It's fall and we are in apple country. Huzzah! These are the golden months of life in the Capital Region.
While this year's apple crop may have suffered greatly from the mild winter, the early thaw, the spring frosts, hail, and drought, that shouldn't keep you from making the annual pilgrimage to an apple orchard.
There are apple cider donuts, of course -- a glorious treat that are best enjoyed as close to the source as possible. But there are some orchards that also offer other, more unusual, products from apples.
Two of my favorite orchards for cider donuts are Golden Harvest in Valatie and Hicks in Granville. Purely by coincidence, both happen to have tasting rooms to sample the alcoholic products they make from apples.
While Golden Harvest distills spirits at their Harvest Spirits distillery, Hicks makes hard cider at its Slyboro Ciderhouse. Although if you ever make it up to Granville, you may notice signs that imply it's a winery.
Technically, according the the government, hard cider has 7 percent ABV or less. Higher alcohol bottlings are officially fruit wines, but the feds have blessed using the word "cider" for "wines" made with only apples. These are your tax dollars at work.
Hard cider is a tricky beast because it really straddles that line between beer and wine. Some are sparkling, others are still. Some have funk, others have fruit. Some come in a six pack, others come in 750ml bottles. Some are rustic, others are refined.
Really, cider is neither beer nor wine. If Slyboro were choosing sides, they would clearly be in the wine camp. The tasting room has bottles on display like museum pieces, and samples are poured into wine glasses. But their cider has a crisp and refreshing character that is unmatched in fruit wines.
During the most recent Tour de Cider Donut, several participants decided to sample the full line of hard ciders at Slyboro, and the favorite by consensus was the Old Sin cider. It is a blend of McIntosh and Russets with a little bit of Slyboro's Ice Harvest Cider added to the bottling.
If I were to describe it in wine terms, I would say that Old Sin is pale gold in color with a fine stream of delicate bubbles. On the nose it expresses a pleasant doughiness and bit of honeysuckle. In the mouth it takes on a creamy texture from the pinpoint bubbles. The cider is intensely fruity on palate entry, yielding to a bit of balancing tannin, bitterness and a hint of clove spice, concluding with a dry snappy finish.
In simpler terms: this is fall in apple country. And it's great.
Old Sin is the driest of the sparkling ciders at Slyboro. It weighs in at 1.5% residual sugar. The other sparkling cider they produce is called Hidden Star, which is made with different apples: Northern Spy and Liberty. But it is notably sweeter, with more residual sugar than the Old Sin (2.5%).
Slyboro's still ciders are rooted in the far extreems of the sweetness spectrum. With no residual sugar at all is their Night Pasture, made from Golden Delicious, English Bittersweet varieties and Northern Spy. But they also make a sweet and concentrated ice cider, which has residual sugar numbers in the double digits and is significantly more expensive. It is made by concentrating the fresh pressed cider first by freezing and removing some of its water content before fermenting the juice into hard cider.
The Old Sin has an ABV of 8 percent and you can buy it from the ciderhouse for $13.99 a bottle. In the past Slyboro has occasionally shown up at the Troy Farmers' Market. But their ciders are also available at the Harmony House Marketplace in Cohoes and other locations around the region.
Of course, none of the retail stores also serve warm cider donuts. Nor will they pour you tastes of every cider Slyboro makes. For that you'll have to make the trek up to Granville. But once you've been there, you can say that you've visited New York's oldest u-pick orchard (although with the state of the harvest it's still unclear if there will be any for visitors to pick this month). Plus you'll have a better sense of where this cider comes from.
Pro tip: If you do make it out to the North Country, on the way back home stop at Mr. B's Best Beef off Exit 19 in Queensbury. Irisira vouched for this place, and I'm still thinking about that roast beef sandwich weeks after the fact.
Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.
18 Hicks Road
Granville, NY 12832
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.