Cider Club

Welcoming three new folks to our team!

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Welcome Hannah, Stephanie and Rick!

Two Tasting Room Managers and our Production Assistant are on board

JOBS HERE NOW: Accepting rolling applications for the Tasting Room staff

Over the past week, we’ve got a new team forming. All three of our new staff represent restructuring for 2019 and our excitement for the future. When we tell the story of our farm-cidery-tasting room, it often revolves around the slow burn from 2008-2014 when we lived off-grid on 300W of power, farmed with the horses and worked on a long arc relying on trees that only bear in year 10 or 15. Between 2013-2015 we started both the Kite & String Cidery (née Good Life Cider) and the Finger Lakes Cider House. In that time we went from farming to farming, cider making, hospitality and our tiny cafe. It took us from 1.5 employees to up to 20 in our busiest season. Garrett and I have been rapidly adjusting in order to keep our eyes on that long arc and our primary values. We are grateful to have our current loyal team and to welcome new members to help us manage the opportunities we’ve created and are blessed by.

Hannah and Stephanie will be sharing management of the Tasting Room, with Michelle here to guide them through the transition. Both Hannah and Stephanie have additional duties intended to help us grow our ability to do private events, high brow private tastings, paired lunches and priortize our growing Cider Club. They come to us with significant experience and commitment to the Finger Lakes wine scene and we’re honored to have them aboard. Over the next few weeks you’ll find each of them on the Tasting Room floor any day of the week. Please help us welcome them!

Rick has joined us to support that funny combination of cidery and farm. Each year we find ourselves stretching to meet the needs of each, and often the busy times for both overlap. We hired Rick with great excitement because of his background in land management. We’re excited to have further support from an inspired team to keep our vintages top notch and our trees better cared for. You’ll see Rick out and about, and please say hello!

Reminder! We are still hiring for the Tasting Room, weekends especially.


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Cider Club Quarterly: February 2019

Musings from the Farm, the Cidery, the Tasting Room

Greetings upon the return of the light!

To join the Club, visit this page. To give as a GIFT, go here.

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The Cross Quarter is approaching, when the balance of light shifts back toward a warming balance. On a farm, especially one like ours, which grows in high tunnels for vegetable season extension, the Winter Cross Quarter (this year on Feb 2, 2019) is something you can feel. I’d invite you all to check out a greenhouse- somewhere, here perhaps?- on a sunny day. I know forest bathing has found a footing in social media… I’m considering a whole new endeavor in season extension bathing. Winter salad production bathing?

So we celebrate that slow build towards spring! When you hear from me in May, it’ll be amid the mad rush of tasks and hopes and plans and the best chance to make the most of the 2019 growing season (if that chance wasn’t 10 years ago). Perhaps this is another thing I so enjoy about the Winter Cross Quarter… the intensity outside increases, but there is still ample time to relax. And write to you, and test and blend the previous vintage.

Thank you for joining and sustaining our Club. I adore having direct communication with people who eat and drink what we make. I value deeply that you choose our farm and cidery, and seek to share with you the trials and joys of each season through the Club selections as made by myself, Garrett and Jimmy. Please let me know if there is more you want to know about the farm, the cidery, or the tasting room. We are here to learn from you.


We are in the midst of large changes in our farm. Garrett and I started this project just over 10 years ago, and it is in adolescent stages with all the flux that entails. If you follow the newsletters or social media, you will know that I’m moving my draft team- Leo and Polly- along to a new farm (find more updates on that at  

Good Life farm was a bare field at first, where we mixed tree planting with annual vegetables and much wide open field mowing. Now, Good Life Farm is largely covered in 10 year old trees, and the tillage has ended and the mowing style shifted to between trees and in narrow alleyways. Leo and Polly don’t have quite enough work, and I do not have enough time to train them for pleasure, as I desire to do. I have had a loving ton of inquiry about them, and we are well on our way to an excellent new farm for them. I am partially on my way towards accepting this important change but in the spirit of true sustainability, I am glad to do what is best for my farm, team and myself. We all need something slightly different.


I think the transition for me, Leo, and Polly, is indicative of the stage our farm and cidery growth are at in general. It is a useful symbol. When Garrett and I started the farm in 2008, we were strict and intense about how to apply permaculture on our farm. As we’ve morphed towards the regenerative agriculture movement, we’ve realized some of the mistakes of our youth-driven maniacal focus, and have started a redesign of some of our plantings and our ways of operating. It’s a big transition, but I feel that it is timely. 2019 looks to be a big year of transition.



