St Johns, MI
Silver – Blackstar Farms, Hard Apple Cider, Suttons Bay, MI

Silver – McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, North Carolina Hard Cider Thurmond, NC
Silver – Warrick Valley Winery and Distillery, Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider, Warwick, NY
Silver – Spicers Orchard Winery, Sweet Williams Hard Cider, Fenton, MI
Bronze – McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, North Carolina Dry Hard Cider, Thurmond, NC

Bronze – Tulip Valley Vineyard and Orchard, Burro Loco Cider, Mount Vernon, WA
Bronze – Tandem Cider, Early Day, Suttons Bay, MI
Bronze – McIntosh Orchards, Draught Cider Dry, South Haven, MI

Bronze – Tideview Cider, Tideview Festive Sparkler, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Bronze – Vandermill Cider, Hard Apple Cider, Spring Lake, MI
Bronze – Hideout Brewing Company, Hideout Cider, Grand Rapids, MI
Bronze – Northville Winery, Hard Cider, Northville, MI

Category 27b – English Cider (10 Entries)

Gold – Westcott Bay Cider Westcott Bay, Traditional Dry Cider, Friday Harbor, WA
Silver – Westcott Bay Cider, Westcott Bay Traditional Very Dry Cider, Friday Harbor, WA
Silver – Henney’s Cider Co., Frome Valley Sweet, Herefordshire, England

Silver – Oliver’s Cider House, Hereforshire Medium Cider, Herefordshire, England
Bronze – Aspall Cyders, Aspall Dry Cider, Suffolk, England
Bronze – Aspall Cyders, Aspall Medium Cider, Suffolk, England
Bronze – Oliver’s Cider House, Herefordshire Dry Cider, Herefordshire, England

Bronze – Henney’s Cider Co., Vintage, Herefordshire, England
Bronze – Snowdrift Cider Company, Dry Cider, East Wenatchee, WA

Category 27c – French Cider (1 Entry)

Gold – Aspall Cyders, Aspall Organic Cider, Suffolk, England

Category 27d – Common Perry (2 Entries)

Silver – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Uncle John’s Perry, St. Johns, MI
Silver – Tulip Valley Vineyard and Orchard, Red Barn Perry Moulton’s Dry, Mount Vernon, WA

Category 27e – Traditional Perry (2 Entries)

Silver – Oliver’s Cider House, Herefordshire Dry Perry, Herefordshire, England

Bronze – Oliver’s Cider House, Blakeney Red Perry, Herefordshire, England

Category 28a – New England Cider (2 Entries)

Gold – Snowdrift Cider Company, Semi-Dry Cider, East Wenatchee, WA

Silver – Uncle John’s, New England Cider/Seasonal, St. Johns, MI

Category 28b – Fruit Cider (11 Entries)

Gold – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Apple/Cherry Cider, St. Johns, MI
Silver – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Apple/cCranberry Cider, St. Johns, MI
Silver – Aspall Cyders, Aspall Perronelle’s Blush Cider, Suffolk, England
Silver – Vandermill Cider, Apple Blueberry Cider, Spring Lake, MI
Silver – Robinette Cellars, Apple Cherry Cider, Grand Rapids, MI
Silver – Warrick Valley Winery and Distillery, Doc’s Draft Hard Pear Cider, Warwick, NY
Silver – Vandermill Cider, Apple Peach Cider, Spring Lake, MI
Silver – Northville Winery, Blue River, Northville, MI
Silver – Tideview Cider, Raspberry Cider, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Silver – Northville Winery, Crimson Dew, Northville, MI

Category 28c – Applewine (4 Entries)

Silver – Robinette Cellars, Apple Table Wine, Grand Rapids, MI
Silver – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Applewine, St. Johns, MI

Category 28d – Specialty Cider or Perry (4 Entries)

Silver – Lehmans Orchard, Honeycrisp Hard Apple Cider, Niles, MI
Silver – Vandermill Cider, Black Tea Cider, Spring Lake, MI
Silver – Vandermill Cider,Michigan Wit, Spring Lake, MI

Category 2006-1 Macro Cider (8 Entries)

Silver – H.Weston and Sons Ltd., Old Rosie Cloudy Scrumpy, Herefordshire, England
Silver – Green Mountian Beverage, Woodchuck Draft Cider – Amber, Middlebury, VT
Silver – Green Mountian Beverage, Woodchuck Draft Cider – Oak Aged, Middlebury, VT
Silver – Green Mountian Beverage, Strongbow, Middlebury, VT
Silver – Green Mountian Beverage, Woodchuck Draft Cider – Granny Smith, Middlebury, VT
Silver – H.Weston and Sons Ltd., Stowford Press Medium Dry Draft, Herefordshire, England
Silver – Green Mountian Beverage, Wyder’s Pear Cider, Middlebury, VT
Silver – Original Sin, Original Sin Pear Cider, New York, NY

Category 2006-2a Intensified Cider & Perry – Prefermentation – Ice Cider (3 Entries)

Gold – Eden Ice Cider Co, Eden-Calville Blend, West Charleston, VT
Silver – Eden Ice Cider Co, Champlain Orchards- Honeycrisp, West Charleston, VT
Silver – Tideview Cider, Tideview Sparkling Ice Cider, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Category 2006-2b Intensified Cider and Perry – Postfermentation – Pommeau (6 Entries)

Gold – Blackstar Farms, Sirius Maple, Suttons Bay, MI
Gold – Warrick Valley Winery and Distillery, American Fruits Apple Liquor, Warwick, NY
Silver – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Apple Dessert Wine, St. Johns, MI
Silver – Aeppeltreow Winery, Poirissimo Traditional, Burlington, WI
Silver – Robinette Cellars, Dessert Apple Wine, Grand Rapids, MI
Silver – Blackstar Farms, Sirius Pear, Suttons Bay, MI

Category 2006-3a Distilled – Eau de vie (2 Entries)

Silver – Warrick Valley Winery and Distillery, American Fruits Pear Brandy, Warwick, NY
Silver – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Vodka From Apples, St. Johns, MI

Category 2006-3b Distilled – Brandy Oak Aged (1 Entry)

Gold – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Apple Brandy, St. Johns, MI

Category 2009 – Non Alcoholic Sparkling Cider (2 Entries)

Gold – Vandermill Cider, VanderMill NA, Spring Lake, MI

Best Of Show

Best Of Show – Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery, Uncle John’s Hard Cider, St. Johns, MI

Honorable Mention – Warwick Valley Winery, American Fruits Apple Liquor, Warwick, NY