Sonoma County heritage apple unlikely hero of craft cider
Here’s a bit of an irony about the heritage Gravenstein apple, darling of Sonoma County’s recent craft cider boom: it isn’t really a heritage cider apple at all. But a bitter irony, it is not. “It’s shockingly good!” says Chris Condos, cofounder of Horse & Plow, a Sebastopol winery that’s also a cidery, of the Grav. What the apple lacks in tannin, which gives traditional European cider a backbone in a blend, it makes up for in acidity and floral aromatics, Condos says. Available at the Gravenstein Apple Fair this year, Horse & Plow’s collaboration cider Tilted Plow, with Windsor’s Tilted Shed cidery, combines Gravenstein goodness with the firm tannin and orange oil, Muscat-like aromatics of the Muscat de Bernay apple. Last week, I asked a group of colleagues for their take on four takes on local, mostly Gravenstein ciders. Ethic Ciders Gravitude Sparkling Dry Cider ($9.99) This newcomer focuses on organically grown heritage apples while they grow their own orchard of cider varieties. Fermented with wine yeast strains, this 90 percent Gravenstein cider is clean and crisp, showing fine effervescence, mellow notes of this mellow apple, and has an extra brut-style finish. A big hit with the Pacific Sun staff, it’s 7 percent alcohol by volume (abv). Horse & Plow Gravenstein Sonoma County Cider ($14) Looking for “funk,” a legitimate, and not really negative, cider tasting term? Find it here. Fermented on naturally occurring yeasts, aged in neutral barrels and bottle-conditioned, this is a slightly cloudy, funky or medicinal smelling but also ebulliently floral example of Grav gone wild, the kind of rustic refresher that gets me ready to go out and cut some more hay. But seems like some first-time tasters of craft cider may not appreciate the style. 8 percent abv. Ace Blackjack Gravenstein Cider ($9.99) The Sebastopol cider pioneer returns to its roots with this special release from local apples. A county fair, caramel apple character comes from aging in Chardonnay barrels. 9 percent abv. Local cider makers have kicked off the first-ever Sonoma County Cider Week, culminating in the cider-soaked Gravenstein Apple Fair. Cider Week events still to come include a Sonoma Strong collaboration release at Barley & Bine Beer Cafe in Windsor, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 5–8pm; Cider on the Patio at Campo Fina, Healdsburg, 5:30–8:30pm; cider pairing at Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa, Saturday, Aug. 11, 5–9pm, and more at sonomacountyciderweek.com.