Good Life Farm

Kite & String Vintage Outlook, from here

May 1, 2019

By Melissa Madden

owner/field crew: Kite & String/Finger Lakes Cider House/Good Life Farm

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2018 was a challenging year to fully ripen fruit. This has a significant impact on the quality of the vintage and deep repercussions for cellar practices starting with harvest thru to each cider’s release date. Usually we look back at vintages from the fully finished and aged standpoint. We are just beginning to release the first of the 2018 ciders, while the rest are laid down for secondary fermentation and aging. I find it to be a fine moment to lay out some Harvest ‘18 vintage details before we forget in the haste of Spring 2019 and all that is to come!

Starting in August 2018 we had torrential, record-producing rains (see our Blog post 8/23/18 about the floods on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes), and a consistent state of lower-than-average temperatures for much of the late Fall. 2018 was indeed the wettest autumn since 1895, with the fourth warmest September and third coldest November on record (NOAA Quarterly Climate Impact and Outlook, December 2018). I’m using weather data, brix at harvest and specific gravity at press, and my own memories of field harvest to draw some preliminary conclusions on the 2018 Vintage.


VOCAB MOMENT

Brix (fruit sugars)

Specific Gravity (density of a liquid aka sugar content, in this case fresh pressed apple juice. SG is used to follow fermentations to dryness)


Each vintage we have an opportunity to express the fruit and the farming practices behind each harvest. Each vintage offers its own set of trials, and it is tempting to seek the year that was the BEST. I prefer instead to focus on what the vintage tells us about its own year, and explore how we tie our own story to that time.

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I asked Jimmy to characterize his own experience from last Fall and to discuss his vantage at the press vs mine in the field. Jimmy reported a few facts that corroborated my memories about harvest, and used the variety ‘Goldrush’ to tell his story. He uses this particular and beloved variety because we use more of it than any other variety. Over the past three years, we’ve done Good Life Farm-estate only single varietal ferments with ‘Goldrush’, largely destined for the Cider Club. The 2017 SV was so limited it is only for sale (17 cases in total) that it is for sale but not on the tasting menu. It is spectacular, and since we both buy and source ‘Goldrush’, and value it so highly, it is an exceptional window into our experience of a vintage.

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The 2018 ‘Goldrush’ coming out of Good Life Farm  were harvested in a shorter window than in 2015 and 2017 (2016 being so extreme in terms of drought that data is scant and irrelevant), except for some early drops during a heat wave in September. We started picking earlier and had to finish earlier because the snow and ice arrived on November 16th, but the ripeness as represented by brix at harvest and specific gravity after pressing were lower compared to those years where harvest went on into December. As compared to other farms where we also source ‘Goldrush’, we had higher specific gravity- I’ll guess because of a mix of our orchard practices- organic, lower input, no irrigation, low Nitrogen inputs- and because we were able to spot harvest and visit trees several times to attempt to allow for greater ripeness.

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What does this suggest for the 2018 vintage? I may be stretching a bit by trying to use specific varieties as a metric and for not manically keeping weather data collated by variety at the time of harvest. But from here, I’d sum up the 2018 vintage as this…

2018 was a tough year in ways unrelated to weather, and I think that the simple challenge of getting the harvest in is well documented in the subsequent challenge of getting the fruit to shine in the cider. Jimmy pointed out that several of our new experiments- First Pet Nat! First wild ferments with Good Life ‘Goldrush’! … represent a nod towards slightly more risky cellar practices with greater rewards. This might be a great way to sum up the challenges of 2018 generally. Because of our September heat wave and resulting early fruit drop, we spent a lot of time revisiting trees to spot pick what was left with hopes of increased ripeness. Similarly, in the cellar, Jimmy and Garrett spent a lot of time working around this weird harvest timing and low sugars, while all of us stood at the press far into the freezing temperatures of Fall. Over the next 9 months the 2018 vintage will arrive to tell its own story, and we’ll see how poignant this particular pin in time proves.


