Hard ciders are the flavor of the season

COURTESY PHOTO
It’s time for hot, and chilled, apple cider on the East End.

At this time of year, I determinedly avert my eyes from the growing collections of orange orbs beckoning from nearby farms. Just days into October, I’m not ready to surrender to the call of the pumpkin.

We’re blessed here on the Island with a beautiful extra season on the golden cusp of summerfall, and what better taste to savor now than the apple? From heirloom varieties to the juicy Honeycrisp, there are flavors for everyone, and endless ways to enjoy them. Recipes for pies and cobblers, strudels and donuts abound, and just the fragrance of a fresh-cut apple evokes the beauty of these sunny but cooler days.

And for grownups, there’s a growing number of varieties to sip and savor. I speak here of the hard ciders, adult beverages appearing now at our local vineyards and farms. Woodside Orchards in Aquebogue offers tastings of six different flavors: traditional, traditional sweet, raspberry and cinnamon, plus seasonal varieties. (woodsideorchards.com) 

Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack features three cider flavors, dry white, dry rosé and red, under its 139 label, named for its address at 139 Sagg Road.

On Oct. 12, Wolffer hosts an annual harvest party where its ciders and wines can be sampled. If you’re into grape stomping and barrel rolling, those will be offered as well as pony and hay rides for the kids. Tickets must be purchased in advance — and are pricey — but cover a full afternoon of activities as well as food and drink. (wolffer.com)

The Riverhead Ciderhouse in Calverton features ciders, local beers and wines. Its cidermaker, Will Loughlin, has crafted hard ciders in flavors of cranberry, raspberry and peach as well as traditional flavors: Benjamin’s Best, Razmatazz and Reserve cider, all made from New York state apples. The Ciderhouse offers a varied menu of local Long Island foods as well as live entertainment. (riverheadcider.com)

The Bridge Lane Wine Tasting Room in Mattituck and Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue are places to sample and enjoy their Rumor Mill hard cider. This dry, sparkling version made from all North Fork apples offers notes of cinnamon, honey, citrus and green apple. (bridgelanewine.com, liebcellars.com)

Hard cider is a refreshing seasonal transition from the roses and fruity white wines that fit comfortably in summer gatherings. A tangy, lower alcohol beverage, it embodies a celebration of the late summer harvest. What foods to enjoy with your cider? Any creamy soups, risotto or pasta. My favorite dish this time of year is a roast pork cooked with apples, and I know any pork dish pairs well with cider. Indian and Spanish cuisines go well also, if you’re feeling adventuresome. Or put together a plate of different cheeses to see how they match up. Blue cheese pairs especially well, and cheddar and camembert are good choices. For a goat cheese, try a drier cider. 

Have some fun sampling these flavors over the next few weeks, and before you know it, we’ll be carving pumpkins.

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