Cider is all the rage these days in Northern California with rave openings of cider houses such as Sonoma Cider’s new taproom in Healdsburg. The popular taproom and restaurant features French and Basque influenced cuisine and micro-releases of its own cidereal inspirations plus artisanal ciders from around the globe.
Cider has always held an important place in the traditional rural American kitchen. When clean water was not always an option, nearly every kitchen kept a barrel of hard cider on hand for an emergency, both real and imagined.
In Sonoma County, home of some of the worlds best apples, untold acres of orchards were uprooted during the last century in order to make way for the more lucrative grape harvest. With a budding market for high-end ciders, new orchards in the are could also blossom.
Until recently most mass-produced ciders were relatively abominable conceits made with apple concentrate imported from China, the world’s largest apple producer. These commercial ciders often add sugar to boost their alcohol content during fermentation.
Fortunately, the modern American craft brewing movement that began with beer has now engendered an abundance of wonderful craft ciders that offer an array of bright fruit notes. They remind us that cider is a beverage particularly suitable to complement salty and smoky foods and makes a popular appearance at any barbecue.
One such example of top-flight cider-craft is Sebastapol’s Devoto Gardens. The company roduces Apple Sauced, a single-varietal cider made with dry-farmed Gravenstein apples. Using champagne yeast, it is quick-fermented to preserve the zesty, tangy flavor of the fruit. And this is remarkable fruit indeedas the climate where the orchards are located in Sebastapol are an ideal location to dry-farm apples. The fog that rolls in every night helps keep the fruit crisp and allows it to ripen slowly. Just as with grapes, this slow-ripening process is the real key to developing subtlety and complexity in fermented fruit beverages.