As much as any beverage, hard apple cider played an important role in early America. Considered a source of nutrition and often safer to drink than water, cider was a common drink for both rich and poor throughout Virginia and the other colonies.
Changing tastes influenced by the growing immigrant population that preferred beer and Prohibition contributed to the decline of cider production.
Thanks to a group of entrepreneurs and farmers dedicated to cultivating heirloom apples, craft cider is experiencing a revival in Virginia. The Commonwealth is home to about 20 cideries today with more land being devoted to planting heirloom apple varieties for cider production.
Tim Edmond and Dan Potter, founders of Potter’s Craft Cider, are among this group of dedicated cidemakers driving Virginia’s cider renaissance. Edmund and Potter met while in college and bonded over their shared interest of brewing beer.
After college, Potter worked as an environmental engineer and Edmond worked in finance. Their love of brewing beer kept them connected and eventually led to fermenting apples for cider and founding Potter’s Craft Cider.
Situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Free Union, about 15 miles northwest of Charlottesville, Potter’s Craft Cider opened for business in 2011 with the release of their first commercial cider (on draft). In 2012, Edmonds and Potter released their first Potter’s Craft bottled ciders and planted their orchard of heirloom apples (Hewes Crab, Dabinett, and Harrison).
Edmonds and Potter have a reputation of producing quality traditional craft ciders while experimenting with non-traditional styles like adding Brettanomyces (a type of yeast commonly found in wineries that can impart funky aromas) and using grape skins in fermentations.
One of Potter’s newest releases is Cider Nouveau, a uniquely delicious rosé-style cider fermented on grape skins part of their Sapling Series of experimental ciders.
“We feremented on Merlot and Petit Verdot grape skins to get higher levels of tannin and color,” said Edmond, who sourced the grape skins from Matthieu Finot, winemaker at King Family Vineyards.
“Building on the fruity varietal character of the Merlot and Petit Verdot skins, the tropical aromas and bright acidity from the Gold Rush apples create a new style of cider that takes what we love about dry Rose wines and gives it a little bit more personality.”
One of the coolest, most unique ciders I’ve tasted in awhile.
Dark strawberry in color (much like a Lambrusco) with aromas of high-toned red berries and tart apples. Zippy red raspberry and strawberry flavors; moderate tannins, racy acidity with a lengthy tart cherry finish. Though the juice spent time in oak, no notable oak flavors. Would love to try this cider in a year or two. Delicious and seriously drinkable (and only 9% abv).
Cider Nouveau and other Potter’s ciders and be tasted and purchased at their recently-opened Cider Garden on the Charlottesville downtown mall in (next to LAMPO Pizzeria).
For reference, Virginia Cider Week is celebrated November 10 – 19.
For additional reading on the subject of Virginia cider: Diane Flynt, Foggy Ridge Cidermaker’s article on Virginia Hard Apple Cider Basics, Cider 101.