|Sunrise at the head of the Yakima Valley|
You hear alot of people talking about Heirloom fruit - much older American varieties that bring out peoples passion when discussing apples and cider. As do hops -and yes, not only have they started hopping the cider but they're starting to get away with it too. On more than one occasion we sampled hopped ciders where you could taste both the apple and the hop separately (who'd have thought?) And so for me, hopped ciders have come to represent a positive point of difference about the American/Pacific NW/Cascadian mind set, they're happy to at least try something new, something we seem to struggle with here. Like it or not (it won't be for everyone) hopped cider isn't my main point - they are embracing their heritage with innovation. They champion the new and will work at it scientifically and creatively, until they either get it right or abandon it. How many cidermakers in Europe would even consider putting hops in cider? It may seem unnecessary to us, but because it is, that makes it a more powerful idea. It makes me ask - what else aren't we doing? What else are we missing? I suspect European distributors will turn their noses up at the idea of them too, until one day someone is brave enough (or naive enough?) to place the right one in the right outlet and introduce something unique to out shores and watch the punters lap up with perplexed enjoyment. When will we start seeing US ciders here?
I won't go into much detail of our visit because I want to leave you feeling how I left - wanting more. I definitely want to list and link to our hosts so you can find out more- please explore, all of these guys are lovely and they are all worth visiting. I'll let the photos explain the terroir.
We started near Salem, Oregon at the very friendly and sustainably minded Wandering Aengus who have a shiny new tasting room, followed by a soaked visit to Kevin Zielinski of E.Z. Orchards -who shared with us his fantastic French style cidre. That evening we drove to Portland and met a bushel of regional cidermakers at Bushwhacker Cider ('Americas only urban cider pub') where we discovered the coldest fridge bursting various global ciders seemingly unavailable anywhere else in one place at the same time (it was a first for me anyway.)
|I want one of these in my office.|
To get some idea of America's relationship with the apple, we were taken to Portland Nursery's annual apple tasting event -the unbelievably long yet patient queues telling me everything I needed to know.
|A pollinator called Snowdrift.|
Finn River Cidery is on the Olympic Peninsula, as is Eaglemount Winery and Alpenfire Cider all within about 20mins of each other. Its a stunningly beautiful, quiet are perfect for exploring and enjoying as much cider as you can hold.
|Bear, Alpenfire Cider|
|Trudy & Jim, Eaglemount Wine & Cider|
Both Pete Brown and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the NW Cider Association for getting us over and for putting such a great visit together, and also to the proud cidermakers who make up the association with their time, efforts and expense. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your fantastic corner of the cider world and for sharing with us your thoughts, heritage and ambitions. I can't wait to go back.