By Peter Holmstrom
Drinking vacations are the preferred way to travel for beverage enthusiasts, and few places beat out the Columbia River Gorge, straddling the line between Oregon and Washington, for both scenic beauty and alcoholic diversity. Numerous breweries offering nearly every style of beer imaginable, dozens of wineries covering the spectrum of vitis vinifera, and even a couple of distilleries have arisen in recent times. Hood River is a virtual paradise for the drinking community. But the beverage the region was made for, is cider.
Temperate climate and fertile soil makes the Columbia Gorge an ideal place to grow fruit. Settlers of the early pioneer days quickly realized the potential as early as 1858, when the first recorded sale of fruit occurred in The Dalles, with the sum of a thousand pounds of peaches being sold. Apple and pear orchards quickly followed, with small family plots popping up throughout the valley. Economic interest began in 1876, when local resident Ezra Smith planted what would become the first commercial orchard in the valley with 30 acres of apples. The region quickly became world renowned for its apple and pear industry, and today thousands of people visit the region every year for annual Harvest Festivals and Blossom Festivals.
Today, people have put two and two together, and hard ciders have become one of the staples of the region. The Columbia Gorge currently has over 15,000 acres worth of fruit trees, and a good chunk of that is going into the regions 9 cideries (the highest regional concentration in Oregon). If you are heading to the region, cideries are worth the stop, and we’ve given you a roundup of some of the regions best.
Rack & Cloth Porcelet (“Piglet”) || 6.9% ABV
Located in the small town of Moiser, Oregon just off of the interstate, Rack & Cloth has found success as a cidery/restaurant/organic grocery store. Founded in 2012 by Silas Bleakley, Rack & Cloth focuses on small batch productions to hone in on artistic skills. The Porcelet remains their flagship cider, using young apples to give off a slightly acidic quality coupled with notes of stone fruit and a clean finish. || rackandcloth.com
Fox-Tail Cider Jean Luc || 6.2% ABV
2015 is set to be a big year for Hood River’s Fox-Tail Cider. Located in the heart of the valley’s apple orchards, Fox-Tail is the recent brain-child of the Fox family, who have been farming in the Hood River Valley for five generations. Their newfound success in the cider industry is evidence by their sales figures. Looking ahead to 2015, our eyes are set on the Jean Luc, which, according to Fox-Tail’s manager Bob Fox, is a French-inspired slow aged cider with a huge body and flavor. If their high standards persist, a stop at their Parkdale taproom is definitely a must. || foxtailcider.com
Hood Valley Hard Cider Draft || 6.2% ABV
Hood Valley Hard Cider hit the ground running upon its opening in 2012. After a career in the beer industry, owner and cider maker Brian Perkley decided to switch gears and take on cider making. Success came quickly, and Hood Valley will soon begin bottling their cider for local distribution. One such cider will be the Draft, a crisp and refreshing draft style cider, utilizing the diversity of the local apple industry to give a flavorful experience. Read more about Hood Valley Hard Cider here. || hoodvalleyhardcider.webs.com
The Gorge White House Newton Apple Cider || 5.8% ABV
If you want a one stop shop for all the wonders of the Columbia River Gorge, look no further then The Gorge White House. Surrounded by orchards on all sides, The Gorge White House has been making their own cider and wine for years. They also have a good selection of local beer, and fresh fruit when in season. For 2015, they brought out 7 new ciders for tasting. The Newton Apple leans more towards the dry side, giving a crisp and refreshing flavor for the upcoming warm weather. || thegorgewhitehouse.com
HR Ciderworks Hard Apple Cider || 6% ABV
Still in the beginning stages of their operation (still no website), HR Ciderworks is nonetheless prepped for success. A partnership between local wineries Viento and Mt. Hood Winery, HR Ciderworks can be sporadically spotted as a guest tap at local taprooms, or at cider festivals around the Pacific Northwest. Their Hard Apple Cider comes across with aromas of fresh apples and clean, crisp finish, with a healthy amount of carbonation that lingers on your tongue. || facebook.com/HRCiderworks