Spring Training Part 2: Black Diamond Farm and Cider

Yesterday we hopped over the few miles to Black Diamond Farm and Cider (T'burg) for a sunset among blossoms of every type. Ian and Jackie of Black Diamond Cider took us on a walk through 30 years of building a farm from scratch, and still planting.

Visual and aromatic beauty aside, for those of us with younger orchards a walk through time like this is pure balm, and we love that planning for the Nth generation never ceases in this family.

Black Diamond is our 'estate' cidery here at FLCH, using 100% their own fruit in their ciders. And next Saturday, 5/13 (2-5pm), you can drop in here and have your own conversation with Ian!

Chronicling Spring at high speed

Loving and trying to keep up with life at Good Life Farm

Spring 2017

It happens so fast!  Throughout March we watch spring plod towards us, hoping it won't come too fast and expose us all to late, killing frosts. Simultaneously, we are HUNGRY for it!  The warmth! The absolute burst of life that is late April and May. One day you are sitting, covered in bees and thinking "oh, this is unique".  And then you are covered in everything, and possibly underwater with your task list.

And then it comes, very suddenly.  And absolute all at once. Bloom begins in the peaches, spreads to the crabs and continues in perfect succession through the orchard.  We are blessed at this point in the 2017 orchard season to see fruit in our future, as a deep balm to the huge losses of 2016. And we are challenged to keep up!

This past week we got through orchard set up and started planting our 1500+ dwarf orchard alongside and in between the past 8 years of long-lived, slow growing semi-dwarfs. 

We also chased cows around, and got them onto pasture!  Huzzah- calving season can begin!

Asparagus popped up, we'll be a-pickin' starting Saturday and every day til June!

And always trying to take time to admire and appreciate this frantic, fleeting season. 

Spring Training Cider House style with Eve's Cidery

This past Wednesday (April 5) marked the beginning of Spring Training, Cider House style.  Autumn hoofed us at double time up the famed Albee Hill where we gained 700' elevation and peered out over the Cayuta Creek valley.

Autumn has been an essential and generous mentor to Melissa on and off since 2001, when she introduced "farming is cool" as a concept.  Over the past 16 years, we at the Cider House and Good Life Cider have relied on Autumn's sharp insight, pure honest and incredible craftspersonship to help guide us on our own journey into grower cider. 

Atop Albee Hill, our whole crew joined Autumn in pondering the mysteries of the organic orchard and associated soapboxes and the oh-so-challenging economics or small-scale, low volume, high quality grower cider.  And at the end of it, we got to taste 4 years of the results in an Eve's Cidery 'Northern Spy' vertical tasting spanning 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.  The 2015 is on our Tasting Menu right now!

In this year's round of training, we meet and greet with each of our four farm-based cideries to make sure that we- Cider House team- can do our best behind the bar to tell these small farm-based cidery stories when we serve you.  We'll continue to offer educational programming through the year to highlight why we think what we do is... delicious.  Special. Worth every effort. Stay with us- more to come.

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Good Life Barrel Rye Wins 2017 Good Food Awards!

More about the Awards and our Traditional Method Orchard Cider

What are the Good Food Awards?

Criteria, with which we concur

The Good Food Awards were created to redefine ‘good food’ as being tasty, authentic and responsible. We aim to set criteria for entry that are realistic and inclusive of food and drink producers who have demonstrated a commitment to be part of building a tasty, authentic and responsible food system, going far above and beyond the status quo for their industry, while not making them so strict that eligible participants are limited to a small handful of products. The Good Food Awards reviews and revises its category criteria each year under the supervision of its Committee Members to ensure that the criteria advance with the advancement of each industry. The Awards are rooted in a belief that by being inclusive, our American food system will more closely embody the principles of tasty, authentic and responsible more quickly.

Principles

Tasty
• Food is delicious, bringing joy to those who consume it.
Authentic
• No artificial ingredients are used.
• Food is an expression of tradition and culture.
• Seasonality and locality are valued in crafting of food.
Responsible
• Respect and fair compensation are core values within the production chain.
• Ingredients are grown without synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides and are GMO free.
• Growing practices are chosen to promote healthy soil and biodiversity.
• Local ingredients are utilized wherever possible.
• Water and resource conservation and recycling are practiced.
• Transparency and honesty is practiced with consumers.
• Direct, face-to-face communication is sought out between growers, food crafters and everyone else in the production chain.
• Good animal husbandry is practiced and farm animals can eat and behave according to their natural instincts.

