We’re used to recognizing local wines and beers on the menu at our favorite restaurant. A few years ago another option began appearing—hard cider. A revival had begun.
Nearby Sebastopol has a long history as an apple-farming community. The area is known for the Gravenstein, a tart apple widely used for cooking and sauce. Over time, trees were replaced with grapevines. We have less than half the acreage in apple orchards that we did just fifty years ago. Yet, Sonoma County agriculture has pockets of orchards that have persisted, and today aficionados have taken apples to a new level.
We’re not just talking fermented apples; we’re talking craft. Apples are pressed and fermented, similarly to wine. They may sit for weeks to many months. Hard cider typically has less alcohol than wine, or even beer, often around 4 to 6 percent. Refreshing and easy to drink, each hard cider is as distinct as the maker.
The original SoCo cider came from Ace Cider, which in 1993 became the first cider pub in the county. You can taste their award-winning cider on Fridays, from 1:00 to 5:00, in their tasting room in Sebastopol (http://www.acecider.com/)
Today as hard cider makes a comeback (it was the drink of choice back in the New World of the 1770s), you can find most of California’s apple cider makers located in Sonoma County. The climate is right, as is our micro-culture of artisanal food and drink and a slow-food approach to dining. Like wine and beer, hard cider depends on terroir, aging, sugar levels, and craftsmanship.
Next time you’re in town, make time to visit some of the local cideries that pride themselves on their small-batch, hand-crafted, and award-winning elevation of the apple. Or visit their websites to learn where you can try and buy these remarkable labels. Also look for other local hard cider winners—Devoto Orchards Cider and Troy Cider.
Horse & Plow
First known as a winery, Horse & Plow is making a big dent in the hard cider market. Their approach is all natural and their fruit organic. Visit them in Sebastopol.
Tasting Barn open Thursday — Monday, 11–5pm
Tilted Shed Ciderworks
Their cider is made with only local, organic fruit and is dry-farmed, which means no irrigation. The result: distinctive ciders that vary with the climate and growing conditions of a given year.
Visit their cidery in Windsor: Saturdays, 11–4pm (closed for renovation until Jan. 28)
Since 2013, Healdsburg claims its own cider makers, a father and son team with a taste for excellence. Their 7,000-plus square feet fermentation facility and tap room is located just a block south of the downtown plaza.
Tasting Room is open Wednesday — Sunday, 11–9pm