Guest Cider Maker Musings on 2018: Black Diamond Farm and Cidery

Thoughts on a wild year at Black Diamond

By Ian Merwin, owner-orchardist-cider maker

COME CHAT WITH IAN ON SATURDAY, DEC 15 (2 - 5 PM)

We are nearing the welcome end of a wild weather year at Black Diamond Farm & Cider!  I’d like to think that after 30 years growing apples here that we have enough experience to anticipate events in our orchards…but 2018 has put us all to the test!

Here are some high (low) lights for the past growing season:  The latest bloom date in 50 years; record heat in May/June/July, and the warmest night temperatures and highest sustained humidity in many decades.  Add to this strange brew a prolonged drought from May thru July in the FLX.  Then in mid August it began to rain incessantly, and the sun disappeared until…actually, we are still waiting for it to make a definite reappearance!

  2018 was a great year for mushrooms, recycling an old apple stump here…

2018 was a great year for mushrooms, recycling an old apple stump here…

So what does all this mean for Finger Lakes cider-makers?  Fortunately, apple trees are resourceful and resilient, and most FLX orchards came through with a good sized crop this year.  However, this will be a harvest that tests the creativity and adaptability of cider-makers!  Most varieties ripened a week or two later than normal (a few never did ripen!) and a lot of apples hit the ground prematurely because of the excessive heat, humidity, and lack of sunshine.  Fruit sugar content was lower than usual, and acidity was higher, so there will definitely be some crisp mineral ciders from 2018, and skilled cider-makers will resort to alchemy!

With help from new ponds and drip irrigation on the farm, we were able to nurse our 500 newborn trees through the early-summer drought, and the long wet Autumn kept them growing well into November.  So our new French and Spanish varieties are set for next year, and we are looking forward to making some exotoc varietal ciders in 2019.  As I mentioned back in July for our Bastille Day tasting at the FLCH, we have a new array of one- and two-variety barrel fermented ciders to taste this year, all of which were made from 2017 fruit and then bottled this year. Below, you’ll find some exciting info about them, and come see us Saturday 12/15/2018!

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Ashmead’s Kernel/Reinette Musquee—This is a blend of two classical cider apples, one from England and the other from France.  Chris Negronida conjured up this varietal blend a few years ago, and we all loved it!  Delicate tannins and bright acidity under notes of apricot, nutmeg and cloves, made in the traditional methode champenoise. 

ABV = 7.9%, Total acidity = 7.8 g/L, Residual sugars = 0.0%, Total tannins = 504 ppm.

 

 

            Reinette Musquee (Margil) shows its contempt for excess heat in 2018!

 

Golden Russet/Porter’s Perfection—A happy marriage of two cherished cider apples—one from New York around 1850, and the other from England in the 1890s.  Golden Russet lends its crisp acidity and ginger bite, while Porter’s Perfection provides tannic structure and depth of finish, underlying fruit notes of mango and citrus. 

ABV = 8.0%, Total acidity=6.9 g/L, Residual sugars = 0.0%, Total tannins = 817 ppm.

 

Geneva Tremlett’s Bitter—This cider apple is incognito!  It was imported from England for the Geneva NY-USDA apple collection in the 1960s, thought to be the English cider apple Tremlett’s Bitter, which it turns out not to be!  Whatever its true name is, Geneva Tremletts has established itself as one of the few bittersharp cider apples that can stand on its own in the bottle.  It has ample acidity, robust tannins, and notes of key lime and cinnamon spice.  We bottle conditioned this cider to mellow its acidity, letting it age for six months on the lees.  Some sediment is expected when serving.  ABV=7.7%, Total Acidity=7.9 g/L, Residual sugars=0.0%, Total tannins = 907 ppm.

Somerset Jersey—The dominant variety in this cider is Harry Master’s Jersey—a characteristic Cornwall clan bittersweet apple with soft tannins and complex textures.  We added a bit of Pink Pearl and Cox Orange Pippin to this blend, to round things out. Lush aromatics of golden plums, and a long smooth finish characterize this new cider!                     ABV = 7.7%, Total Acidity = 7.9%, Residual Sugar = 0.7%, Total tannins = 880 ppm.