Jimmy, Garrett and I finished our final pressing on Nov 29. 2018 amid snow and sleet. We had learned to operate our new press over the course of the 2018 vintage, and in our final pressing we set a record. In 2 days we pressed 3,000 gallons in an absolute marathon set of workdays. Now the 2018 vintage is happily finishing primary fermentation, and resting in the cool to deepen. Some of the 2018 ciders we only made in small quantities: ‘King of Hector’ is only 70 gallons from my wild harvesting efforts- and we will experiment with these as a hobby cider maker might. We will continue to create the K&S ciders that you know and love well, like,  ‘Northern Spy’ and ‘Rosè’ for that patio pounding moment. Garrett and Jimmy continue to finesse our champagne method ciders like ‘Cazenovia’ and ‘Geneva Russet’ for those refined moments, and we’re just into Ice Cider season with these seriously freezing temperatures rotating with some thaw. The cidery is in its most restful phase, but blending comes soon! And with it more info on the truth of the 2018 harvest.



Most of you likely have visited by now, and we hope you always feel welcome at the Finger Lakes Cider House. This aspect of our business continues to blow our farmer minds- by adding a full lunch and brunch menu these past 6 months we’ve expanded what our farm can do for the Tasting Room and what you can do here! In an ever adjusting journey, we’re seeking a to offer a cozy space with a full emphasis on quality without pretension and a clear focus on the story of upstate New York sustainable agriculture. We have started our search for a new Tasting Room Manager and are starting to hire for regular tasting staff as well. If you know of someone up for the challenge of the farm to cidery to tasting room and cafe storytelling job, send ‘em our way! If you want that story told to you at any time, please come by. As a reminder, you will always get 20% off all cider purchased in the Tasting Room- including the cider you drink here.


Here’s to you and here’s to our connection to your dining room table, your parties and your palate. We want to know what you think and we seek to grow in response.

Be well, and enjoy that little bit of additional sunlight!


Melissa, for the Good Life-Kite & String-FLCH crew

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February Quarter Club Ciders

To join the Club, visit this page. To give as a GIFT, go here.

Caznovia 2017 

Apples Used: Dabinet, Tremlett’s Bitter, Somerset Redstreak, Chisel Jersey, Kingston Black, Bulmers Norman, Major, Margil, Golden Russet, Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Roxbury Russet, Blue Pearmaine, Tompkins King, Cox Orange Pippin, Pound Sweet, Sheepnose, Esopus Spitzenburg, Baldwin, Famous, Ida Red, Crispin

Carbonation Method: Traditional Method

ABV: 8.4%

Residual Sugar: 0.4%

Cider Maker Notes: Made with the highest proportion of bittersweet apples of all our ciders. Fermented cold and slow before ageing and bottling for secondary fermentation. Disgorged at 6 months, then dosaged with our traditional ice cider to enhance the fruit aromas while offering a subtle, almost unnoticeable sweetness.

Tasting Notes: Baked apple aromas. Notes of cardamom, ginger, bayleaf, and nutmeg. Ripe pear and a structured rolling tannic finish with a touch of ice cider.

Inspiration: This year, we blended the bittersweets down a bit with small bits of a cacophony of Good Life apples to increase acidity just a bit. The result is a super fruit forward tannic cider! New cameo in this long standing blend (we’ve been making Cazenovia since 2013) is ‘Kingston Black’.

Production: 210 cases

Pairing Suggestions: This particular blend makes it a more delicate pairing than past ‘Caz’ vintages- we recommend this one standing alone a fabulous Welcome for any special dinner or for a toast. Locally we have a cheese called ‘Rose’s Reserve’- a nutty alpine style that pairs beautifully!

Geneva Russet 2017          

Apples Used:  Geneva Russet, Golden Russet, Margil,major,  Dabinet, Somerset Redstreak, Tremlett’s Bitter, Chisel Jersey, Winecrisp, Honeycrisp, Goldrush

Carbonation Method: Traditional Method

ABV: 8.4%

Residual Sugars: 0.5%

Cider Maker Notes: The timing for the 2017 Geneva Russet was unique in that we had the Russets early, and partially through fermenting the russet juice we added bittersweets, which expanded and slowed the whole process.