How We Fit

Good Life Cider is an expression of Good Life Farm.  Good Life Farm is a wildly diverse small organic farm where we focus on Good Soil to create Good Fruit and Good Cider. Two of our ciders- ‘Cazenovia’ and ‘Honeoye’- are named for the main soil types on the farm.

Good Life Farm is owned by Garrett Miller and Melissa Madden, who work alongside a delightful and dedicated crew.  Our orchard is young, and we use a mix of our own high-brix organic apples and those sourced from nearby Finger Lakes orchards. Good Life Cider comes from the hearts and minds of the Brothers Miller- Garrett and Jimmy form a dynamic duo to turn FLX fruit into your drink.

Our ciders are distinctly American in style, which means we’re not afraid to borrow from the world of traditions. Good Life Cider creatively blends international influences with a taste of the Finger Lakes through our mineral-rich, acidic apples. Our cider line ranges from tannic and dry to bright, fruit-forward and sweet; in sparkling, traditional method (champagne) and barrel-aged styles.  Our range is based on traditional bittersweet apples and sharp, acidic heirloom fruits. 

'Barrel Rye' highlights the fabled NYS-native Golden Russet apple, balanced with the tannic influence of bittersweets 'Yarlington Mill', 'Dabinett', and 'Tremlitt's Bitter'.  'Barrel Rye' is a barrel-aged, traditional method cider, with natural bubbles from a second in-bottle fermentation.  We disgorge all our bottles here at Good Life Farm and age for several months with cork and cage before releasing each vintage for sale.

Where to try 'Barrel Rye'

In honor and gratitude, we offer free tastings of 'Barrel Rye' through February, right here!  Drop by any day of the week (we are still open 7 days a week through the winter) and tell us you want to explore Good Food.

How to get 'Barrel Rye'

Buy it here!  We will always have it on our shelves, and you can taste it for free!

Not in our area and can't stop by?  We'll ship!  Order on our online cider store.

Looking for it now?  Email us for locations in upstate NY and the New York metro area!

 

Good Life Farm Interlude

Thoughts on life, farming and the vertical integration between farm, cidery and Cider House... Good Life Blog Share.

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE NOW: FARMING THE WAY WE WANT TO LIVE

We are refreshed. We are determined. We see and we set the way forward. We believe this, and we are joyful though we have considered all the facts.  We are citizens, we are farmers and we are hopeful.

READ MORE ON THE GOOD LIFE BLOG...

Cider House's 2016 Thanksgiving Cider Guide

2016 Thanksgiving Cider House Guide: Options For Everyone At Your Table

Take 3 Home for 10% Off

Thanksgiving, who’s ready for it?  In the spirit of helping you enjoy this holiday in the best possible form, we’ve got 5 ciders from the Cider House pantheon for your table!  Some to start the day, some to front end the meal, some to pair and to finish…

 

FIRST UP: Greetings and Nibbles

Perry Pear (traditional method) from Eve’s Cidery.  750 mL bottles $19, MAGNUMS $32

 

MEALTIME: Options for all comers

Still (no bubbles)

Solstice Still from Black Diamond Farm, 750 mL bottles $16

Stone Fence Farm from South Hill Cider, 750 mL bottles $24

 

Natural Bubbles

Barrel Rye (traditional method) from Good Life Cider, 750 mL bottles $18

Porter’s Perfection/Golden Russet (bottle conditioned) from Redbyrd Orchard Cider, 750 mL bottles $25

 

DIGESTIF: Relax and Sip

Good Life Pommeau features Myer Farm Distillery custom-distilled apple brandy and 60% fresh juice from Golden Russet and Brown Snout. 375 mL, $25

 

Black Diamond's Porter’s Pommeau is a single-varietal pommeau focused on the bittersharp Porter’s Perfection.  It packs a more spirit-heavy punch with ripe apple notes.  500 mL, $30

 

Deep Context for Your Cider Story-Telling

 

Perry Pear ‘15

Eve’s Cidery

Some of the best ciders we have made are from pears. Unfortunately, our Perry Pear trees are young, few and fickle. But 2015 was not only a wild apple year, it was an on-year for wild seedling pears. They stood out in the fields and hedgerows in and around Van Etten. Ben Kahn, who also picked wild apples for us in 2015, made his fortune in pears. His luck is that we found that virtually all wild pears make great cider fruit, so there wasn’t the picking, mulling over and going back process that layered the wild apple project. The wild pears were, to a tree, shockingly tannic; those tannins emerging much softened in the cider. Fermentation also seemed to transform the fruit from cool, closed-up packages to brilliant aroma wheels. Another boon for Ben was that some of the wild pear trees were huge. From one unusual tree alone he picked 40 bushels. I wouldn’t have climbed up there, but Beni Kahn looked happy enough swaying around high above the ground. All told, almost all of the pear fruit was wild harvested – around 150 bushels. We took scion wood from four of the standout seedlings and budded them onto rootstocks planted in the spring of 2016 in our new Valley Orchard. This may be the long term legacy of the 2015 fruit year. But for now there is the cider, disgorged in July of 2016.

