Hard cider is the drink of fall, and here in Virginia the beverage is experiencing quite the revival. Virginia has long been a major producer of apples, and in recent years cidermakers have revived heirloom varieties that are ideal for hard cider — including Hewe’s Crab, a variety favored by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Cidermaker Diane Flynt and her husband planted their first apples at Foggy Ridge Cider in southwest Virginia in 1998 and sold their first hard cider in 2006. They now grow over 30 American, English and French apple varieties and produce a range of ciders that are effervescent, crisp and acidic — more like wine than the mass-produced commercial ciders commonly found at the supermarket. In fact, Foggy Ridge Cider was part of the blind tasting at the recent Virginia Wine Summit, where it was the preferred choice of the expert panel and audience members alike.
Foggy Ridge Cider is the oldest of Virginia’s current crop of cideries, but in the past few years the number has grown to eight (the newest two, Blue Bee Cider and Winchester Ciderworks, expect to begin sales next year).
When I got word of the inaugural Virginia Cider Week, I seized the opportunity to put together an apple-studded cheese board. With a few slices of local Pink Lady and Stayman apples, I served a selection of cheeses from Eastern apple-producing states: New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Virginia. If you’re serving farm cider, farmstead cheeses are the obvious choice.
- Something Creamy: Hudson Valley Camembert, Old Chatham Sheepherding Co., NY
- Something Firm: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Jasper Hill Farm, VT
- Something Blue: Black Ledge Blue, Cato Corner Farm, CT
- Something Funky: Grayson, Meadow Creek Dairy, VA
The Serious Cider and Potter’s Farmhouse Dry are both dry, fizzy and almost champagne-like ciders that are exceptional with cheese, from creamy to sharp. Meadow Creek’s Appalachian is also a good choice, in keeping with the Virginia terroir. On another occasion, I enjoyed Potter’s cider with Caromont Farm’s Bloomsbury — another creamy bloomy-rind.
I had the chance to meet Diane and sample the full line of Foggy Ridge Cider at a tasting this week. Flynt’s preferred pairing is Grayson with First Fruit, made with early season apples that produce a slightly sweeter cider. She also served Kunik at her recent Murray’s cider pairing class; y’all know our thoughts about Kunik so it should go without saying that we heartily endorse that pairing as well. Foggy Ridge makes a brandy-cider blend, Pippin Gold, that would be excellent with a rich blue cheese for a dessert course. (We might suggest the new Blue Ridge from Everona Dairy.)
Artisanal ciders are well suited for meals, too, from spicy green chili to cured meats or roast pork or poultry. (Yes, you can even pair cider with your Thanksgiving turkey.) While in Richmond last month, I had a splendid cider-based cocktail at Pasture, along with house-cured pastrami pork loin. Fab.
Flynt summarizes the difference between farm and factory ciders in a guest post at Swirl, Sip, Snark — where you can also learn more about Virginia’s other cidermakers. Visit the Cider Week VA website for details about the week’s remaining events, including the closing celebration at Castle Hill Cider in Keswick this Saturday. The ladies at Beyond the Flavor have sipped their way through the featured cider cocktails at Charlottesville restaurants this week — not that we’re jealous.
Have you had a good cider lately? Tell us about it!