Redbyrd Orchard Cider is a small family-run sustainably managed fruit farm and cidery focused on heirloom, wild seedling and European cider apples to produce unique artisanal hard ciders. Redbyrd is part of a small movement of New York cidermakers committed to bringing true cider back to the American table and cider apple orchards back to the American landscape. Redbyrd is comprised of a husband and wife team coming from backgrounds steeped in the winemaking and grape growing traditions of the Finger Lakes. Eric Shatt, former head winemaker at Ventosa Winery, previous nursery and vineyard manager for Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, and currently Cornell University’s Orchard and Research Farms Manager, along with Deva Maas, who has a background in Sustainable Agriculture from The Evergreen State College and a childhood within a family of one of the earliest wineries in the Finger Lake, have settled in to their true passion, growing apples and producing world-class ciders.
There is Art in cidermaking!! The decisions made along the way direct the outcome. The blend of apples planted, where they are planted, when to pick them, how long to sweat them, which ones to press together, how hard to press them, where to ferment the cider ----size and container, barrel or Stainless Steel, yeast, temperature, lees contact, aging, use of sulfites, bulk aging, blending, filter or not, finishing, force or natural carbonation, disgorge, and bottling!!!!!!, plenty of opportunities for the Cider Artist to direct and create the beverage. The process starts every year as the first apples ripen in late August, and when our crates are full we press the fruit, as important to fill the tanks as to empty the crates. This process goes round and round until either our tanks are full or our apples are all picked. We strive everyyear to finish pressing before Thanksgiving, the perfectly placed Holiday to celebrate the “finished” harvest. Although we often find ourselves chilled to the bone pushing around frozen pomace on rack and cloth in December. Then…….. there is a beautiful lull to this cycle and it occurs in December and January when the cider is naturally clarifying, and our press is cleaned up and at rest until next year. When we wake from this hibernation we turn our sights to Bottling and pruning in the later winter, and start getting inevitably antsy in February as the sun shines longer and we worry to get everything in place for spring, and growing of the next vintage of Cider fruit. Intertwined in all this is the excitement and promise of discovery. Newly planted varieties that will bear their first fruits to taste and ferment, a new orchard site that will mirror or show difference in terrior to an older planted site, finding yet another hidden gem dangling along a hedgerow, seeing the first blossoms from a seedling tree that was cultivated and cared for and brought into potential being. Seeing the color drip for the first time from a press full of Dolgo or Redfield. Following a lead and walking thru a pasture to an old hidden long lost orchard. It’s the art, process, and discovery that moves me in this whirlwind of cidermaking.
Redbyrd has two separate orchards, both of which are farmed organically and biodynamically. Eric says “We find a sense of spirit in farming this way and truly feel the fruit is more whole and balanced to provide more nutrition and/or flavor.” The first orchard, in Burdett was planted in 2003 and measures just one acre in size. They planted a second orchard in Trumansburg in 2011, which will be a total of 4 acres when fully planted.