Black Diamond

Excited for the 2016 Season to Break Open!

Reporting on the state of constant change here at FLCH

Likely if you were here for dinner last Friday (April 22nd), you noticed one of the many changes on tap in the Cider House.  We introduced table service, as opposed to our former "pub style" service where one wrestled to the bar to order.  Over the past year, we've come to terms with the melding of Tasting Room-Bar and Restaurant, and are more ready to live up to it... largely by dealing with seemingly mundane details like how to submit orders to the chef.

As said by one of our new staff members when interviewing for the Cider House "...it seemed like farmers trying to figure out how to do hospitality."

Yup.  Let's not pretend it wasn't.  But hear ye, hear ye, we are up to the Challenge!  After being blessedly overrun all last season, we took the winter to reconsider and revamp.  And now, we're introducing Table Service, a new menu pending, a fantastic executive chef, and an expanded, super talented staff.

Meet our staff- tireless veterans and earnest new hires

Gratitude floweth from Garrett and myself (Melissa) to those who've now put in a full year with us and are signed up for another!  They know... it all.  And we welcome with such open arms... 6 new staff to bring us to a total of 15 Finger Lakes Cider House/Good Life Farmers.  Whew!  Introducing in order of time spent working here, and with titles as requested by the staff (spice added by us):

  • Jimmy (co-Cider Maker, Good Life Cider)
  • Teddy (distro/housemade pickles et al/assistant bookkeeper)
  • Matt (GLF High Tunnel Manager/Farm Assistant/Music Booking/Sign Artist)
  • Brud Holland (consulting Exec. Chef/chef @ Fox Run/Finger Lakes Made owner-chef)
  • Chris (Tasting Bar staff/Black Diamond assistant Cider Maker/orchardist/nursery-man)
  • Alexis (erstwhile Tasting Bar sub/nursery-woman/Black Diamond crew)
  • Silene (Tasting Bar staff/potter for whatever Cider House asks/singer)
  • Audrey (wandering artist/Char and Cheese Board Monger/Tasting Bar staff)
  • Adriana (Tasting Bar,but sadly, graduating and cutting out/dog lover)
  • Joseph (Tasting Bar/soil scientist going to PSU/farmer)
  • Brad (conversation mapper/Tasting Bar/watercolor artist)
  • Hannah (Tasting Bar staff/forage guide/yogi)
  • Jenny (massage therapist-in-training/Tasting Bar/gets stuck on dishes)
  • Hope (frequent sub in Tasting Bar/multi tasker extraordinaire/fiddler)
  • Valerie (new FLCH cook/Tasting Bar on occasion/engaged!)
Conversation mapping about Customer and Staff Communication

Conversation mapping about Customer and Staff Communication

Our first Spring 2016 all-staff training was last night, Wednesday.  Herein follows a tiny photo diary of the conversation maps (re: touchy feely problem solving with results) and trainings by all 5 of our collaborating cideries: Good Life Cider, Black Diamond Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Eve's Cidery and South Hill Cider.

Eric Shatt of  Redbyrd Orchard Cider  tasting out Workman Dry, Starblossom and Workman Semi-Dry.

Eric Shatt of Redbyrd Orchard Cider tasting out Workman Dry, Starblossom and Workman Semi-Dry.

Garrett and Jimmy barrel-tasting  Good Life Cider's  current and to-be-released

Garrett and Jimmy barrel-tasting Good Life Cider's current and to-be-released

Steve and Ellyn of  South Hill Cider  pouring the whole catalog to date

Steve and Ellyn of South Hill Cider pouring the whole catalog to date

Jackie and Ian of  Black Diamond Cider  making it fun!

Jackie and Ian of Black Diamond Cider making it fun!

And to be comprehensive... new hires on the Good Life Farm.

Jonathan, first calf for Forest (red mama).  Calf 3 of 6 this year for  Good Life Farm

Jonathan, first calf for Forest (red mama).  Calf 3 of 6 this year for Good Life Farm

 

 

FLX Cider Week buzz begins!

This past week, many of us FLX Cider Week Cideries went on down to NYC to Wassail the City.  We had a blast, and got our annual early October Cider Week FLX off to a good start!


A few highlights:

  • Our very own Call to the Barrel Dinner (Mon. 10/5) is released! Join us for a fantastic menu paired with the whole-room Toasts all night.  Tickets and more info, here...
  • Travel Packages make it easy to enjoy Cider Week October 2- 11, 2015!
    • Cayuga Lake Package features lodgings, transport to FLCH's Call to the Barrel and VIP Orchard Tours, Tastings and Lunch
    • Geneva Package features lodgings, Lake Drum Brewing's VIP Bar Take Over and Dinner with Sam Buyskyes @ Kindred Fare
    • Local Pairings Packages are built around one night near event hotspots!  

A Chat with Ian Merwin of Black Diamond Cider...

A Preview for Saturday's Cider Maker Afternoon.  More info...

Black Diamond Farm and Cider  owner Ian Merwin, with a basket of  Calville blanc .

Black Diamond Farm and Cider owner Ian Merwin, with a basket of Calville blanc.