2018 releases to date: Baldwin’, ‘Greenman’, ‘Rosé

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Pin in Time April 2019

Brief Insights in the the life of the Farm-Cidery-Cider House, at this moment

By Melissa Madden, owner/doer of what is needed

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Kite & String Cellar Update

2018 Vintage: filtering, final blending, bottling for secondary fermentation

Above, you see Rick heroically posing during our Funkhouse filtration. We’re filtering to build cuvees for our final bottling of champagne method ciders- sending nearly 4,500 gallons into secondary fermentation between March 13 and April 19. We won’t see those ciders again until we disgorge starting in the summer and fall. These ciders are only a part of our K&S catalog, but represent the most labor- and time- intensive blends.

Soon to be released are beloved Rose and newly re-visioned Baldwin (sparkling, dry with that strange sense of unfermentable sugar). Starting with the May Cider Club, we’ll have a limited release Pet Nat called ‘Greenman’- an ode to our designer Q Cassetti and FLX orchard advocate Peter Hoover.

For once, this year Jimmy may see some daylight in the Spring. He and Garrett reworked the cidery schedule to push bottling earlier and get Jimmy out during our crazy crunch time in May.

Coming soon… thoughts on how the 2018 vintage has shaped up. We’ve almost got a read on that!

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Cider House happenings

Busy times! This part of our business has yet to cease with surprises. As farmers, Garrett and I knew about to long days and big goals. The work of the Tasting Room has been to meld the labor of farming with the delicacy of service.

One way we celebrate this is daily- you come visit and we do our thing. Another way is more seasonally driven… for example! Coming up on Friday, April 5 we’ll have our annual cheese+cider collaboration dinner featuring Lively Run Dairy, our K&S cider and a menu to inspire from The Cheese Course (Rachel Freier and Laura Sutter).

Coming right along we continue Sunday brunches and will open up reservations for Mother’s Day Brunch by mid April.

Asparaganza is Saturday, May 26th, a cap off to the “slower” season and a welcome to the summer chaos.

We’ll be here, the releases will come out and we’ll serve ‘em. We’d love to have you and your family for lunch, brunch, tastings and flights, as ever.


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Good Life Farm, progress

Presprouting, pruning, prepping, praying

It’s time! Our first control sprays go on the peaches- in that ever present battle for dominance over the moisture-soaked NE paradigm of fungal diseases. Last year, dark and wet as the fall was, we had a glorious peach crop and we’re planning to open it to UPick again. It starts now.

Also in the good news pile- we’ve scaled back up on the ginger side. We’ve got 400# of ginger mothers presprouting in a warm, dark cabinet. They’re destined for high tunnel planting sometime in May and for all kinds of ginger-based goodness by late fall.

It looks to be a year for focus on the perennials and some specialty veg. We’re adding strawberries for 2020 UPick, cleaning up past mistakes (see below) and preparing for that turn into our 11 year. Here, we can outgrow our worn out assumptions and take the farm into a healthy adolescence. Wish us luck, and come to the harvest when it comes!

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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.

APPLY HERE

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Leo and Polly find a new home

On Saturday, February 23rd, 2019, my two closest farming partners, Leo and Polly (Percheron team) left for a new life. I cried when they left, but I knew it was the right thing; I was lagging in my craft, and I wasn’t giving them the work they needed. I will miss them with every hour.

I met Leo and Polly’s new owner, Keith Marquis, only a few weeks ago, but have known of him since I first worked  at Cayuga Pure Organics, 13 years ago. Erik Smith, one of my most important farming mentors, leased land from Keith’s father, Kermit, who raised and farmed with Belgians. That farm is long in new hands, but Keith is starting over with a horse powered dairy. He knows horses, and he has a fine pair that will work alongside Leo and Polly. As sad as I am to see them go, I am relieved to see them in such good hands, and I am moved and grateful for the enduring care of one farmer for another.

I want to know that small farms are just this. We help each other as we can, with not a string attached. We see each other’s efforts, and we are joyous in successes and forgiving in failures, knowing first hand how unpredictable farming can be. We help each other, sometimes reaching across decades. I am grateful to feel this hope and support from the farming world, despite, or maybe because of, my current sense of loss.

And there is more good news:  Leo and Polly will be back for Asparaganza in late May, and if luck is with me, perhaps I’ll take their lines again.

I am so grateful for your kindness. Thank you.

Love,

Melissa

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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.

CHANGE AT GOOD LIFE FARM

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 thegoodlifefarm.org/blog).  