 

BRIEF INTERLUDE OF GRATITUDE

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Moon Dancers, snow and the wonder of having animals

A moment of appreciation

We’re on the cusp of a big holiday which celebrates abundance. Harvest is over, and with this blizzard, it really really is. We loaded our turkeys up last night for today’s big life change… butchering for Thanksgiving. Yes, we raise animals for meat and that is part of it.

I wanted to take this moment to breathe thankfulness to all of the Good Life Farm animals- those who only stay a season and feed us at the end of it AND those who live here year in and year out. On our farm we emphasize a regenerative system that combines pasture with the care of trees. It is a cycle of fertility, pest control and joyful expression of each creature’s animal-ness. We seek biologically appropriate designs and integrated systems for maximum health throughout the lives of those in our care.

And today is a change for some, and next week many families will share this gratitude with us. Thank you to our perennial animal family (Leo, Polly, geese, Goose, Reepicheep, Wally, Suss, Ria…) and to those who stayed this summer and fall- the turk mclurks.

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2018 Cider Week FLX launches!

Cider Week FLX!

Friday, September 28 - Sunday, October 9, 2018

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 20, 2018

Contact

Jenn Smith

Executive Director, New York Cider Association

917.714.4274 | newyorkciderassociation@gmail.com

4TH ANNUAL CIDER WEEK FLX, SEPTEMBER 28 - OCTOBER 7 PUTS SPOTLIGHT ON REGION’S ORCHARDS

ITHACA, NY - Cider Week FLX is a ten-day festival spotlighting the quality, variety and abundance of cider grown and made in the Finger Lakes. Harnessing the growing consumer interest in cider, the promotion drives agritourism to key farms and tasting rooms, and cultivates appreciation for New York cider in the region’s bars, restaurants, bottle shops and beyond. A full overview of the festival can be found on the Cider Week FLX website, CiderWeekFLX.com. Cider-focused happenings at participating orchards, cidery tasting rooms, and cider spots in Geneva, Interlaken, Ithaca, Rochester, Trumansburg, and Williamson include guided walks, dinners, drop-ins, and cheese pairings. Cider Week FLX is unique from other cider festivals because the Finger Lakes is an exceptional center of cider making, due to the relative abundance of cider fruit, the presence of Cornell University’s world-class apple horticulture and enology resources, the area’s identity as a winemaking region, and the location of the USDA apple germplasm repository in Geneva. The entire calendar of festival events is available online at CiderWeekFLX.com/flx/events/. On Sunday, September 30 the action will be at Cornell Orchards, where the “ Cider Sunday ” event offers an afternoon of orchard walks, talks from Cornell CALS educators and researchers, and a meet-the-cider maker tasting and market in the Cornell Orchards Store , with a special selection of cider pairing snacks provided by Cornell Catering . In addition to the hard cider that adults may sample, apple enthusiasts of all ages can taste and make bespoke blends of dozens of different apple varieties, including traditional European hard cider varieties. Finger Lakes cider makers participating in the Cider Week promotion include:

● BLACK DIAMOND CIDER (Trumansburg)

● EVE’S CIDERY (Van Etten)

● GRISAMORE CIDER WORKS (Locke)

● KITE & STRING CIDER (Interlaken)

● LAKE DRUM BREWING (Geneva)

● NEW YORK CIDER COMPANY (Ithaca)

● REDBYRD ORCHARD CIDER (Trumansburg)

● SOUTH HILL CIDER (Ithaca)

● WAR HORSE BREWING @ THREE BROTHERS WINERY (Geneva)

