During the Colonial Period, hard apple cider was a very popular adult beverage in America. Back then, it was considered safer for consumption than the local water supply since the fermentation process killed any harmful bacteria. Hard cider was also relatively easy to make, and by the 17th century, settlers had already planted apple orchards throughout Virginia for the production of hard cider. The popularity of hard cider eventually declined with the temperance movement, where many apple orchards were removed, and later, Prohibition. By the time Prohibition was repealed (1933), beer, wine, and spirits returned to their former status, but unfortunately, hard cider did not.
On a recent trip to Monticello Wine Country, I paid a visit to Albemarle CiderWorks; a small family-owned and operated business that opened in 2009. Their mission is to grow, produce, and revive the age-old craft of fine cider making. Their ciders, not overly sweet, tart, or bland, are made in the mold of the classic beverages that Americans took a liking to centuries ago. That said, I’m no cider expert but found these ciders to be very pleasing. What I did find eye-opening was that they grew more than 250 unique and heirloom apples. Additionally, not just any apple variety is fit for the production of hard cider. Like wine grapes, it takes varieties that have the necessary amounts of acid, tannin, sugar, etc. to craft high-quality, traditional hard cider.
Lovely Tasting Room
Albemarle CiderWorks makes four different hard ciders. The Jupiter's Legacy and Ragged Mountain are made from a blend of apple varieties and the Pippin and Winesap are made from the variety for which they are named. I think a common misconception novices share is that all hard cider is sweet. We were pleasantly surprised to find that all four examples were refreshing, dry-to-fairly dry, effervescent, light on the palate, and low in alcohol (e.g. 7% ABV). The differences I found came in the textures, fruit profile, intensity of the fruit, perceived sweetness, and other subtleties. While I enjoyed all the hard ciders poured, the Royal Pippin came home with me. Borrowing a few terms I use for wine, I felt it was nicely balanced, crisp and harmonious, and would pair nicely with moderately spicy ethnic cuisine. Before leaving, I took advantage of the gorgeous day and enjoyed a splash of the Royal Pippin out on the relaxing patio.
Vintage Cider Glass
I highly recommend paying Albemarle CiderWorks as well as the surrounding wineries in the Charlottesville area a visit. Cider tastings are $4 and for $3 extra you get to keep the glass which is modeled after a vintage cider glass. Did you know? Our second president, John Adams, and third, Thomas Jefferson, were said to have drunk up to a tankard (a half-gallon) of hard cider a day. Adams lived to the ripe old age of 90, and Jefferson, 83. Both attributed hard cider to their good health and long-life. Coincidentally, both men died on July 4, 1826. In closing, I guess the saying could be, “A tankard of hard cider a day keeps the doctor away.” Cheers!
NOTE: Good news for local cider lovers! Hard cider is making a resurgence in Virginia. Foggy Ridge Cider, located in southwest Virginia, is bottling traditional hard cider crafted with modern techniques. Another cider producer, Castle Hill Cider is opening soon and there are another two scheduled to open next year.
Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and as always, Happy Sipping! Stay tuned ...more to come!
CLICK HERE to visit Albemarle CiderWork's website.
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