Virginia Winesap and Albemarle Pippin Apples
The unifying thread of Viriginia cider lies in these two native apples. The Virginia Winesap apple is crucial for adding body, complexity, and tannins to Virginia ciders while the Albemarle Pippin is the key to the structure, tartness, and distinct green apple skin flavor found in most Virginia ciders. Both apples also make for good eats on their own and, combined, a damn fine apple pie.
Jupiter’s Legacy from Albemarle CiderWorks
The most austere offering from this North Garden cidery, Jupiter's Legacy is fermented to complete dryness with a long, resinous finish from estate-grown Winesap and Albemarle Pippin apple mixed with a variety of over 30 heirloom apple varietals. The end product is layered with flavors of citrus peel, apple skin, and a bit of barnyard. It is a distinctly American cider and, perhaps, the quintessential Virginia cider.
Handmade from Foggy Ridge Cider
While we've tasted single-varietal ciders made entirely from Pippin apples before, Handmade by Foggy Ridge Cider, made from Virginia-grown Albemarle Pippin apples, is a bit fuller with more defined "apple" character than the others. It really shines with duck and rabbit dishes.
Fried Chicken from BrookVille Restaurant
There were dozens of small plates interspersed amongst our ciders, but one that stood out was the fried chicken from Charlottesville's BrookVille Restaurant. Generously fried chunks of leg meat are drizzled with a blend of maple syrup and hot sauce for a bite that hits on all the major food groups; salty, sweet, spicy, and fried.
Cider cocktails at Hamilton's at First & Main
One of my favorite cider cocktails to make at home is a simple splash of Cocchi Americano and a few drops of Bitter Truth orange bitters in dry cider for a bit of extra body and complexity.
Hamilton's at First & Main in Charlottesville seems to share my love for combining cider and bitters with their Apples and Oranges cocktail. Bone dry Albemarle Ciderworks Royal Pippon is poured over a brown sugar cube sprinkled with Fee Brothers orange bitters. The whole drink gets the slightest dose of Blanton's bourbon for just a hint of flavor. I'll definitely be trying this one out on family and friends over the holidays.
The North South Cider Smackdown
The best ciders from New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire ventured south to take on four of Virginia's finest in the first annual North South Cider Smackdown. I hosted the blind tasting—held at Albemarle Ciderworks—along with Tom Burford, renowned orchardist. Tom is a man who has both a pear and an apple named after him and quite literally wrote the book on international apple varieties. Needless to say, I was a bit outmatched.
The winning cider, Foggy Ridge First Fruit, reaffirmed Virginia's importance in the American cider revival. And while I feel proud that the North held strong taking both second and third place, I have already vowed to return next year with a new batch of ciders, ready for a rematch!
Cold Spicy Meatloaf Slider at Hill and Holler
There was plenty of outstanding food at Hill and Holler's Cider Week Event. When their roaming farm to table dinner landed at Albemarle Ciderworks, they brought along three of the state's best chefs ready to impress. The bite that stood out most was the cold spicy BOWA Mangalista meatloaf slider with pickles and kimchi mayo by Lee Gregory, chef/owner of The Roosevelt in Richmond.
Oak Barrel Reserve from Potter's Craft Cider
Upstart cider makers Tim Edmond and Dan Potter have already marked the Virginia cider scene by bucking the trend that draft cider has to be sweet and lifeless. Their Oak Barrel Reserve, released in conjunction with Cider Week, features a blend of native Virginia apples fermented with three yeast strains. It's aged in Laird's Applejack barrels. The end result hints at caramel and oak with distinct apple brandy notes and a crisp, dry finish.
Levity from Castle Hill Cider
Castle Hill Cider is quickly developing a niche as Virginia's most experimental cidery. In addition to offering the state's only still cider, they are the only cider maker to ferment in Kvervi; buried clay amphorae. 100% Albemarle Pippin apple juice spends several months in these underground clay vessels. The final cider is complex and earthy, with a hint of orange pith on the palate, and a tart, slightly mineral, slightly saline finish.
Eve's Black Heart at Beer Run
Cider Press at Whisky Jar
A blend of Foggy Ridge Handmade cider, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, St. Germain, and brown sugar simple syrup drinks exactly like it sounds: full of bourbon and apple notes with subtle floral hints.