Finger Lakes Ciders


#1

I was dropping my daughter off at camp yesterday and stopped by a good wine store in Ithaca, NY to check out the cider offerings. I grabbed a few:

So far I have tried the “Old Time Cider” from South Hill and the “Northern Spy” from Eve’s.

I had not heard of South Hill before, I think they are relatively new, but they are on to something. Their Old Time Cider is the best all-US apples cider I have ever had. Its not trying to copy a European cider but it also has a deep rich flavor unlike most US cider makers. It is made from found apples on old trees, they do have their own orchard but it is not in production yet. Whatever they are doing its pretty awesome! Their production is very small so it may be hard to find.

The Eve’s Northern Spy is a Champagne-like cider. It is similar to the Strongbow etc ciders; I would rather save money and buy one of them. I am hoping some of the other Eve’s ciders will be better, they are supposed to be really good but I have never had one I thought was worth the $$.


#2

Never tried any of them. I’m not much of a drinker, but I do like hard cider. I was up past Beak and Skiff in central NY the other day and they have 1911 Cider there, which I presume to be their own product. I was with a friend who doesn’t drink at all, so I didn’t even suggest that we stop for a burger and a hard cider (didn’t help that it was about 7AM either).


#3

I’ll be interested to hear your takes on the rest of your haul…
Finger Lakes Cider House is a fun visit as they have five or so makers ciders on tap, so you can sample quite a few, and only get lightly buzzed with the small pours.


#4

Thanks for the tip, I may check them out if I get up there then.

The wine store in Ithaca had many other brands, one problem for me is there are so many brands and none of them stick out.

Yes I will be posting updates on the rest of them. Its hard work but somebody has to do it :grinning:


#5

I tried South Hill Ciders’ Bluegrass Russet at FLCH and among the dozen or so I tried I liked it enough to buy a bottle to take with…I might just have to order in some of their other offerings!


#6

Tonight I tried the Eve’s Darling Creek. It is too sour and thin. I like Spanish ciders so I’m not totally against a sour cider, but there is a lot more going on in them. The last cider I made is similar to this in taste. Its still perfectly drinkable, just not worth the bucks and not up to the better Euro ciders or the South Hill Old Time.

I read up a bit on Eve’s ciders, I didn’t realize it was James Cummins (Jr) that was doing it. His Littletree Orchards is where I got really into fruit, we would u-pick there and thats what got me started making jam etc.


#7

James manages the orchards up there, but it is Autumn Stoscheck who is the real cider maker at Eve’s.


#8

I have not had South Hill Ciders. My wife bought me Eve’s Cidery: Autumn’s Gold, Kingston Black single varietal, and Beckhorn Hollow (I think) for Christmas. Eve’s messed up and sent her two orders of the same 3 bottles.

I still have a bottle left of the Kingston Black. It was the best of the three and I’m holding on to it for a special occasion.

I think I recall the Beckhorn Hollow being good, but the Golden Russet rich Autumn’s Gold was so-so. It needed more tannins and body to me.


#9

They didn’t have the Kingston Black in stock, ah well.

I compared the Darling Creek with the Northern Spy, I probably like the latter a bit more as it does what it sets out to do better: clean and fresh. Both need less acid for what else they have in the flavor.


#10

Tonight I cracked open the South Hill Soundpost. This is a part found apples and part Euro cider apples it sounds like (perhaps early fruit from their new orchard). This is a very nicely balanced cider, not too much acid like the Eve’s. It has a lot of light aromatics to it, with a hint of flowers or roses or some such. Its not exactly like any other cider I have tried and its not a “big” taste like the European ciders but its still excellent. Another winner from South Hill!! No these guys are not paying me :grinning: I think I liked the Old Time Cider a touch more than this one, but I didn’t keep any to compare head to head. I am trying to keep a bit left of them from now on so I can go back and compare.


#11

We live only a few miles from the Finger Lakes Cider House and count as friends several cider makers. Steve Selin’s South Hill offerings have consistantly finished high in our taste tests. His ciders retain an appley quality that many others do not. Sadly, I agree with you about Eve’s Cidery’s ciders. Redbyrd Orchard has some good offerings. Its Workman is a bright, semi dry that is a favorite.


#12

Lucky you!
What I notice with some ciders is that they tend to take on the qualities of the yeast used, Champagne type yeasts give the finished cider a clean flavor that is very wine-like. Also being located in the middle of wine country, I imagine that ther is considerable cross-over and interchange between the wine and cider techniques, equipment pool, even the ‘wild’ yeasts that are floating around. So it made sense to me that many of the ciders I sampled had vinious and wine like qualities. I had one cider which even added a percentage of,wine grape must to the fresh cider to create a rose’ semi dry cider! (It was tasty)


#13

Thanks for the tip on Redbyrd, I will have to look for that one. I’m also glad to find someone else not a big fan of Eve’s, I thought I was alone on that.

I finished the tasting last night. Eve’s pulled up a bit in the end, the Autumn’s Gold had more depth than their others. Still too harsh with the acids though. The Good Life Funkhouse had a great balance but it was too thin and watery. This is a common thing I find in ciders (including my own), usually its due to being made from apples not so good for cider. The South Hill Packbasket was the least good of the South Hill offerings, it was too funky/thin. From memory it was like Darling Creek but without the acidity problem.

