Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Best Freaking Ohio Cider, Ever!!

So, I have this penchant for overly dramatic headlines. You're reading the following text, right? Ha! Suckers!

I did, however, sample the BEST CIDER IN OHIO.

I was accomplanied by Commissioner Bubby. We drove to the first orchard, staying on West 25th/Pearl Rd./Route 3 pretty much the whole way! We enjoyed our completely unnecessary tours of Parma, Brunswick, and Medina because we were treated to the absolutely breathtaking scenery of what followed.

The landscape that I usually associate with rural Ohio is flat corn-ness. Because of the sheer flatness of Ohio's chest (perhaps a AA-cup), corn visibility is very high. My regular route from Cleveland to Columbus is shared by all that commute between the two cities - 71! This route can suck all that is holy and good from your soul through your teeth. It's mostly flat, lousy with corn, and dotted alternately with Adult Bookstores and Outlet Malls. Instead of torturing ourselves in the traditional manner (taking 71), we took the road much less travelled: which was driving south from Ohio City on West 25th street and all its incarnations until we reached our first destination.

Once we got past Medina and, eventually, Wooster, we started to see this less obvious part of Ohio that city-slickers like us never see. It's reminiscent of the rolling hills in parts of Tuscany or southern France. It's purely rural in the old-fashioned way that pleases and reinforces my image of rural Ohio. The Autumnal foliage was in full-effect. Fall weather provided us with dramatic skies that when we arrived at Windy Hill Apple Farm near Newark, Oh, we were literally blown away! They don't call it Windy Hill for nothing!

Windy Hill Apple Farm had several long rows of trees bearing GoldRush apples available to pick. The Commisioner and I had tons of fun picking our 1/2 bushel of apples. The kids that were there were REALLY having fun! Laughing, screaming, and running amok like rascally goofballs in the orchard. This was our cue to get out of the orchard and find the owner, Charlie and to sample some of last year's hard cider. I was really excited about this moment and it was our main reason for stopping at this farm first! In the basement of his home, Charlie produces what he refers to as a real farmhouse style hard cider. This is exerpted directly from his website:

Hard cider is fermented Sweet Cider where most of the natural sugar has been converted to alcohol. It can be made and sold without a license so long as it is made from pure apple juice, has less than 7% alcohol, no preservation methods or materials have been used (not pasteurized or sulfited), and it is not artificially carbonated. The end result of these conditions is that it is a somewhat still and dry alcoholic beverage.
We make our Hard Cider from the Sweet Cider of our apples with the yeast naturally present in our orchard. These are multiple species of yeast that require a slow low temperature fermentation for a rich full flavor. Once the primary fermentation is finished, we rack the cider into stainless steel tanks for the secondary fermentation where the malic acid is converted to lactic acid yielding a smoother taste and slightly effervescent cider naturally carbonated by the malo-lactic fermentation. All of this requires at least six months and sometimes more. This process yields what is referred to as a farmhouse cider in that it uses what is naturally available at the farm and is slow and unhurried in the farmhouse cellar.
We make two different Hard Ciders. One is light and mellow with a slight effervescence as made from pure GoldRush juice. This is reminiscent of the ciders from Normandy France and thus we say this is in the French tradition. The second is made from a combination of
GoldRush and Enterprise apple ciders. The Enterprise apples have more tannin in them which gives the blend a rounder flavor and a stronger finish.

Windy Hill's hard cider was a pleasure to sample. It had a toasy, light-brown color. It smelled of blurred spices and yeasts. The flavor was very pleasant and very slightly off-dry. There was a slight tinge of Brett, but was integrated with the full cider-wine flavor that lingered very long on the palate. I would say that Charlie's long, low-temp, wild yeast fermentation pays dividends about a year after primary fermentation starts. I can easily imagine this farmhouse style was the bounty of Johhny Appleseed's efforts back in the pioneer days. The 2008 batches were quietly bubbling away. Different species of wild yeasts were politely taking their turns consuming the sugars in Charlie's newest juice.

From Windy Hill, we got back on the road toward our next destination, Laurelville Fruit Farm in the beautiful Hocking Hills area. The town of Laurelville is apparently a well-known destination for its harvest products. There were roadside stands everywhere selling pumpkins, apples, cider and the like. The Laurelville Fruit Farm is a multiple award-wining producer of fresh cider. Enthusiasts can be seen loading their cars to the gills with the very freshest product of Bowers family's fruit. We grabbed two gallon jugs as they were freshly filled, promptly paid for them, and got the heck out of the way of the cider-thirsty hoardes that descended upon the cider mill.

We had one more important stop before our return trip to Cleveland. It was to eat! No doubt a very important part of any road trip. We had heard of a neat place in Columbus that we tried to find once before to no avail. This time I made reservations ahead of time and mapwuested the whole itinerary. The restaurant was Basi Italia. It was the perfect place for dinner on a cool, fall night. It's tiny, nestled in the thick of Victorian Village. Our server was friendly and helpful. We were treated to smiles, casual friendliness, and the smells of thoughtfully cared-for food. The wine list was small but dense with good choices that seemed the reflect the attitudes of the food menu. After wine, coffee, and desserts we felt like: And we still had to drive back to Cleveland!

We made it back - no problems. As I write this, I'm still full from it. We got our blast of Autumn, saw some beautiful parts of our fine state, and finished the day with delicious food and fine wine. Does it get any better than that?

1 comment:

Kelli Bettie said...

Wow, who took those pictures? Pretty great skills. I hear she is one hot Commish!


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