Why cider, why here, what for
Growing an orchard for cider, and hard years
by Melissa Madden, owner Finger Lakes Cider House, Kite & String Cider, Good Life Farm
The Cider House started as a love letter in physical (in exceptionally encompassing form) to the orchards that do and will cover the landscape of New York and the greater Northeast. From a terroir perspective, the abundance of wild and state-bred apples alone recommends NYS as the hard cider capital of the country. When thinking in terms of biologically-appropriate planning, trees as part of a northeastern farm come front and center.
Over the past few years of intense Cider House start-up, we've allowed the visible role of Good Life Farm to fade to the back ground. Kite & String is now the name of our house cider, and we still strive towards using only our own apples. This goal is years away but in focus as the clearest way for us to express the power of a biodiverse organic farming system. Like those we collaborate with most closely- Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Eve's Cidery and Black Diamond Cider- we value the life that exists within the orchard and recognize its potential for ecological healing.
Without further ado, here is the case for you, as our friends and customers- to try out orchard cider built on the verticality that is Good Life Farm- Kite & String- Finger Lakes Cider House... A love letter to the trying year in agriculture that was 2016 and an invitation to our Cider Club...
ORCHARD CIDER, IN THE GOOD LIFE ORCHARD
The 2016 organic Goldrush crop on our Good Life Farm was the sole harvest for that year, and quite minimal it was. We shared the loss of harvest potential with many Finger Lakes farmers starting right off at Valentine’s Day. In mid-February 2016 we saw temperatures swing from the non-winter we’d been having at 50F to 5F in one night. At that moment, it was adieu to the peach crop in one great Valentine’s Day massacre. As we proceeded through that capricious winter we watched temperatures soar to record heights January thru March only to drop randomly (in February) and significantly in April and May during blossom and pollination. We lost 95% of our crop between those 2 extremes, and then followed a drawn-out drought which started with the extreme dry winter and lasted all the way to October. The resulting water stress on the trees was lessened by the absolute lack of a fruit crop, but we watched our potential for a ’16 vintage estate cider and fresh fruit sales trickle away into a dry creek of farm desperation.
A bright spot shone through the doom and gloom of scary climate and unhinged nature with a very tiny yield of Goldrush persisting on our adolescent trees. Between the drought and loss of buds at bloom time, we were astounded to greet these nuggets of survival. And the resulting fruit! We recorded the highest brix (sugar content of fruit, indicating ripeness, alluding to growing practices and giving a sense of what final ABV can be after fermentation) we’ve ever seen in fruit coming into Kite & String- either from our own organic fruit or from fruit purchased at more established FLX orchards. This juice was a miracle of complex, largely tropical flavors at the outset- think pineapple explosion- and through primary fermentation only became more astoundingly celebratory.
IN THE KITE & STRING CELLAR
Garrett and Jimmy made the lovely decision to keep our 50 gallons of 2016 estate harvest (all our own fruit) separate, and to dive into the opportunity presented by this beloved and exquisite pressing in late October 2016. Goldrush 2016 made its way through a primary fermentation designed to maximize fruit quality, to experiment with a new yeast to maximize the single varietal character and to allow time for the choose-your-own-adventure of post-primary fermentation decision making. In March 2017, Goldrush went into secondary fermentation to become a methode champenoise (traditional method or champagne-style) with loose yeast through secondary fermentation to bring fine, mousse-like bubbles to final cider. And Goldrush ‘16 fermented slowly away to a final and delightful 11% ABV. We disgorged with our fine team of 5 staff in October 2017 after 7 months of second fermentation and lees aging. At the moment, we’ve got a tiny 22 cases (50 gallons) to share and savor. And thus, we release it here to you. Because of the absolute precious-ness of this cider, K&S Goldrush 2016 will only be available to you and our Valentine’s Dinner folks for ordering and tasting.
IN THE BOTTLE, ON YOUR TABLE
This cider, like the Baldwin ’16 you all received in November 2017, is very much a wine-like cider in its alcohol content, fruit expression, production method. Goldrush will pair well with the gentlest of Emmentaler or Alpine-style cheeses (think nutty flavors and subtle acid like a good Swiss). You’ll see how we serve it… first, with little to overshadow it but enough of a pairing to further tantalize your palate. It’s a celebration, the champagne of cider to get a little fancy with! We’re so pleased to have this come out of 2016 and all its challenges and even more pleased to share it with you- our closest friends in cider.