Good Fruit Grower

October 2012

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Apples U.S. cider takes U.K. HONORS P eter Ringsrud used to grow picture-perfect Red and Golden Delicious apples at his East Wenatchee, Washington, orchard, but found little profit in it. After a 25-year interval working as an engineer, Ringsrud returned to the orchard when he retired in 2004 and began Washington cider maker beats the Brits at their own game. by Geraldine Warner growing some of the ugliest and unpalatable apples he could find. He and his family are now enjoying international acclaim with the hard ciders they make. For cider production, the appearance of the apples is irrele- vant, says Peter's son Lars, who is in charge of blending the ciders and also does the marketing for their Snowdrift Cider Company. Critical attributes are the flavor, sugar, acid, and tannins. Cider apples fall into categories such as sharp, bit- tersharp, and bittersweet, and tend to be highly aro- matic with complex flavors. Most are not the type of apples you would eat out of hand. "They're all edible, but not palatable by most peo- ple's standards," Lars said. "Dabinett tastes like you're biting into an aspirin, but I love it because it has such raw intensity of flavor." Dessert apples—even as tart as Cripps Pink—just don't have what it takes to make good cider. Once the juice is fermented into alcohol, there may be astringency and acidity, but there is no character left. Classification of common cider apples Sweets NEUTRAL: Less than 0.2% tannin; less than 0.45% malic acid Berkeley Pippin Court Royal Eggleston Styre Geeveston Fanny Peau de Vache Pomme Gris Sweet Alford Sweet Coppin Vagnon Flocher Wayne Woodbine Bittersweets TANNIC, ASTRINGENT: More than 0.2% tannin, less than 0.45% malic acid Ashton Brown Jersey Ball's Bittersweet Bedan Broadleaf Norman Cimitiere Chisel Jersey Cow Jersey Dabinett Gilpin Harry Master's Jersey Knotted Kernel Medaille d'Or Michelin Nehou Porter's Perfection Reine des Hatives Reine des Pommes Royal Wilding Sherrington Norman Somerset Redstreak Stembridge Jersey Tremlett's Bitter Vilberie Yarlington Mill SOURCE: Washington State University Sharps ACIDIC, TART: Less than 0.2% tannin, more than 0.45% malic acid Breakwell Brown's Apple Coleman's Seedling Dymock Red Fair Maid of Devon Frederick Hereford Redstreak Ponsford Tom Putt Winter Stubbard Yellow Styre York Imperial Bittersharps TANNIC, ACIDIC: More than 0.2% tannin, more than 0.45% malic acid Cap of Liberty Dufflin Foxwhelp Kingston Black Stoke Red Peter, who grew up on a family orchard in Cashmere, said one of the impetuses behind his cider venture was a desire to produce a premium, value-added product. He'd dabbled with making fruit wines in the past, but felt Washington had enough wineries already with more than 700 at the last count. Hard cider was a small niche, but a growing one that gave him the opportunity to be vertically integrated by growing the apples, producing the cider, and selling the final product. To get started, he took classes at Washington State University in Mount Vernon with English cider maker and consultant Peter Mitchell. As his son Lars relates: "The most important thing he learned was you need cider fruit to make good cider, just as you can't make good wine out of table grapes." The family obtained cider apples, Snowdrift cidery makes several blends of cider and perry. Perry is made from pears. including Porter's Perfection and Muscadet de Dieppe, from other growers to make a few carboys of cider, and the following spring, they were blown away by what they had, Lars said. Meanwhile, fruit grower Dean Neff at Lake Chelan had been thinking of making hard cider and had planted a couple of acres of cider varieties at Lake Chelan. But when his winery became successful, Neff changed his mind and decided to sell the apple property for development. Before the trees were pulled, the Ringsruds obtained budwood and grafted over an acre of Red Delicious apples. They also obtained wood from a cider maker in Oregon and from WSU. Peter converted his orchard shop and equipment shed into a cidery, and his son-in-law Tim Larsen, who also studied with Peter Mitchell, came aboard as cider maker. England After a couple of years of promising results, Lars and his wife, Beth, decided to make a pilgrimage to England, where hard cider has been popular since the Norman Conquest almost a thousand years ago. The United Kingdom is the world's largest producer and consumer of hard cider. "I just wanted to taste cider because we knew we could make decent cider, but we didn't know what cider was supposed to taste like," Lars explained. The cider he tasted in Herefordshire was drier than he expected and didn't strike him as being "appley," which he notes is not surprising because wines are rarely described as "grapey." Some had interesting earthy flavors that he's learned to appreciate. He also tasted some French ciders, which tend to be lighter and sweeter. Bottle fermented The family released their first 190 cases of cider in 2009. Most of their cider is carbonated, like beer, but two years ago, Peter and his wife, Mary Ann, went to Herefordshire, where they visited award-winning cider maker Tom Oliver and learned how to make perry (the pear equivalent of cider) and cider fermented in the bottle (champagne-style). GOOD FRUIT GROWER OCTOBER 2012 19 Michelin Nehou Porter's Perfection. Calville Blanc. Brown

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