What was once a staple in every farm household in America has practically disappeared from our food chain. Albemarle CiderWorks is trying to change that, by reviving the production of champagne-like hard ciders made with heritage apples native to Central Virginia. The orchards and cidery are located on and around the Ragged Mountains, just southwest of Charlottesville.
Thomas Jefferson was famous for his apple orchards (among other things) on the grounds of Monticello and was a pioneer in the production and experimentation of making hard ciders from his harvest. He was known to grow many varieties of apples that Albemarle CiderWorks is working hard to keep alive by ways of grafting rootstocks, teaching classes, selling their apples and ciders around the state, and opening up the grounds to the annual Fall Harvest Festival each November, which turns out quite a crowd. They grow a number of heritage varieties, many of which end up making their four ciders, each with its own unique flavor profile. John Adams claimed that his health and longevity was attributed to drinking a tankard of hard cider each morning before breakfast.
The first of Ciderworks’ cider varieties is “Jupiter’s Legacy“, named after Thomas Jefferson’s most trusted servant, Jupiter Evans who was responsible for making the cider at Monticello. It is a dry cider made with Harrison, Yates, Hyslop, and Virginia crab apples that pairs well with pork, poultry, cheeses, sausages, and pates. This is the driest of the ciders and has an unfiltered-like quality that makes it intriguing and raw.
The “Old Virginia Winesap” is spicy, floral, fruity, and slightly tart. It would pair nicely with white meats and fish specifically, but lends itself to go with many other foods as well. Winesap apples have been growing in Virginia since Colonial times, and we are lucky they are still around to enjoy.
The “Royal Pippin” is fruit-driven and is made entirely with Royal Pippin apples. It is still a dry cider, more champagne-like as all of their ciders are, as opposed to the sweet hard ciders often found in grocery stores. The Pippin is a legendary central Virginia fruit, brought to England by Benjamin Franklin and is described as the Worlds greatest dessert apple. It was also greatly enjoyed by the Queen of England and is documented in history as such. It is also one of the few apples that is able to produce an excellent single-variety cider.
The “Ragged Mountain” is probably their best selling cider, and is a blend of Pippins, Winesap, Black Twig, Grimes Golden, and Stayman apples grown on or around the Ragged Mountains near the cidery. It is a semi-dry cider and pairs well with spicier foods, cheeses, and fruits.
All four selections are delicious and are a welcome treat coming from our apple-loving state. The tasting room at the cidery is open Wednesday-Sundays and tours, tastings, and apple buying are welcome. Visiting CiderWorks is also a celebrated change to the wine tours that have also become to popular in the area, so go taste a piece of apple history.