Monday, August 4, 2014

Hard Cider: Not a Hard Sell

Hard cider is a fast-growing segment of the beverage market these days. After little exposure to this delicious, satisfying and low-alcohol beverage, I was suddenly given the opportunity to taste it everywhere I went in the last year or so. I tasted it in Southwest Colorado at a weekend festival, in France with Bretton-style galettes (savory crepes), and in Germany at Christmas market stalls. My latest taste of hard apple cider was three bottlings of Devoto Orchards cider from Sebastopol, California, once mostly an apple and plum growing region that has undergone a big change -- nearly all the land once used for orchards is now covered in vineyards.

Handcrafted, small production ciders like those from Devoto Orchards -- where Stan Devoto grows more than 100 certified organic apple varieties on 27 acres -- really highlight the fresh taste of the quality apples used in them. Devoto's are dry and elegant with no cloying sweetness.  I enjoyed them all but my favorite was Cidre Noir, a blend of Devoto's heirloom apple varieties -- Arkansas Black and Black Twig apples -- that hang on the trees for nearly seven months, developing acid and flavors in a dry-farmed environment. 

"1976" -- Named for the year in which the founders of Devoto Orchards planted their first apple orchard in west Sonoma County is made from 17 varieties of apples, including Ashmead's Kernel, Hawaiian and Winesap.  

Some 90% of "Save the Gravenstein" is made from the centuries-old Gravenstein variety which botanist Luther Burbank once declared thrived best in Sonoma County. The remaining 10% is juiced from Pink Pearl, Burgundy and Akane varieties. 

Alcohol levels for each is 6.9 %, and prices range from $11.99 - $13.99/bottle at high-end grocery stores and bottle shops.