December 21, 2004

Sporadic Posting until January 4th

Jen and I will be heading to her family (Central California) for Christmas and New Years.
We will be returning around January 4th depending on pass conditions.
I will have access to a computer down there but will not be posting as much.

Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for the New Year!

Dave

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December 09, 2004

Nice article on Hard Cider in local newspaper

The Seattle newspaper — The Post-Intelligencer — has a nice column by Chris Smith today:

Good Enough To Eat: Hard apple cider is staging a comeback
Before there were beers and spirits, there were ciders. In Colonial times and the early years of the republic, fermented cider was America's drink.

Our thirst for the stuff explains why there are so many varieties of apple here that couldn't have been propagated for their eating quality. Any apple can be squeezed into juice for cider. And, as counterintuitive as it seems, very fine hard ciders can be made from apples you wouldn't want to eat for dessert.

As the nation grew, though, cider fell out of fashion. The availability of grain from the heartland made beer- and whiskey-making possible and profitable. The newer beverages survived the temperance movement; cider didn't.

Lovers of hard cider though, can take heart. The product is making a modest comeback in the Northwest. Last month the Northwest Cider Society sponsored its second North American Cider Competition. Cider-makers from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, as well as from Indiana and Wisconsin, won awards. According to Peter Mitchell, an internationally known cider expert and adviser to the competition, “The overall quality of the entries was noticeably better than last year. The best of North America's artisan ciders are now comparable to long-established products from Britain and continental Europe.”

At the awards banquet, I got to taste some of the artisan ciders that Mitchell commended. What surprised me most was the range of tastes, from the very dry Westcott Bay Orchards Vintage Cider made in Friday Harbor to the dessert wine-sweet Oliver Beanblossom Hard Cider from Indiana. At both ends of the dry/sweet continuum, though, the ciders retained a clean, apple flavor.

Dry didn't adequately describe the White Oak Black 100 percent Kingston Black Cider from Newberg, Ore. It had a distinct, dark, musty flavor that I assume came from bittersharp Kingston Black cider apples.

A cider from Cobble Hill in neighboring British Columbia, Merridale House Cider, picked off one of the competition's two gold medals. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste this one. The other gold-medal-winner was Macbeth's Three Witches Hard Cider made by The Traditional Co. in Culver, Ore. My notes describe it as somewhat sweet, clean, tasting of fresh fruit and the most aromatic of the ciders I tasted that night.

Westcott Bay Orchards Vintage Cider and Oliver Beanblossom Hard Cider earned silver medals, as did White Oak Traditional English Style Cider.

I found the bronze medal ciders intriguing too. One of my favorites of the evening was The Traditional Co.'s Juliet's Love Dry Sparkling Cider. A refined, slightly effervescent cider, it made better drinking than many champagnes I could name. Blue Mountain Semi-Dry Cider from Milton-Freewater, Ore., was easy to drink too. White Oak's Kingston Black was the other bronze medalist.

Wine lovers may remember how a few decades ago Northwest vintages came out of Eastern Washington and Western Oregon to vie with their European counterparts. Today the best of the Northwest wines can stand comparison with the best any country produces. I'm hoping hard cider is about to make a similar takeoff here.

To encourage new consumers, I'll tell you the whereabouts of several Northwest artisan ciders. Easiest to find is the Westcott Bay Orchard cider. Look for it at Whole Foods and Larry's markets, Bottleworks, Ballard Fred Meyer, Ballard Market, Magnolia Thriftway and Madison Market, or you can buy it at the orchard or have it shipped (360-378-3880, www.rockisland.com/~baylonanderson).

Northwest Cider Society President, Ron Irvine, sells his cider from Vashon Winery on Vashon Island (206-567-0055, sketchpub@aol.com). The Sandpoint Metro Market carries it and Ron ships it as well.

White Oak ciders are available at company headquarters in Newberg, Ore. If you prefer to order by mail, call them at 503-538-0349 or e-mail them at whiteoakcider@aol.com.

The Traditional Co. is in the process of moving from eastern to western Oregon. Nonetheless, it will ship its ciders by the case during the transition. Call 503-361-2400 to place an order. You also can order the ciders on line from Liquid Solutions in Tigard (www.liquidsolutions.ws).

Blue Mountain Cider Co. of Milton-Freewater, Ore., is a new operation that sells only from the cidery. Check its Web site at www.drinkcider.com or call 509-386-4112 for information and availability.

And if you're traveling on Vancouver Island, look up Merridale Cider Works in Cobble Hill, just 40 minutes from Victoria. Merridale has a helpful Web site with tour and product information as well as a map to the cidery (www.merridalecider.com).

(Chris Smith, who lives in Port Orchard, is a Master Gardener and is retired from the WSU Cooperative Extension. His columns appear in the P-I garden pages on Thursday. Send questions to P.O. Box 4426, South Colby, WA 98384-0426.)

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