North Fork wineries and Aquebogue orchard jump on cider trend

11/22/2012 5:00 PM |
Long Island Wine Country, North Fork, Hard Cider

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bob Gammon in the Woodside Orchard barn’s hard cider tasting room in Aquebogue.

First came locally produced wine.

Then came vodka, beer and whisky. And given the number of East End fruit farms it seems only natural that list of alcoholic beverages bottled, brewed or distilled here would grow to include hard cider.

In October, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue was the site of the area’s first “Pour the Core” hard cider festival, attended by an estimated 800 people.

Since the winery began making the area’s first hard ciders two and a half years ago, said owner Jim Silver, “hard cider has blown up across North America, including Canada.”

Others following this trend include Shinn Estate Vineyards and local winemaker Anthony Nappa.

Most recently, Aquebogue-based Woodside Orchard began its own foray into the world of hard ciders, currently offering two varieties of the sweet and tart autumn-through-winter beverage. Both are 6 percent alcohol, according to Bob Gammon Jr., one of the owners.

Woodside is a family business that’s had the Jamesport orchard since the mid-1980s, and the Gammons began selling hard cider at the Aquebogue location almost a month ago. First, though, came two years of wading through paperwork to get their farm winery license.

“One cider is a little drier because we used different yeasts with the same juice and one left more residual sugar than the other,” said Mr. Gammon.

The two varieties, he said, are made from a blend of eight different kinds of apples.

“We have a third variety we’ll release in another week and a half, just before Thanksgiving, that has cinnamon and other spices,” he said, adding that will also have 6 percent alcohol.

On Saturday, Peconic Bay Winery also released 600 bottles of a Thanksgiving-themed cider, called “Turkey Tom.” It is available for purchase at the winery and Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

Mr. Gammon estimated that Woodside Orchard should have enough hard cider to keep the Aquebogue location open until Christmas, and will reopen in May.

He added that the family is considering showcasing their ciders during a spring “apple blossom festival.”

Woodside Orchard currently grow 27 varieties of apples on 4,000 trees and offers pick-your-own apples in addition to prepacked bags of roughly 11 pounds and baked goods like pies and apple breads.

With hard cider now added to the list they are also in the process of developing another product — apple wine — and are currently waiting for label approval of their Woodside Orchard Apple Wine.

Mr. Gammon said that aromatically, the wine’s nose is reflective of the fruit it’s made from, though it is similar in taste to other white wine. “It fits in with other wines quite nicely,” he said. “It doesn’t stand out one way or another.”

The decision to make apple-holic beverages began with a suggestion by a local winemaker Mr. Gammon said wishes to remain unnamed, who has been a key consultant and a tremendous help in the operation.

“The process of making hard cider is not really that difficult, just time-consuming,” he said. “We press the juice at our Jamesport farm and then we bring it to Aquebogue to ferment in our tanks. It’s about a six-week process from start to finish.”

Mr. Gammon estimates that his business has already produced about 1,000 gallons of hard cider. Once another 250-gallon tank arrives in Aquebogue, the orchard will be able to ferment 1,500 gallons of the stuff at a time.

Hard cider is already for sale at Woodside Orchard’s Main Road location in Aquebogue.

In addition to tastings, $15 glass growlers can be purchased there and returned for refills.

“We’re hoping this could help bring our family business to the next level,” Mr. Gammon said. “It’s being received very well so far. Hard cider has its own niche following and we’re already getting return customers.”

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