Overall it seems like the US still has a ways to go in terms of cider quality compared to Europe and Quebec. Maybe it is a problem that these cider makers are overly influenced by wine techniques. Cider, mead, wine, and beer are all very different beasts which require very different philosophies. I do really like the Shacksbury ciders, but I never tried one of their all-US apples ones, only the ones with juice imported from Europe. They got some cider making training in Europe if I recall.


#14

I didn’t check the name and wish I had but I was in Whole Foods and bought a 500 mill bottle of apple cider which was actually excellent. I don’t know how many 500 mill bottles they carry but it was basically a champagne type bottle that mention barnyard or something similar in its flavor profile. It was almost dry ( A tragically rare thing for American ciders) and actually really really good… I would highly recommend trying that, sorry I don’t have a photo of it. It was something like 12 bucks a bottle in Tucson.


#15

Thanks for the heads up on South Hill ciders Scott. I was actually up in Ithaca this past weekend and saw a bunch of cider companies in booths at the Ithaca Farmers Market. I wasn’t paying too much attention until stumbling onto South Hill and remembering this thread.

A very nice young lady told me all about their different ciders and let me taste each of the three they had on hand. They were all excellent and I bought one of each, although I did like the Old Time Cider the best. The other 2 I purchased were Packbasket and One of a Kind.

Whenever I’ve tasted hard ciders beyond the angry orchard mass market types in the past, I’ve found them thin, sometimes sour and generally uninspired. South Hill has completely changed my mind about hard cider and I look forward to drinking all of these and maybe giving some of the MD/PA/VA cider producers a visit to see what they’re up to. Thanks for doing all the hard detective work for us.


#16

I agree about sour/thin/uninspired, I’ve had lots of that. Honestly I prefer the mass market ciders to many of the boutique brews. We still have a long ways to go in my mind but Shacksbury and South Hill (and others I’m sure) are at least heading in the right direction.

My wife is picking up kid next weekend, will see if I can twist her arm to stop by the farmers market to get some food for the road, and perhaps grab a bottle to two for dear hubby…


#17

We are up in Corning New York at The Corning Museum of Glass for an annual Glass symposium. One of the programs the museum just completed was a work with the cider makers in the Finger Lake area. The museum’s glass blowing artisans worked with the cider makers to design and manufacture the best glass to enjoy the cider from.

Three cider makers worked on the project with the museum Autumn from Eve’s Cidery, Finger Lakes Cider House, and Scott Selin from South Hills Cider. It was very interesting to hear from each grower about how the industry is growing.

The end result of the research done, all three glass makers and cider makers decided on a stemmed glass two of which had a stove pipe design and one with a flared lip.

But most importantly after the presentation of the glasses. We were invited up to taste the ciders and talk to the artists. I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Steve from South Hill Ciders. He’s making a cider aged in a bourbon barrel! WOW!! OUTSTANDING!!

I talked with Steve about our site and showed him the pictures in this post. He was very honored that he was mentioned.

I sent him the link and this is what I received

Al,

Thanks so much for sharing this link. I feel honored. If you want to share that we do mail order and have a cider club the link is here: http://www.southhillcider.com/order-cider-ny/

Cheers,
Steve


#18

Cool! Wish I was there!

There are several bourbon barrel ciders out there, some are pretty good. I don’t remember which one is which now though.


#19

I think I’ll stop by the Finger Lakes Cider House tomorrow afternoon. I am going to the USDA Open house in Geneva in the morning. I can stop at the Cider House on the way back. Now that I looked up the Cider House, I realized that I visited them a few years ago before they had their tasting room built. The NY Nut Growers fall meeting was held nearby and we toured several local farms that were into permaculture. I’ll be interested to see how their place turned out.


#20

I recently returned from a fall foliage tour (a coach tour) of the northeast with my wife. I’m still recovering from all that sitting. Even with all of that butt time, we had a great trip. It was her first visit to the northeast sans a few days in NYC last summer and my first time back since I was 11 years old, so a bit more than 40 years in between visits – too long, of course.

I had apples and cider on the mind when we planned this trip, but a guided coach tour doesn’t leave much time for freelancing. I did pick apples from the odd tree when the opportunity afforded itself, and snagged a couple unknown varieties from the grounds of the Norman Rockwell museum (worth a visit!) and a bunch of trees in Plymouth Notch, VT (preserved home of President Calvin Coolidge). All of the apples were pretty disappointing sugar wise, and this was the first week of October. I’m sure there are better specimens from tended orchards, but I was not able to get that added to the itinerary.

On the plus side, we had a few hours in Boston between arrival at Logan Intl. and our pre-trip meeting, so I did a little pre-trip research and found a small cidery near our first night hotel in Jeffries Point near the airport. If you’re in town, Downeast Cidery is worth the visit. They currently have eight ciders on tap in their taproom. They aren’t able to sell glasses of cider on site, but do give out five free tastes, a couple or three ounces each, so it makes for a nice pour when added up. They will sell cans or fill growlers on site, so you can take your cider with. It’s all unfiltered and, IMO, some high quality cider. They also distribute as far west as Ohio. I can’t recall how far south they’ve got their cider. We managed to find some at a liquor store in Hyannis one evening, and supplemented our booze intake for the duration of the trip.