Charlottesville is such a beautiful place and I typically get to visit once or twice a year to see close friends. Every time I go I get introduced to something different and utterly fantastic, and this trip was no exception.
If you follow me or know me at all you have probably deduced that I love to go to vineyards and breweries. To me, it’s just such an interesting thing to do and a great way to have fun with friends or go on intimate dates.
On this trip I got to do a tasting of something a little different, and that is Cider. I typically don’t go in for this sort of thing but I’m sure glad we decided to do this. The place is called Albemarle CiderWorks which is located at 2545 Rural Ridge Lane in North Garden, VA . It’s a small yet delightful place that opened back in 2000 by the Shelton family. They grow a plethora of fruit trees which many are of the older heirloom and local variety.
They began by planting a small array of apple trees, which has grown now to more than 200 different cultivars. They also have about three dozen peach varieties, as well as several plums, cherries, nectarines and apricots.
If you are game to plant your own, their catalog is online and they accept orders when the trees are dormant and best suited for shipping and planting (December-March).
In July 2009, they started making Cider. In the first year, they fermented and bottled three selections: Jupiter’s Legacy, Ragged Mountain and Royal Pippin. Since then they have expanded the list, six of which I got to taste.
Below are the the Ciders I tried. I’ve included the official website tasting guide for each selection, followed by my personal take and rating. Ratings are graded 1-5 with 5 being the best.
note: I am in no way shape or form a Cider expert. I also never give out 5’s. You should also not trust my opinion.
The dark burgundy Arkansas Black is considered one of the most beautiful of apples. The tart, crisp cider it produces is slightly tannic, and sports aromatic qualities reminiscent of green apples with honey and vanilla notes. This dry cider’s flavor hints of tart strawberry or melon and pairs well with the earthy notes of truffled dishes and creamy soft cheeses. Its crisp minerality also recommends it for seafood, especially oysters and crab.
Matt Rating: 3.5
A little sweet but I was pleasantly surprised. This was probably my third favorite of the lot.
The Albemarle Pippin, besides being an exquisite dessert and culinary apple, makes a delightful single varietal cider. Royal Pippin has notes of pineapple and grape, with a well balanced acidity and a lush apple taste. It is a refreshing apertif and pairs splendidly with seafood and pork. 8.5% ABV.
Matt’s Rating: 3
This section was a little too acidic and bitter for my liking but still, not bad at all.
Old Virginia Winesap
A single varietal, Old Virginia Winesap is made entirely of Winesap apples. With notes of baked apple, cedar, and strawberry, this cider compliments roasted root vegetables and rosemary flavors. 7.5% ABV
Matt’s rating: 2.5
This was my least favorite of the group. Very sour tasting.
GoldRush is a recent American apple from Purdue University, named for its color and the rush of flavor it offers. That flavor is rich, complex and vinous. Its tart acidity, balanced with a spicy sweetness, makes it highly prized for cider. This fourth single varietal from Albemarle CiderWorks is dry and crisp with citrus overtones hinting of grapefruit. Its tartness on the tongue is smoothed by notes of honey and ginger. This is an elegantly dry cider that pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods-chicken cordon bleu, trout, Gruyere, Manchego- or on its own.
Matt’s Rating: 4
Out of all the Ciders I tasted, this is the one I ended up buying to take home. I was shocked by how much I actually enjoyed this.
How long does it take to make cider?
About 3-6 weeks; the apples are pressed and the juice is siphoned in to a stainless steel tank where a white wine yeast is added, and the whole tank is left to ferment until the yeast has converted all of the natural sugar in the juice in to alcohol. The variability in the amount of time it takes for this to happen is in part based on the natural level of sugar in the apples to start with, which fluctuates by season and variety.
How long can I store cider before opening it? How should I store my cider?
Your cider is ready to drink at the time of purchase, and we recommend consuming it within about 2 years from purchase date. Cider should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, similar to white wine. Our ciders can be stored upright or on their sides.
Once I open a bottle, how long is it good for, and will it stay carbonated?
All of our ciders are sparkling, and once opened should be re-capped with a champagne-style topper, one that seals tightly against the inside of the bottle neck and does not allow for air exchange. With such a cap, your cider may remain carbonated for at least a couple of days after being opened- but the more often you reopen the bottle, the more carbonation will escape. Do not use a cap and pump system meant to pump air out of the bottle- your bubbles will be gone in no time! If or when your cider does “go flat,” it can be drunk still, without bubbles, or used to great effect in cooking applications such as braising, glazing, as a dressing ingredient or added to soups- for more suggestions, see our “Recipes” pages.
How does one taste cider properly?
Cider was the “every-man’s” drink in the early days of America, and as such was, and is now, a very approachable beverage for the newcomer. The proper glassware could be anything from a wine glass to a jelly jar; here at Albemarle Ciderworks, we prefer to use a mini-pilsner type glass, chosen for its similarities to cider glasses made popular during the reign of Henry VIII and used by many in the upper class for decades after. Our ciders are all sparkling, and the carbonation helps to open up the flavors of the cider to your palate, which allows us to serve it chilled, and makes a glass shaped to funnel the aromas of the cider to your nose less necessary. That being said, pour a glass and do have a sniff before taking a sip- many ciders have a lovely bouquet on the nose, which will enhance your tasting experience. Hold the glass up to the light and take note of the color and clarity- is the cider golden, straw-colored, is there a hint of a blush to it? Next take a small sip, allowing the cider to coat your palate; notice acidity, tannin, sweetness, savory flavors, ripe fruits. And as you swallow, take note of the finish- is it long and bold, short and sweet, bright, lively, etc. Repeat at your leisure!