@newyorkcider

newyorkciderassociation@gmail.com

newyorkciderassociation.com

Over the past decade, hard cider has been one of the fastest growing segments of craft beverage, due to factors including interest in farm-to-bottle beverages, drinkers’ general wish for lower alcohol options, and orientation by millennials to drink by occasion rather than category. According to Nielsen Research, small, regional producers such as those located in FLX have been the strongest performers of recent years, with an off-premise sales growth rate of 30% in 2017. Despite this expansion, drinker familiarity with cider remains a work in progress, and so the New York Cider Association (NYCA) works to give it increased exposure. NYCA Executive Director Jenn Smith said , “Cider is an important part of New York’s farm-based food culture. Drinkers are still learning that premium cider, made from New York apples, is being grown and fermented right in their backyard. Cider Week has been very effective at educating people about cider, upending misconceptions about cider always being sweet, and underlining the connection that cider has to the orchards where families enjoy U-pick apples in the fall.”

The outcomes of the FLX festival will be deepened awareness of FLX as an apple- and cider producing region, increased visitation, and economic stimulation based on both tourism and a boost in craft beverage sales.

About New York Cider

With more cideries than any other state (90 and counting!), a thriving apple industry, historic orchards, and a reputation for being the source of quality craft beverages, New York is the national cider industry frontrunner in terms of quality, scale, reach and economic impact. New York Cider Association works to advance that leadership, with the twinned objectives of developing New York Cider’s market position and strengthening the viability of the New York cider industry. To learn more visit newyorkciderassociation.com .

About Cider Week New York

Cider Week was launched by Hudson Valley-based sustainable agriculture not-for-profit Glynwood in 2011 as a way to connect trade professionals to farm-based cider producers in the region, while also increasing public awareness and appreciation. Now produced by the NYCA, Cider Week has grown from a series of marketing events for producers and retailers occurring in New York City and the Hudson Valley, into a series of four regional festivals throughout the state. To discover other cider weeks, visit ciderweeknewyork.com .

Community Support

NYCA’s production of Cider Week FLX is possible thanks to the contributions of our sponsors, all important members of the regional cider community: Cider In Love, Finger Lakes Cider House, Goodnature, and Vance Metal.

For media & press inquiries, please contact NYCA Executive Director Jenn Smith, 917.714.4274

newyorkciderassociation@gmail.com

More on Pioneer Pippin, from an expert

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Pioneer Pippin, a new Governor’s Cup for Cider and some words on our industry

Courtesy of Mark Grimaldi, owner+founder

The Cellar d’Or Wine and Cider Shop, Ithaca NY

from his August 16,2018 e-newsletter discussion of the first New York Wine Classic to include a Governor’s Cup for Cider

Last week, I was invited to be a judge for New York State's premier wine competition, The Governor's Cup from The NY Wine Classic, where hundreds of wineries submit close to 1000 wines for judging.  This year, they added cider to the competition, which myself and cider guru Dan Pucci (formerly of the cider bar Wassail in NYC) were responsible for judging.  I've never really cared much for what it meant for wineries to be given these bronze, silver, and gold medals in the past.  Sure, it means something, and garnering the best of anything in NYS deserves praise. But, you can literally go to some of the worst wineries in NYS and see dozens and dozens of medals adorning empty wine bottles along their walls, so I never really took it seriously.  This year though, the organization had done some major reorganizing and brought in fresh faces to not only run the NY Wine organization, but the judges were all fresh faces as well.  I sat amongst all types of serious wine people, from all different parts of the business--from Masters of WIne, Certified Somms, wine buyers, wine writers, winemakers, consultants--to say that these were serious judges with serious palates would be an understatement.  A far cry from what I had heard about the old guard of judges.  I didn't know I would be also judging ciders in addition to wine until after I sat down with my group. I was beyond excited that they were letting me judge the ciders, and looking back, they had made a good decision by doing that, being that I have tasted hundreds and hundreds of ciders here since The Cellar d'Or's inception five years ago, I would be able to give a better go at it than most people there since not many have had access or devoted as much time to cider as we have here.

