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 for example, 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 apples. The fog that rolls in from the sea each night here helps to keep the apples crisp and allows them to ripen slowly. Just as with grapes, this cold-climate slow-ripening process is essential to developing the acids to create subtle and complex flavor notes in fermented fruit 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. But today, with the market for high-end ciders once again blooming, apple orchards in Sebastopol are rathe with this prized local resource.