Western North Carolina ranks as one of the most biodiverse regions among temperate locales, making the area a hotbed for agribusinesses and striking vistas. In Henderson County, 30 minutes from popular Asheville, 150 apple orchards occupy over 5,500 acres. Together, the county’s apple production ranks as the seventh-largest in America, and this standing brings visitors from near and far every fall to the orchards for wholesome fun like apple-picking, hayrides and corn mazes in between admiring the area’s renowned leaf peeping along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Fifty-one mountain peaks dot the county — with the highest reaching more than 4,500 feet — but miles of farmland lie in the valleys where almost every commercial crop can thrive. Unsurprisingly, hard cider is gaining steam in the area, with three cideries calling Henderson County home and several more within easy driving distance that source their apples from here. As Asheville continues its reign as Beer City, Henderson County caught the attention of Bold Rock Hard Cider, the nation’s largest independently owned cider company. Three years after the Nellysford, Virginia, location opened its doors, Bold Rock chose to open its second cidery in Mills River with an outdoor patio and permanent food truck.
Henderson County celebrates its 235 years of apple harvests annually with two events: the four-day North Carolina Apple Festival every Labor Day and Apple Country Cider Jam in April. Soon, Henderson County will have another apple milestone to celebrate when Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Cider plants hundreds of apple trees from Normandy, France — considered by many to be the premier cidermaking region in the world. This will be the first orchard in America permitted to do so and will also make its own version of French pommeau, a mix of Calvados and cider, as well as serving apple brandy straight.
TASTE HENDERSON COUNTY
Flat Rock Ciderworks Blackberry Gold
Flat Rock’s own orchard provides 95 percent of all the apples needed to make their fruit-forward ciders, and 100 percent of the mountain-grown blackberries that give this Golden Delicious-based, slightly sweet cider just a hint of blackberry flavor. Other infused selections range from pineapple to pomegranate, as well as a King Luscious single variety, an acidic heirloom apple discovered in Hendersonville.
Bold Rock Hard Cider Blood Orange
The cloudy orange haze of this cider promises a tart, tangy citrus profile that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. Bold Rock was one of the first cideries to experiment with adding blood orange juice to its cider bases, and the flavor has been a hit since debuting in 2016.
Appalachian Ridge Artisan Hard Cider Dry
Owner Alan Ward has traveled to Normandy several times to study the operations of some of the world’s top cidermakers, and his line of sippers embody the light, sparkling style that made the region famous. Their ciders are fine-filtered and combine seven freshly pressed apple varieties, this dry cider resembling a traditional Italian Prosecco.
This article originally ran in Vol. 10 of Cidercraft magazine. For the full story and more like it, click here.