One of the first things that European immigrants did when they settled in North America was to plant apple trees, just so that they could make cider. During colonial times, the beverage now known as “hard cider” (cider containing alcohol) was consumed with every meal.
Alas, cider production, like all alcoholic beverages in the U.S., would come to a screeching halt during Prohibition. And the journey back has been a long and arduous one.
Fortunately, the cider industry has seen a boisterous resurgence in the last decade. Pioneers like Farnum Hill Ciders have been joined by newcomers like Argus Ciders and Tandem Ciders, to name but two, gaining great acclaim from consumers and press alike.
These days even winemakers are getting into the act. Take Randall Grahm, from the illustrious Bonny Doon Vineyard. In 2010 Grahm decided to try his expert-hand at making a hard sparkling cider. Of course, being extraordinarily creative, Grahm didn’t want to make cider with apples alone – he threw pears and quince in the mix too.
But the first vintage presented Grahm with more than his fair share of challenges. Sourcing local fruits that would be appropriate for cider-making was hard enough, but pressing the fruits proved to be a stumbling block. Bartlett pears, which Grahm wanted in the mix for their “musky aromatics,” are too soft to be pressed. “No one would touch Bartletts with a barge-pole, as the mushy mash fouls the screens of the press,” lamented Grahm. “The way around was to co-press the Bartletts with apples and quince that have more structure. But it was hard to find apples that ripened at the right time, coincidentally with the pears. So, the whole process was a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, perhaps with a crowbar.”
The challenges came to a head during the second fermentation, when cider bottles started to explode. The entire production had to be decanted and re-bottled. That “little cider-maker error on my part,” as Grahm called it, cost him half his production.
But in the end, the “epic effort” involved in that first vintage was well worth the undertaking: the 2010 Querry turned out to be an utterly delightful, deliciously addictive sparkling cider. (And the 2011 vintage of Querry is, by all accounts, going smoothly – no exploding bottles in the winery this year!)
Bonny Doon Vineyard, ¿Querry? hard sparkling cider
Producer: Bonny Doon Vineyard
Ingredients: 51% Apples, 40% Pears, 9% Quince
Pouring Querry in Champagne flutes requires a little patience, unless of course you want the foam to rise and cascade down your glass. But once the lively foam subsides, the aromas of fresh-cut fall fruits instantly fill your nostrils.
At first sip, the assertive-yet-fine bubbles tickle your mouth playfully – so deliciously that you smile. Bone-dry, with lively acidity, the Querry bursts with the flavors of pear skins, zesty Granny Smith apples, tart quince and hints of herbs and citrus. Grahm describes it as “not unlike a Riesling Kabinett trocken, although lighter and more ephemeral.”
I must say this cider makes your mouth salivate while the flavors linger. You’re already looking forward to the next sip.
And what might you serve with Querry? “Excellent with charcuterie, Asian food, seafood, and poultry—fare as humble as meat pie or as elegant as lobster” are the suggestions on the Bonny Doon Vineyard’s website.
But it’s also perfect with finger foods – like these potato latkes with apple confit and crispy sage. The apple-pear-quince flavors of the cider harmonize with the apple confit, while the Querry’s acidity cuts through the richness of the latkes. Superb, and indeed, quite addictive.