I sometimes wonder whether I've gone a bit off the deep end when it comes to cider apples. I was looking through my photos the other day, and realized I take as many, if not more, photos of apples and our orchard than I do of our own kid. Granted, our son hates having his picture taken and runs at the first sight of my phone, but perhaps I do have a problem.
And yet, I know of plenty of people who go into raptures over wine grapes around here. My fixation is no different.
OK, maybe it is. It is infinitesimally less common. Orchards are routinely bulldozed around here to make way for vineyards. Apples are generally sold as a cheap commodity, fetching maybe a couple hundred dollars per ton at the local processing plant, compared to a couple thousand dollars or more for wine grapes grown in our area.
But isn’t that simply because we confer (a lot) more value to wine grapes than to apples? They’re both just fruit after all. The obvious answer is that wine grapes result in a product that is accorded much greater respect than any apple-derived product, cider especially. And to explore the reasons for that would require a book, not a blog (which is why I’ve been reading Paul Lukacs’ Inventing Wine), but essentially it’s due to a combination of historical, cultural, and economic factors…and an extremely effective marketing campaign!
I can’t change the past or influence culture, I don't really understand economics, and clearly I’m no marketing genius. But if there is one thing I hope to accomplish through this grand experiment we call Tilted Shed, it is to convert just a few of you to share my adoration of the apple.
We’ve been growing cider apples since 2011, and each year we are astounded by how much our terroir affects the tannins, acidity, phenolics, sugars, and flavor profiles of these rare specialty apples. They possess as much complexity and diversity as any treasured wine grape. As a friend, who works in the high-end wine business and has an impeccable palate, astutely observed when he tasted our trial single-variety cider batches: “Cider fills in the holes of wine.”
Apples hold secrets. They persevere through drought and pestilence, and every year they show us a new way to experience them. I revere apples, even though few others do. Our goal is make ciders that elevate the apple to greatness, expressing a unique point of view and sense of place--something that inspires, captivates, and brings joy.
Respect the craft. Revere the apples. Cider is beautiful. This is my mantra.
I hope that by sharing with you our ciders (and by showing you a lot of apple photos—see below!), I won’t be such an anomaly for long.