New York really is the Big Apple. It comes as second nature for apples to be a top crop commodity—the state produces an average of 29.5 million bushels per year, which is the second largest in the country. On the regular, 53 percent of this production is sold as fresh-market fruit, while the remaining 47 percent is processed into juice, cider, sauces and more apple products.
Apples are cultivated on roughly 55,000 acres, by nearly 700 commercial growers and in six major areas around the state, including Lake Country, which holds the Finger Lakes region. The fertile region is home to thriving small orchards planted on rich, mineral-dense glacial soil of shale and limestone. Finger Lakes is named after the many long, finger curved lakes that cover central New York, and many retaining titles from original Native American names.
The crisp autumns, temperate summers and distinct microclimates of the region shape an identity of its own, and Finger Lakes is the origin of several American heirloom apple varieties like Northern Spy, Golden Russet, Esopus Spitzenberg and more.
Each October, the Finger Lakes Cider Alliance and more than a dozen artisan producers from the region come together to celebrate Cider Week Finger Lakes to honor the boozy beverage of the season. The week offers opportunities to sip cider at an apple harvest festival, tastings at various pubs and cideries, and special menus at select restaurants.
Most Finger Lakes ciders are made from locally grown apples for a distinctive regional flair. Dropping into the Finger Lakes Cider House at Good Life Farm in Interlaken will introduce the ciders of house-made Good Life Cider, along with Black Diamond Cider, Eve’s Cidery, Redbyrd Orchard Cider and South Hill Cider. Need more? Here are a few of our favorites.
Bellwether Hard Cider King Baldwin || From the first established hard cider producer in Finger Lakes, this off-dry, sparkling cider takes the hyperlocal Tompkins King variety and blends with Massachusetts’s prized Baldwin apple for a tart, tangy and full-bodied cider with shapely tannins.
Rootstock Ciderworks Heritage || Fifth-generation family farmers take on craft cider with Rootstock, using mostly heritage apples to produce their ciders. With exclusive use of these heritage apples, this aptly named cider sparkles in the glass and shines with approachable apple flavors, mild funk and a medium-bodied, acid-driven palate.
Embark Craft Ciderworks Old Marauder || Named in honor of the agricultural history of Williamson, the cider is a blend of McIntosh, Cortland, Ida Red and Jonagold—apple varieties that have long been part of the town’s story. Bone-dry and refreshingly clean, this voluptuous cider brings acid, drying tannins and funky fruit to its profile.
Redbyrd Orchard Cider Starblossom || From this small husband-and-wife-run, sustainably managed orchard and cidery comes a blend of American cider varieties and heirloom apples for a vanilla and oak-forward sipper, rich with ripe apple and moderate tannin.
This story originally ran in the current print issue of CIDERCRAFT magazine. For more stories like this, click here.