orchard management

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.

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

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!

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

Reinette Musquee (Margil) shows its contempt for excess heat 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 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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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.