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.

 

RESTING IN KITE & STRING CIDERY

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.

 

GROWTH AT THE CIDER HOUSE

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!

Best,

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.

We are in good company: Wine Enthusiast's 'The Women Leading American Cider Forward'

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The Women Leading American Cider Forward

by Shelby Vittek, for Wine Enthusiast

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Craft cider has grown exponentially over the past decade, and women are at the forefront of its evolution. Here are seven cidermakers to know.

From the beginning of the craft cider movement’s recent American revival, women have served prominent leadership roles as orchardists, cidermakers and agricultural researchers.

It turns out that cider drinkers are more gender balanced, too. According to Michelle McGrath, executive director of United States Association of Cider Makers, women account for nearly 50% of U.S. cider drinkers, as opposed to craft beer’s 31%.

A considerable number of cideries across the country are run by women. Located in proximity to wine regions like the Finger Lakes region of New YorkSonoma CountyWillamette Valley in Oregon and coastal Washington, these producers craft distinctive orchard-based ciders. Here are some of the women who are shaping the future of American cider….

THE PART ABOUT US….

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Melissa Madden, Kite & String

If you visit the Finger Lakes region’s Good Life Farm in Interlaken, New York, you might see Madden as she rides through orchards on a draft horse. Madden and her business partner, Garrett Miller, own the organic farm that houses the Finger Lakes Cider House as well as their cider brand, Kite & String, which they launched as Good Life Cider in 2013.

Kite & String has made waves with its sparkling ciders like Cazenovia. It’s a bone-dry, traditional-method cider made from varieties like Dabinett, Somerset Redstreak, Pound Sweet and Northern Spy.

The cidery often tests out different apples and methods. With an operation like this, the learning never stops, says Madden.

“Our farm is only 10 years old,” she says. “We don’t have orchardists in our families. It is not enough time to know anything.”

Madden is grateful for the close community of cider makers in the Finger Lakes, made up of people like Autumn Stoscheck who helped pave the way for women like herself. Now they’re both part of the same group of American cider makers that promote and recognize their peers, while simultaneously striving to advance the quality and craft of every cider they create.

Kite & String Cider-Good Life Farm is hiring for 2019!

NOW HIRING: FARM AND CIDERY PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

December 19, 2018

Join our team!  Our farm-cidery-tasting room is hiring for a full-time position starting March, 2019. The Production Assistant will split duties between the farm and cidery, with duties rotating as the seasons demand. Good Life Farm is our diversified organic farm featuring apple, peach and pear orchards, season extension, poultry and draft horses. Kite & String is our cidery where we make a range of artisanal cider sourced from our own organic Good Life apples and those of other Finger Lakes orchards. All of this is the setting for our tasting room and cafe Finger Lakes Cider House.  

DOWNLOAD AND SHARE THIS JOB!

 

Summary

March through December 2019, possibility for long term employment based on mutual fit.

40 hr per week. Weekdays M-F, with one weekend per month.

Pay rate sliding $15.50-17/hr based on experience

 

Skills Sought

Some mix of trade skills- electrical, plumbing, carpentry, or min 3 years working full time on a farm or in a cidery/winery. Must be self-motivated and able to work in a team- taking direction from multiple managers and alone- keeping pace and attention to detail for solo tasks. We prefer to hire someone looking for longer term employment based on mutual fit.

 

Job Details

This job is a seasonal immersion in the life of an integrated farm-cidery-tasting room. The Production Assistant will assist seasonally in all aspects of our Kite & String Cider production and our Good Life Farm management. Weekly duties will be split roughly evenly between both the cidery and farm, but will shift weekly/monthly to meet seasonal demands. Throughout the season the Production Assistant will participate in harvest, washing and packing of Good Life fruit and produce, and daily livestock chores plus one weekend per month. Orchard management will be a primary focus. The Production Assistant will work with the team on infrastructure improvements throughout the year. Cidery tasks are ongoing all year, with a focus on bottling until apple harvest and pressing begin in late September/early October.

 

To Apply

Please send a letter of interest, resume with references to:

Melissa Madden (melissa@thegoodlifefarm.org)

Applications will be taken on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

All questions via email.

JOB DESCRIPTION DOWNLOAD