Cider has always held an important place in the traditional and rural American kitchen. In colonial days, when clean water wasn’t always available, nearly every pantry was stocked with a few barrels of hard cider. Today, the modern American craft-brewing movement that originated with beer has made its way to cider providing a wealth of subtle and superlative craft ciders available around the country. With their bright yet dry fruit notes these ciders pair exceptionally well with salty and smoky foods, making them a welcome addition to a family barbecue.
Most top-shelf cider is still found largely at cider houses, spirits outlets, taprooms, or restaurants. Until quite recently nationally distributed ciders were artificial affairs, often made with apple concentrate imported from China and added sugars to boost the alcohol content during fermentation. But recently a bevy of higher-quality ciders have begun to grace even the market shelves of the larger grocery outlets.
One example of top-flight west coast cider, is Sebastopol’s Devoto Gardens. Devoto’s Apple Sauced, is 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.
Sonoma County has long been home to some of the world’s best apples. Sebastopol in particular is an ideal location to dry farm the fruit. The fog that rolls in from the sea each night helps to keep the apples crisp and allows them to ripen slowly. Just as with grapes, a slow-ripening process in a cool climate helps develop the acids in the fruit that allow subtle and complex flavor notes to appear in the final fermented beverages.
During the last century, untold acres of apple orchards were uprooted in this area in order to make way for the more lucrative grape harvest. Today, with the market for high-end ciders now booming, apple orchards in Sebastopol are once again being planted with this prized local resource.