By Christopher Matthews
It’s cider season in the Hudson Valley, and I have lately been gathering the materials – and fruit – to make my own (now) annual production. This process has taken me several times to Half Time Beverage in Poughkeepsie which, in addition to being a craft beer and cider store par excellence, is also a good spot for home brewing supplies.
While purchasing some essential items like pectic enzyme and yeasts for my upcoming cider batches, I wandered over to Half Time’s craft cider selection, and was drawn immediately to one of my favorite producers anywhere — Foggy Ridge, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
I first tasted some of Foggy Ridge’s (FR) ciders three years ago at a special cider tasting of the Wine Media Guild, and I was greatly impressed. In particular, I remembered that FR’s “Serious Cider” was my favorite, and I spotted it on Half Time’s shelf.
I did not regret the purchase. It is, in fact, a cider style that I aspire to make.
Great cider starts with great apples, naturally, and FR’s orchards are planted with traditional cider varieties, like the English cider apples Tremlett’s Bitter and Dabinett, and American heirloom varieties traditionally used for cider, such as Grimes Golden and Newtown Pippen (all of which go into the “Serious Cider”). Other “antiques” include Hewe’s Crab (Virginia), Roxsbury Russett (Massachusetts), Muscadet de Berney (France), Harrison (Virginia), and Cox’s Orange Pippen (England). What these varieties bring – in FR’s sure hands – are tannins, complexity, acidity and unique flavors. No need for other fruits, hops or herbs in the blend; the apples clearly speak for themselves.
The Serious Cider starts with a pronounced nose, a complex blend of fennel, straw, ripe apple and stone fruit, citrus and a hint of bleu cheese. And the palate is layered with flavor – minerally and citrusy with grip, ripe apple and peach – and driven by a vibrant, electric acidity to a clean, bone dry and marathon-length finish. Each sip demands another. Mouth-watering and (and mouth-filling), this cider is world-class, vinous and a superior food companion (think roast pork chops).
Fortunately, Foggy Ridge Cider is sold in restaurants and shops in nine US states (including New York!) and the District of Columbia (NY, MD, DL, DC, VA, NC, SC, TN, AL and GA). If you come across these ciders, don’t hesitate – buy!