Tasting Notes: On the nose: honeyed floral notes, buttered popcorn, campfire. Palate evolution of dirty honey, fresh cut grass and creme fraiche. Finish with long, soft tannins

Inspiration: We wanted to make a Russet-dominated cider to express the uniquely low acid character and complex flavor of these apples. Traditional Method is our preferred technique for our dry ciders- to create more complex aromas and- in the case of Geneva Russet- the creaminess of the second fermentation and slight dosage gives the mouthfeel some weight.  

Production: 210 cases

Pairing Suggestions: We tried this with a variety of herbs and spices and determined that the best pairing is floral but can be savory or sweet. Think anise, lavender, cacao. On the fully savory side, smoked gouda is always a winner.

Traditional Ice Cider 2017

Apples Used: Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Newtown Pippin, Ida Red, Crispin, Margil

Carbonation Method: Still (no carbonation)

ABV: 12%

Return Sugars: 19%

Cider Maker Notes: Fermented in deep winter after a long process of cryo-extraction through December and January.  After removing enough ice/water we achieved a starting juice of 39 brix. Not only do we concentrate sugars, but we also concentrate the acidity.  The Total Acidity is the highest we’ve ever seen, which we’re glad to have as a balance to the sweetness of this dessert cider. We stopped fermentation by cold crashing at 19 brix and 12% ABV. We then aged this blend at 37 degrees F for six months in stainless before filtering and bottling in the fall.

Tasting Notes: Aromas of baked apple and sun warmed fresh melon. Bitter citrus rind on the front palate with quenching, lingering acidity. Silky, viscous mouthfeel with a long finish.

Inspiration: Ice Cider is almost obvious to make in our climate… and as we’ve learned from our mentors, it captures the truth of the harvest. In this Ice Cider, we focused on NYS-bred varieties and used the cold of our season to make something terroir-driven, all the way home.

Production: 92 cases

Pairing Suggestions: Make this the centerpiece of dessert! Pair with grapefruit or lemon curd, blue cheese, cheddar and soft bread, dark chocolate and fresh orange wedges.

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!


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.


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


'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.


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!!

Revealing the May Cider Club for these last few weeks...

By mid July we'll start prepping for the August Club!

Get in on the May Club for 2 more weeks!


May Cider Club letter

May 1, 2018

Greetings, greetings!

May is here. It's a time of edgy excitement on this farm.... Where we wonder if we’ll be able to pull off all that we’ve planned for the year. Where we respond to the rapidly increasing light as we roar towards Summer Solstice with the belief that this year will be even better than the last. It's a wild time! We’re sending you ciders that both encapsulate that spring vibration and give you permission to sit back and soak it in.


For clarity, this is Melissa Madden writing to you. I am the Good Life Farm- Kite & String- Cider House owner, farmer, HR director, accountant, janitor, vet, horse driver, mouse chaser and chief composter. I’ve also taken over the Cider Club starting this quarter and I am DELIGHTED!  I miss the years of our Good Life Farm Spring CSA and the community that created. I see the Cider Club as a CSA in similar ways- we’re able to produce ciders just for you, and tell their story more fully. We get to stay in touch and share the ups and downs of our farm and cider life, and hear your thoughts. We get to know more about your lives and what brings you to this FLX region. I have lots of gratitude to Jenny and Sam for getting the Club going over the past year and half, and am so happy to be in a position to take it on as my other responsibilities shift here at home.


As you may know from social media, I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Spain as part of a group of cider makers, restaurateurs, journalists and cider culture activists. It was a wacky time to leave the farm and I, for one, am grateful for the slow cool spring that allowed me to enjoy that time away. I’ll be reaching out over the course of the next few months to share highlights of our explorations into Asturian and Basque cider and food culture!  In a nutshell, my greatest take-away was a refocusing on my love and respect for the cider community here in New York and particularly the Finger Lakes. We are in excellent company and will continue to make the Cider House a place where our collaborative spirit can shine.


