After visits to Foggy Ridge Cider and Castle Hill Cider I have become fascinated with the history and diverse apple varieties associated with hard cider. This post starts a new series, Cider 101, helping me, and hopefully you, learn more about the industry.
Maryland is home to two cider makers, Distillery Lane Ciderworks and Great Shoals Winery. The later is just an infant, opening in 2011, and I picked up several of their ciders at the Maryland Wine Bar in Berlin Maryland. One of these was the Spencerville Red Hard Apple and little did I know that during high school I drove past these orchards during our after-school joy rides in the country - at least back then it was the country. The Spencerville Red apple was discovered and patented by the folks at Heyser Farms in Colesville (Montgomery County) Maryland. It is thought to be a cross between the York Imperial and the crab apple. According to the farm, the "apple is unusual because it has both a high acid and a high sugar content... a tangy flavor when first picked, then sweetens in storage". Besides selling the apples, Heyser Farms produces the Spencerville Red sweet cider. Matt Cimin, proprietor of Great Shoals, heard about the apple and soon it was the basis for the Spencerville Red Hard Apple sparkling apple wine. Even though it tastes like a hard cider, it is technically a wine since the alcohol content is over 8 percent. According to Maryland law, hard ciders must be less than 7 percent alcohol. The wine is also a sparkler, bottle conditioned to add a little bubbly - no manual carbonation. The benefits of using apples with high sugar contents. This is a very clean cider, refreshing, with a hint of tartness. And priced at $15 - a nice value. Last year, it won "Best in Class" and Gold medals at the Maryland Governor's Cup Awards and a "Best Sparkling" at the Maryland Wine Masters' Choice Awards. Nicely done.
Another single varietal apple cider from Great Shoals is their Black Twig Hard Apple - officially recognized as Delaware's first hard cider. That is, the apples were harvested from TS Smith and Sons - not far north of the winery in Bridgeville, Delaware. Legend has it that the Black Twig apple variety was first grown near Fayetteville, Tennessee during the 1830s - very Jacksonian of it. The apple is both sweet and tart - some refer to it as extremely tart, with a tannic finish. Like the Spencerville Red, the Black Twig Hard Apple is bottle conditioned sparkling and also labelled a wine because of its alcohol content. However, its flavor profile is completely different - with fuller flavors and the tannins are evident on the tail. Again, at $15, this is a nice value. And now we have to new apple varieties to add to our lexicon, Spencerville Red and Black Twig.