Amidst the buzz of urban craft breweries and wine tasting trails arises a new tasting trend—Virginia cideries. Hard cider has dominated the American palate since the colonial era and remains today one of our nation’s most complex, yet delicious boozy creations with flavors ranging from the classic green apple to tropical pineapple twists. Despite the modern interpretations of cider, Virginia cider makers have remained true to their apple harvesting core. Thomas Jefferson himself harvested 18 varieties of apples at his Monticello gardens, many of which are still used in Virginia ciders today.
Albemarle CiderWorks – Arkansas Black
2545 Rural Ridge Lane, North Garden
The Shelton family began harvesting their central Virginian orchards at the turn of the millennium and in 2009 founded Albemarle CiderWorks. Today, Albemarle CiderWorks offers 12 different ciders crafted from the 200-plus cultivars of apples grown on the property.
Albemarle CiderWorks’ Arkansas Black is celebrated for its crisp minerality, earthy tones and tart green apple taste. As suggested by its name, Arkansas Black proved to be the richest in color of all three ciders, displaying a dark burgundy tint to cider’s classic golden hue.
In addition to the biting green apple flavor are hints of honey and vanilla, both of which are most prominent in the cider’s aftertaste. While the flavors of the two may differ, the dryness and bubbliness of this cider is reminiscent of a brut champagne. The Shelton family suggests pairing this sparkly creation with truffled dishes, seafood and soft, creamy cheeses.
Blue Bee Cider – Harrison
1320 Summit Ave., Richmond
In 2013, Blue Bee Cider opened its doors in the historic Scott’s Addition district of Richmond and overnight became Virginia’s first urban cidery. Blue Bee is admired for their dedication to crafting straight-from-the-press ciders that are never watered down and free of added sugar.
Harrison of Blue Bee Cider’s Heirloom Series is the cidery’s attempt to revitalize a historical favorite. Its crisp apple aroma is the perfect introduction to its full-bodied taste, packing in flavors from golden raisins, orange zest and juicy Harrison cider apples.
Much like a Sauvignon Blanc, Blue Bee’s Harrison pairs nicely with savory dishes, including dinner pies, pork tenderloin and aged cheddar cheeses.
Foggy Ridge Cider – First Fruit
1328 Pineview Road, Dugspur
The three orchards at Foggy Ridge Cider boast over 35 varieties of apples and six original ciders crafted at the cidery’s Blue Ridge Mountain site. Their First Fruit Cider is the most resonant of traditional colonial flavors, and a personal favorite from the three ciders being sampled.
The Makers of First Fruit at Foggy Ridge mimicked the craftsmanship of Thomas Jefferson by using early season American heirloom apples to concoct the cider.
At first sip, the golden nectar bites with a strong apple taste, followed by lingering notes of pear and lemon curd. Its finish is smooth, with subtle hints of the drink’s sparkling nature. First Fruit Cider offers a fresh and elegant flavor that pairs perfectly with a simple cheese and cracker plate or charcuterie board.