To purchase for Thanksgiving, we’ve got 2 options…750 mL bottles and magnums. Magnums are fun and celebratory. Bring a magnum of wild harvested perry, and you'll be the life of the party. 1 magnum serves 4 and no one has to get up and open another bottle. The pear is insanely aromatic, but light and delicate. I would definitely choose this as a starter for Thanksgiving. Serve it with appetizers or snacks. Fresh fruit and brie, or some other creamy bloomy rind cheese would be just about perfect. For a light snack pairing, Autumn recommends popcorn.

 

 

Solstice Still ‘15

Black Diamond Farm and Cider

Ian and Jackie have been growing apples and making cider at Black Diamond Farm for 25 years now, and Solstice Still Cider is a fond return to their Yankee heritage.  Like all BD ciders, Solstice is a complex blend. Two old time New England apples—Golden Russet and Roxbury Russet—dominate this cider with characteristic russet qualities of soft tannins, rich aromatics, and bright acidity.  Some traditional English bittersweets—Chisel Jersey, Brown Snout, Porter’s Perfection, and Dabinett—round out the palate providing depth and structure.  Every apple and the wild yeasts that helped create this cider live alongside us here on the farm.  Ian and Jackie are grateful to have lived long enough to see millions of people rediscover cider and share their passion for this gift from nature!  The whole BD crew gives thanks for the abundant harvest and warm autumn weather of 2015 that made this cider possible. As the year winds down and winter approaches, let’s celebrate the amazing diversity of apples that enables cidermakers to create blends that embody two continents and three thousand years of the history shared by apple trees and humanity.

 

 

Stone Fence Farm ‘15

South Hill Cider

Stone Fence Farm is a single orchard cider celebrating just the kind of apples and relationships you find in the Finger Lakes. The Stone Fence Farm orchard was planted by Peter Hoover in Trumansburg from 1995-2000. All of the fruit from this orchard (except for a few of the trees that Peter used for other products) was harvested ripe, sweated in a cider shed, and pressed as an orchard blend at South Hill Cider, less than a mile away. Peter chose all of the apple varieties in his orchard with an eye towards hard cider production. Because of extreme weather events all of the trees have synced so that the orchard bears a crop about every other year. Color of a vintage golden gown. Very balanced and expressive. Aromas of wet slate, rich soil, breadcrust, starfruit, lychee, with a mouth-watering finish. Stone Fence Farm pair well with your main dishes, and can help folks pick cider over a still, white wine.

 

 

Barrel Rye ‘15

Good Life Cider

Barrel Rye features Golden Russet, Margil, Tremlitt’s Bitter, Yarlington Mill and Dabinett. Golden Russet is a major highlight in this year’s cider pairings, building on the bounty of 2015.  Barrel Rye highlights this dual-purpose apple (used for both eating and cider) and makes great use of its fruit-forwardness.  We built this cider to stand up to the mixed, savory flavors on the Thanksgiving dinner table using heirloom and bittersweet apples and the smokiness barrel aging and creamy bubbles of traditional method, disgorged on-farm by our family-based crew.

 

 

Porter’s Perfection/Golden Russet ‘15

Redbyrd Orchard Cidery

We were very fortunate to have such a plentiful harvest last year in 2015 and to harvest enough fruit from these two exceptional cider apples to make this dual-varietal cider.  It highlights Eric Shatt’s all-time favorite apple- Porter’s Perfection. Porter’s Perfection is a late season English bittersharp loaded with tannins and bright acidity, while holding all the classic bittersweet apple characteristics including earthy, herbaceous aromas, dense fruit and incredible texture and mouthfeel.  This combines with the opposite side of the cider spectrum when blended with Golden Russet. Golden Russet’s tropical fruitiness, honey comb, viscosity and weight creates a cider of our dreams!  All this fruit was organically grown and grown by the Redbyrd family at their farm and from a few trees on a friend’s farm in Hector.  Bone dry and bottled conditioned, it is the perfect cider for this celebratory season that we are entering. Enjoy!

