‘Tis the season for fancy ciders. Seriously. Craft ciders are now as popular as Malbec used to be a few years ago. I couldn’t be any happier. I love a good cider. I have Celiac Disease, so I particularly love cider because if gluten-free beer isn’t around, it’s nice to still be able to have a glass of a beer-like drink with my friends. (I know cider isn’t beer and doesn’t taste like beer. I just mean as far as alcohol content, mass and presentation they’re similar; it makes sense in my head.) I avoid ciders filled with added sugars or concentrates, so here's five of my favorite Northern California ciders that aren’t too sweet and don’t have extra junk in them.
There are not enough words to describe how delicious Troy Cider is. It is my favorite cider in the world. No, they’re not paying me to say that. I have to pay the $9.99 per bottle just like you. Troy doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth it. This unfermented cider is aged for nine months in neutral oak barrels. It’s a super dry and tart blend of heirloom apple and pineapple quince. The 2014 variety is nine percent alcohol and the 2013 bottle is 7.7 percent. They are both sulfite-free, organic and amazing. The 2013 variety is becoming harder to find. I pray the 2015 variety will be as good as the last two batches. Or maybe I pray it won’t. Because they’re so good that I can’t stop buying them. Troy Cider was started by a guy named Troy Carter in Sonoma County. You can watch a video of him and his flowing blonde locks. Mark McTavish & Darek Trowbridge of Half Pint Ciders in Los Angeles got a taste of the cider and bought the company from Carter. It’s distributed in L.A. but produced in the Bay Area. So it’s ours.
The story of Devoto Orchard’s Estate Cider begins in 1976. A young couple leave Berkeley to start growing 55 varieties of heirloom apples on a farm in Sebastopol. They end up growing over 6,500 apple trees. Fast forward to 2012 and the couple’s daughter Jolie Devoto decides to start a craft cider company with her husband Hunter. Today Devoto Orchard’s Estate Cider comes in a bottle and in three varieties. The award-winning
"1976" is a semi-dry cider made with the heirloom ciders from their own farm. (And my personal favorite.) “It's the motherlode blend that we produce every year to pay homage to my parents,” Jolie Devoto tells me. “It will be different every year, but that's ok, as cider is an agricultural product and the apple blends will be different. We're currently sipping on the 2013 vintage, which is gorgeous right now -- super lush, full bodied, with notes of pear, ripe fruit, and lots of layers.” Then there’s the "Cidre Noir," made with Arkansas Black, Black Twig and Black Jonathan apples. Jolie recommends pairing these with Cowgirl Creamery’s "Mt. Tam" cheese (from Point Reyes) and Gypsy Cheese’s "Gypsy Rose" cheese (from Valley Ford). The "Gravenstein" is - you guessed it - made with Gravenstein apples. It’s the driest of the bunch. It touts having the aroma of “ginger, licorice, and crisp green apple.” I didn’t taste all that but my palate was really happy with the experience nonetheless. All three ciders are excellent.
The story of Golden State Cider begins in 1976. A young couple leave Berkeley to start growing...sound familiar? Yup. Another product from the group at Devoto Orchards, but this time it's in a can. Soon after Jolie Devoto and her husband Hunter started Devoto Orchard’s Estate Ciders, their demand was larger than their supply. So they began searching the West Coast for more apples in California, Oregon and Washington states. In 2014, Golden State Cider was born. Jolie Devoto tells me this year they’ve produced just shy of 100,000 gallons at their cidery in Graton (10 miles north of their Sebastopol orchard) for their Golden State Cider, which comes in a four pack of cans. “Hunter and I had wanted to put cider in cans for years,” says Devoto. “We were able to produce a business model where that worked. [And] cans are very portable. We are big hikers and surfers, so the package made sense.” Golden State touts being 100 percent cold pressed apples with no added water, sugar or concentrates.