Cider Coming Into Its Own


There were 8 flights of ciders, 71 ciders in total.  The range was broad, but they had it broken down into 3 categories--"heritage", "modern". and "Specialty".  Obviously, heritage was going to be the more serious ciders, made mostly from heirloom, wild, or heritage apples, without any other fruits or flavorings.  When we got into modern and specialty ciders we saw a lot hopped, fruited, overly sweet, barrel aged, and lots of ciders that were delicious but made for the mass market.  There were serious ciders in there too--Pommeaus, ice ciders, high-quality barrel aged and fruited ciders for sure. We gave some golds and some double golds out to some of them.  But going back to the Heritage ciders, it was clear that this is where the most serious and complex ciders were. 

The final round of judging came down to the best from each category that we had all unanimously decided to push through to the Governor's Cup final.  It was hard to pick the winner of the Heritage round, and it came down to almost a toss-up between two, but in the end, we thought that Kite & String's Pioneer Pippin was the best cider entered into the competition, followed very closely by Black Diamond's "Hickster".  We only sent two ciders through to the cup round from the "best of modern" flight, which was Angry Orchard's Baldwin and Meral House's Oro d'Oro--both of these ciders were excellent!

Notes on our (K&S) Pioneer Pippin


Today, I want to focus on the Pioneer Pippin from Kite & String. You may know them from their organic farm, known as Good Life Farm, where they farm organically, plow by draft horse, and ethically raise animals and the most amazing fruits and vegetables. Or you may know them from their local cider-only tasting room named The Finger Lakes Cider house, that is the default tasting room for their own ciders, as well as Eve's Cidery, Redbyrd Cider, and Black Diamond Farm.  The Pioneer Pippin is an exquisite cider, and one of the reasons it won best cider was it's sheer beauty.  The aromatics alone were something more associated with a white wine, or some sort of flower-infused tincture, tinged with herbs, yellow tropical fruits, and even a hint of spice.  None of the other ciders had these aromas, and in my years of tasting cider, not many have smelled as beautiful as this one ( and when they do, they are from the Finger Lakes!).  While many heirloom apple based ciders boast a wild, rough, edgy, funky side--with many cidermakers desiring to have a rustic side to their ciders, Kite & String boasted a clean. pure, pretty side of cider.  On the palate, it has a ripeness, with more yellow fruits coming through, but the magic of this cider, besides for the aromas, are its racy acidity and minerality and how it interplays with the slight bit of residual sugar (it's just a hair bone dry) it has.  I love a slight residual sugar when there is high acid, it gives you that mouthwatering sweet-tart sensation, and I really only pick that up to this degree in good German Feinherb Riesling.  The bubbles are also superb, as this is a hand-disgorged, Champagne method cider. 

If you're a cider lover, or a wine lover who just hasn't found cider that interesting--this may be the one to try.  The ciders from our region here in the finger lakes, are proving to be some of the most exciting in the world.


How to get Pioneer Pippin

You can always shop with us! Our Cider Club featured Pioneer Pippin in August (still shipping til mid October when we change over to the new quarter). We also ship all our ciders to over 35 states!

ORDER CIDER OR JOIN OUR CIDER CLUB

We want to share our gratitude especially to Mark and The Cellar d’Or for their long-time support of FLX orchard cider. The Cellar d’Or has an exquiste cider club which features ciders from around the world mixed with the best of our region.

MORE INFO ON THE CELLAR D’OR AND THEIR CIDER CLUB

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Outcomes from last Sunday's Flood Relief Benefit with Silo Food Truck, Copper Horse Coffee, TOiVO and The Flywheels

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What happened?

After the devastating storm on Tuesday (8/13/2018) morning, we found our neighbors in Hector, Lodi and Sheldrake particularly affected. Much is documented about this, so we will leave it to our local reporters. 

Next up in trickling effects was the canceling of Phish's 4-day music fest in Watkins Glen due to water quality issues. This left vendors all over the region scrambling with inventory and staffing. 