Now that I’m back, a focus on the farm! We’ve abruptly entered the spring boom period (between breaking dormancy and fruit set) when we watch the weather for scab and fireblight infection events and bite our nails waiting to get through bloom without hard frost. This is the period that tells us how it will be for the rest of the season when we shift towards managing fruit pests and diseases. This time determines the eventual harvest. We also have new trees to plant, and 1,500 trees from last year to cultivate with our horses Leo and Polly. We’ve got 4 miles of asparagus rows to walk and pick daily between May and mid-June, and we’ve got baby poultry to get ramping up for the year. We have ginger and turmeric to plant and tend, and probably a number of things I’m willfully forgetting. I will miss the baby cows this year, but I am excited to renew both my and Garrett’s focus on the orchard for 2018.


In celebration of all of this, we send you this May Cider Club! And if you care to join us in these oh-so-heady times, know you are welcome anytime. Most especially, come see us for Asparaganza 2018 (Saturday, May 26, 3 - 10 pm)! More info… on our website for this family friendly bonanza of fun:

Much love and gratitude as the days lengthen!

Melissa on behalf of the farm, cidery and tasting room crews


May 2018 Club Ciders

King of Hector 2016

Apples Used: 100% wild harvested fruit from Hector, NY, harvested by Brad DeFrees and Will Seymour

Carbonation Method: Traditional Method

ABV: 8.4%

Residual Sugar: 0%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: Gripping acidity typical of wild seedlings and crab varieties. Slow fermentation (2 months). Hands off approach with little intervention. High acid cider aged well over the winter with beautiful aromas and unique flavor. We were excited to keep this extremely small lot separate that  season and this cider was filtered and bottled as our last traditional method product of the year.

Inspiration: King Of Hector was produced for the Cider Club only. Brad DeFrees sought out his favorite haunts in Hector in the fall of 2016, when we had an almost complete crop loss on the farm due to late frosts. He found us a great mix of acidic, tannic and aromatic fruit and brought in 20 bushels to make this limited run cider just for you!

Production: 24 cases

Pairing Suggestions: We think this cider drinks like a dry, Spanish champagne style. It is crisp, long lasting, and acidic, and embodies the heat of 2016. Drink it as a starter to open up your guests’ palates and imaginations, with light appetizers like dried fruit or with lightly fried fish or potatoes.

Rose 2017

Apples Used:  Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, Liberty, McIntosh

Carbonation Method: Charmat

ABV: 8.2%

Residual Sugars: 2.9%

TA: 6.9%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: A mix of sharp, high acid apples (primarily late season) blended with 18% fresh (unfermented) Riesling juice grown at Hosmer vineyards (Ovid, NY) and 10% Marechal Foch (French variety) red grape wine produced at Swedish Hill Vineyards (Romulus, NY). Put through a secondary fermentation in a closed pressurized tank and bottled at 4 volumes of carbonation pressure.

Inspiration: Blending Marechal Foch red wine from Swedish Hill with our high acid cider blend allows us to play with the wine culture of the Finger Lakes. We add in the unfermented Riesling from Hosmer to kick start the charmat fermentation and crash that halfway through to leave a residual, fruity, grassy sweetness that we think brings this Rose right home to the FLX.  

Production: 402 cases

Pairing Suggestions: This cider is super quenching and brightly fruity. It will go well with alpine style cheese, southeast Asian flavors like ginger, garlic and onion greens and lemongrass.

Glacial Till 2017

Apples Used:  Golden Russet, Goldrush, Porters Perfection, Dabinett, Brown Snout, Liberty, Chisel Jersey, Stoke Red, Yarlington Mill, Suncrisp, Redfield, Scarlett Ohara, Akane, Enterprise, Honeycrisp, Winecrisp, Florina

Carbonation Method: Still (no carbonation)

ABV: 9%

Return Sugars: 1%

Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: 100% estate grown fruit. Heavy Golden Russet blend with a substantial tannic backbone. Goldrush, Liberty, and Enterprise give this cider it’s acidity.

Inspiration: This was our first year of bittersweet apples coming into bearing on Good Life Farm. Since 2015 we have made one or another estate (all our own Good Life Farm fruit, 100% organic) cider as the conditions permitted- Hickok in 2015, Goldrush from 2016 and now Glacial Till for the 2017 vintage. It’s an honor to mark the growth of our farm, of our skills as farmers and understanding as cider makers, and time in general with these widely varying Good Life estate ciders.

Production: 121 cases
Pairing Suggestions:  This cider drinks like a full bodied white wine. We recommend serving at 55°F and decanting briefly, then enjoying slowly with acidic and salty flavors like a fresh cut Manchego or grated Pecorino.