Living and Breathing | The Birth of a Cider
As cider makers, we work in union with the transformation of living things. It begins with the physical fruit; it swings on the tree, some apples eager enough to drop, others holding on for a little more sunshine—a few more drops of rain. The fruit is harvested, either pressed by the hardworking hands at the orchards we work with, or transported straight to Courthouse Creek where we mill and press it ourselves.
What once grew over a season on a tree is now condensed into liquid, the raw material we use to create cider. Each apple is a reflection of its own innate characteristics: the weather it experienced in its growth, the soil that fed its tree, the hands that tended to its development, and on and on. Each of these elements varies year-to-year, and these variations reflect themselves in the fruit. Accepting these variations with an appreciation for all that nature is and does—and refusing to give in to the human temptation to alter them—is, to us, the very definition of orchard-based cider (or heritage cider, or whatever term you wish to use to try to capture nature).
With all of the patience and knowledge we can muster, we try to mimic the apple’s intuitive understanding that nature is at the helm and what it provides is beyond what we can give. The wild yeast and healthy bacteria on the skin of each apple is meant to be there, and not meant to be decimated with chemicals. The apple is a reflection of itself and the land it grew on—and in—thus, it demands respect. We allow the cider to breathe, never stifling its life with added preservatives.
Perhaps, our art is the attempt to tap into the fruit’s intuition, and guide it on its journey to becoming cider. Our actions are thoughtful and respectful. For instance, if we decide to use a cultivated yeast, we carefully select a strain that amplifies the characteristics of the fruit. We believe in the beauty of fermentation and/or maturation in wooden vessels; the cider living and breathing with the lungs of a barrel or foeder. After fermentation, the cider matures in a meditative state, undisturbed by additions, by prying hands, by any sort of process.
Every so often we taste the cider, study the cider, talk about the cider, debate about the cider. We allow it to dictate when it is ready for bottling, when its restful state is over and it wants to move on. We focus on taste and what speaks to us—not whether, for instance, we’ve hit target acid levels of a recipe by adding something that was not there from inception. As feebly as we can, we attempt to understand and listen to the language of cider. Once packaged the cider continues to transform, to age inside of the bottle in our cellar, on the tasting room shelves, in retail stores, in your refrigerator, at your table, and finally in your glass.
The cider is always living, containing invisible worlds more complex than we can ever imagine. We can only hope we’ve done it justice, and that the cider continues to live on in the moments we share together—at a picnic, while relaxing with friends, with a delicious dinner, and on and on.