Resting To Reignite A Sense Of Curiosity

Seasonal Interlude With A New Friend

For the past two days- Wednesday and Thursday- I've been swept away by what I've come to call a core-mission experience. Simran Sethi came to town to share her book "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love", which we carry here at the Cider House with pride.  Simran's book focuses on agricultural biodiversity and how this affects flavor, sense of place and food stability.  Among other things.  There's a lot out there to read about both Simran and her wonderful book, and my aim is not to repeat that necessarily, but to continue to share with the Cider House and Good Life Farm communities how this kind of reading, writing and discussion circles back to spark our passion for what we do here.

Please do check out Simran, "Bread, Wine, Chocolate..." and find her where you are!

Listening And Contemplating Amidst Much Doing

First stop- Simran's lecture on Wednesday night, brought to us courtesy of the Cornell Plantations Fall Lecture Series.  Sitting in the audience was the first time in 2 months I'd sat and sustained a quiet, listening pose.  September-November in the cider world is pants-on-fire, between the bookends of FLX Cider Week (Oct 1-9), NYC Cider Week (Oct 21-30), and all the harvest, pressing, fermenting, tasting room hosting, etc that goes on at our farm in a busy Finger Lakes fall.  These times are critical to our business and we do our best to keep up and provide our customers and employees with a truthful and rich experience to keep us all grounded.  It is a time to say "Yes" and take every opportunity to get out into the world with cider, with ginger, with beef, before we all hunker down for a northeast winter.  In the midst of all this comes Simran and her rejuvenating message, and so back to the Statler Auditorium. 

I find a direct and essential connection to Simran's work in the frequent decision making here at Good Life Farm, and continue to be reminded just how far we've come on the strength of our belief, our willingness to compromise and our youthful naivete. 

Walking The Right Livelihood Path: Every Decision A Compromise

When it came time for Eric (Redbyrd Orchard Cider) and me to talk, I realized that despite being there ostensibly to talk about cider and preserving apple varieties, I could easily discuss many farm conundrums, and chose to illustrate the painful decision around turkey breeds we faced each year.  Quoth one of our mentors regarding heritage breed turkeys "they will ruin your high tunnels, they will ruin your marriage, they will ruin your life".  And so, uncharacteristically, we chose NOT to take on the challenge of breeding and raising only heritage breed turkeys.  In actuality, the minute the broad breasted whites and bronzes hit our farm we found them to be active, curious animals who didn't at any point become catatonic on their way to processing weight.  When holding up the permaculture ideal and trying to carry this biodiverse torch, each compromise that involves a nod back to industrial breeding seemed like a huge burden to bear.  Except, it was really hard enough.  On the agricultural side organic, day-range turkeys moving throughout an orchard and asparagus polyculture is a beautiful, productive system.  On the financial end, the intense labor and high grain prices produce an endless series of question marks, so many that this year we took a turkey-raising break.

Luckily for me, I wasn't at Simran's talk to problem solve these issues as much as acknowledge and contemplate.  On Thursday, we followed up the Wednesday Plantations lecture with an intimate Community Writing Circle, Discussion and Happy Hour here at the Cider House.  This workshop was among a few we've held that are small, free, and content-rich without having a sales focus and they truly light my fire.  We sat in a circle, sipped hot toddies of sweet cider and Pommeau, and followed Simran through her process for writing about food (read, love) and were challenged to write our own food story.  Precious time spent in a more restful and thoughtful period that I could have wished for in this hurly burly season.  Again, I found myself writing about the food aspect of Good Life Farm and our challenges in growing food in such an idealized bio-extensive system.  I continue to realize how this farm is intended for the second generation of farmers here, who will enter into a land base of well established trees, a solid herd of cattle, and maybe some clarity around raising poultry. 

Til Next Time

At this moment, a lot seems unclear and in flux.  The Cider House has made it possible to run this as a full-time family operation but still entails 80-90 hr work weeks, which leads me to wonder where that second generation is going to come from.  Instead of just worrying, the past two days of reconnecting to my personal "why" for all of this provides me with a tool for analyzing and discussing it with myself, with Garrett and with our team.  And, in the midst of the exhaustive season of harvest and cider sales, I am awake!  Thank you for the visit, Simran.  Looking forward to sharing more on this topic.