We teamed up with 2 of those vendors- Silo Food Truck and Copper Horse Coffee- to try to bring some action to all that food and some conversation to the relief effort. On Sunday, August 19, the Cider House closed down our kitchen and gave all food service over to Silo and Copper Horse. We rounded up our dear friends from TOiVO and The Flywheels for a little rousing music and went into the day with hearts full and a great amount of unknown.


What was the goal?

We sought to provide a place for the Flood Relief Conversation to happen, and evolve. The Willard Lion's Club, Lodi Fire Department and STEPS offered to staff the donations/info area, and we were off!

Did we reach our goal?

All day we were joined by folks looking to plug into the relief effort. The options were there- Buy from Silo and 50% of proceeds went to the Sheldrake and Lodi Relief Funds. Volunteer via the Lion's Club. Donate needed items straight into the Lodi Fire Dept. trailer for distribution. 

We'd say, as a first-responder, farmer-developed-in-24-hours sort of benefit that yes, it felt successful. This is only the beginning!


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Who contributed?

In cash, the Cider House, Silo Food Truck and individuals using our online Donate Button are donating over $4,000 split between the Lodi and Sheldrake Relief Funds.

Silo also served around 700 free meals on Friday and Monday to Relief volunteers.

More coming!


What next?

You can still donate online, via our Donate Button.

 

Further contact for Sheldrake 

Sue Bobnick: 607-327-0930, email: nala10@gmail.com

MAIL CHECK TO: First Assembly of God, memo "Sheldrake Point Relief Fund" 7412 Wyers Point Rd. Ovid, NY 14521

 

Further Contact for Lodi

George MacCheyne: 607-279-8261

MAIL CHECK TO: "Between the Lakes Flood Relief 2018". PO Box 299 Lodi, NY 14860


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Breaking news: Kite & String Wins NY Governor's Cider Cup at the New York Wine Classic!

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'Pioneer Pippin' breaking all kinds of ground!

K&S Pioneer Pippin wins both Governor's Cider Cup- first time awarded to a cider- and Best Heritage Cider.

FULL NEW YORK WINE CLASSIC RESULTS

We're psyched! This year seems to have a run on the FLX for wine and cider for accolades, and we're not complaining. The work has and is being put in, and New York State and the FLX are showing our stuff!

A few months ago, the Finger Lakes Cider House won #7 in USA TODAY'S 10 Top Cider Bars (nationally). Now, the Finger Lakes Currently Leading USA Today Poll for Best Wine Region, (you can vote through August 20).

About Heritage Cider

The US Association of Cider Makers (USACM) put together a style guide for cider, to help differentiate the incredible range in our industry. We identify as Heritage Style and choose more frequently to define ourselves as "orchard cider". For context...

Heritage Ciders are made primarily from multi-use or cider-specific bittersweet/bittersharp apples,heirloom varieties; wild or crab apples are sometimes used for acidity/tannin balance. These ciderswill generally be higher in tannins than Modern Ciders. This style encompasses those produced in the West Country of England (notably Somerset and Herefordshire), Northern France (notably Normandyand Brittany), Northern Spain (notably Basque and Asturias regions), as well as New World ciders and others in which cider-specific apple varieties and production techniques are used. Aroma/Flavor- Increased complexity derived from the cider maker’s selection of apples and production techniques. Common attributes include increased astringency, bitterness and complex aromatics.
Appearance- Typically yellow to amber in color. Ranges from brilliant to hazy, depending on the cider maker’s intention.
Varieties- Commonly used varieties include Dabinett (bittersweet), Kingston Black
(bittersharp), Roxbury Russet (American heirloom) and Wickson (crab).

Join us in continuing to shed our love on the FLX and heritage (orchard) cider!!