The farm

Black Diamond Farm takes its name from a famous old locomotive—The Black Diamond Express—that once rumbled through our farm. For almost 30 years we have been growing rare and antique apple varieties, including American heirlooms like Golden Russet, Black Oxford, Hudson’s Gem, and Newtown Pippin, and European bittersweet apples like Kingston Black, Porter’s Perfection, Dabinett, Hereford Redstreak and Chisel Jersey.  I started making hard cider in 1985 when we moved to the Finger Lakes from San Francisco, and I began research on cider apples at Cornell in 1994, focusing on the nutrition and culture of traditional cider varieties under NY growing conditions. Over the decades Black Diamond’s cider orchards have evolved into high density trellised plantings, with tall slender trees where every apple basks in abundant sunlight and air circulation.  This tree form minimizes pest and disease problems, creates a safer workplace for pruning and picking, and produces fruit with concentrated colors, aromas, tannins and sugars for cider-making.  Our soils are typical Finger Lakes glacial tills—mostly Honeoye and Lima—that are deep, well-drained, and high in Calcium and other base cations. These soils are so fertile that our trees do not require any additional fertilizers after the year of planting, though we do provide trickle irrigation for young trees during the occasional summer drought.

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   Margil  (a French bittersweet) onto another tree  (switching varieties by grafting on a new scion piece to a mature trunk).

Ian is topworking Margil (a French bittersweet) onto another tree (switching varieties by grafting on a new scion piece to a mature trunk).

The Ciders

The Black Diamond Farm terroir creates ciders with a firm foundation of acid and tannins, interlaced with aromas and textures created by the interplay of yeast and fruit, with minimal intervention by us as cider makers.  I don’t consider myself an especially skilled cider maker. The quality of our ciders is determined almost entirely by the quality of our apples, and we are one of the few NY cideries using only homegrown fruit in our blends. We grow about 130 different apple varieties, including many superb cider apples, so we have a great diversity to work with in the cidery. Each of our four ciders—SlateStone, RabbleRouser, Hickster, and ShinHollow—is a blend of at least a dozen different apple varieties.  Some provide crisp acidity (like Golden Russet, Ashmead’s Kernal, GoldRush); others contribute tannins that range from bitter (like Chisel Jersey or Tremletts Bitter) to velvet astringency (like Porter’s Perfection or Dabinett). Other apples are blended into the cider to provide rich aromatics (like Cox Orange Pippin, St. Edmond Pippin, or Chestnut Crab).  Most of our ciders are about 40% bittersweets, 40% sharps, and 20% aromatic apples.  Yeast selection also contributes substantially and characteristically to our finished ciders. Certain yeast strains impart exotic tropical fruit aromas (such as Alchemy I, and R-2) to the cider, while other yeasts are prized for their “neutrality” or tendency to just ferment the natural sugars and let the intrinsic fruit flavors of each blend come through with distinctive clarity. 

All but one of our ciders—Hickster—are completely dry. And even our Hickster blend is at the low end of perceived sweetness, with only 1.5% residual sugar.  We also grow several heirloom apples that usually have high sorbitol content—Tompkins King, Pound Sweet, and Cox Orange Pippin.  Sorbitol in apples is sometimes called “watercore”, and was a prized trait in historical cider apples because it increased their juice yields. It has another useful effect for ciders: Sorbitol is a non-fermentable sugar-alcohol that tastes sweet but can’t be converted to ethanol by yeast, so it adds a slight sweetness to finished ciders.  Humans also do not metabolize sorbitol like sugar, so it does not increase the caloric content of ciders like sugar does.  So even our bone dry ciders often have a slight fruity sweetness on the palette.

We will taste SlateStone, RabbleRouser, and Hickster at the FLCH this weekend.  Please see our event page for the menu and more information.

  • SlateStone was our first cider release in 2014, and is a complex blend of 36 different apples that is dominated by Golden Russet and GoldRush, which are both noted for intense sharpness and sweetness, with aromatics resembling citrus.  SlateStone is unfiltered and has negligible free sulfite, so it is a rustic style cider.  People often say it reminds them of a dry prosecco.
  • RabbleRouser was our second release this year.  It is also very dry, but has a touch of sorbitol and was fermented with R-2 and Alchemy yeasts, which imparted tropical fruits and melon aromas to this cider.  RabbleRouser is a blend of 22 apple varieties, mostly bittersweet (high tannin content) apples like Dabinett, Tremlett’s Bitter, and Ellis Bitter.  We also blended several red fleshed apples—Pink Pearl and Thornberry—into this cider, which gave it a light rosé hue. 
  • Hickster (our made-up word for Hipsters who live in the country) is a cider blend of more than a dozen apples, selected by Chris Negronida and Alexis Self—our two resident hicksters at Black Diamond Farm.  It contains late ripening bittersweets like Porter’s Perfection and Chisel Jersey, mixed with Golden Russet, Calville blanc, Newtown Pippin, and other sharps. Hickster’s tannins are soft and velvety, it has aromatics of vanilla, ginger, and ripe pears.