Celebrate FLX Apple Terroir with Black Diamond Farm and Cider

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Black Diamond exemplifies 30 years of exploring FLX Terroir for Apples and Cider

Join us for a series of unique ciders on Saturday, July 14th, 2 - 5 PM

Sneak Peek below written by Ian Merwin, owner of Black Diamond Farm and Cider

July 5, 2018

This has been a year of transition at Black Diamond Farm & Cider.  In April we planted 440 more apple trees in our new cider orchard, bringing total tree numbers on the farm to about 4400, and our apple varieties list to about 170.  These new plantings are mostly traditional cider varieties, including some from Asturias (Northern Spain), more favorites from Normandy France, and a few from the American South (Hewes Crab, Black Twig, Razor Russet).  These new trees will enable us to continue making ciders with only home-grown fruit—while providing a rich array of tastes and textures to express and explore the authentic terroir of our farm, climate and cider-making practices.

In addition to the eight Black Diamond Ciders we have made in past years, in 2018 we had enough of several longtime favorite cider varieties to create four new “varietal” ciders.  The July 14th event at FLCH will be the first public offering of these new ciders!  Just as Pinot Noir excels in France’s Burgundy Region, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the Napa Valley, we believe that certain cider apples can achieve fullest expression in our Finger Lakes region.  We have a long, cool growing season, deep glacial soils with base mineral reserves and fertility, and rapidly developing expertise among local cider makers who share their nascent knowledge and experience growing apple varieties specifically for fine ciders.  The four new barrel reserve varietal ciders from Black Diamond Farm represent our foray into the realm of intensely varietal and uniquely local ciders.  They were made from apples picked at peak flavor within the 64 acres surrounding our cidery, fermented in small batches that started on native wild yeasts, and then finished with a few cultured yeast strains.  Thanks to a cool wet growing season in 2017, the fruit at hand this year had ample acidity and tannic structure.  Because each of these ciders consists of just one or two varieties, they are a bit quirky and individualistic.  Yet we think they also represent the Finger Lakes cider terroir that is gaining recognition nationally—fruit-forward ciders with complex acidity, minerality, and tannic structure that hold true to the land and orchards where they were grown, fermented, aged and bottled.  We look forward to tasting these new varietal ciders with everyone at the Finger Lakes Cider House this month!


Tasting Notes for New Varietal Ciders in 2018


Ashmead’s Kernel/Reinette Musquee

This is a blend of two classical cider apples, one from England and the other from France.  Chris Negronida conjured up this varietal blend a few years ago, and we all loved it!  Delicate tannins and bright acidity under notes of apricot, nutmeg and cloves, made in the traditional methode champenoise. 

ABV = 7.9%,  Total acidity = 7.8 g/L,  Residual sugars = 0.0%,  Total tannins = 504 ppm.


Golden Russet/Porter’s Perfection

A happy marriage of two cherished cider apples—one from New York around 1850, and the other from England in the 1890s.  Golden Russet lends its crisp acidity and ginger bite, while Porter’s Perfection provides tannic structure and depth of finish, underlying fruit notes of mango and citrus. 

ABV = 8.0%, Total acidity=6.9 g/L, Residual Sugar=0.0%, Total tannins = 817 ppm.


Geneva Tremlett’s Bitter

The true identity of this cider apple is unknown!  It was imported from England for the Geneva NY-USDA apple collection in the 1960s, thought to be the English cider apple Tremlett’s Bitter.  Whatever its true name is, Geneva Tremletts has established itself as one of the few bittersharp cider apples that can stand on its own in the bottle.  It has ample acidity, robust tannins, and notes of key lime and cinnamon spice.  We bottle conditioned this cider to mellow its acidity, letting it age for six months on the lees.  Some sediment is expected when serving. 

ABV=7.7%, Total Acidity=7.9 g/L, Residual sugars=0.0%, Total tannins = 907 ppm.


Harry Master’s Jersey

The dominant variety in this cider was sometimes called the “Port Wine” apple in Southwest England, and is a characteristic Somerset Jersey type of bittersweet apple with soft tannins and complex textures.  We added a bit of Pink Pearl and Cox Orange Pippin to the blend, for the sake of diversity. 

ABV = 7.7%, Total Acidity = 7.9%, Residual Sugar = 0.5%, Total tannins = 880 ppm.