very small bottlings of wild apples and unusual cultivars
The Woodshed Series ciders are explorations and practice in pairings of unusual cultivars and specific wild varieties. Apples and pears only. It is my intent to share the results to further our collective understanding and appreciation for this infinitely diverse fruit. This is less about the cider and more about the actual apple and what it brings to the cider. All of the fruit in these ciders comes from wild trees and/or unsprayed backyard mini-orchards, or the orchard at Mountain Valley Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont. ‘Woodshedding’ is jazz lingo for practicing without distraction. By sequestering oneself in the woodshed, discoveries are made, things are learned. I also began making cider many years ago in a woodshed, and have been a life long musician, so...
41% Wligo Akwan* (wild bittersweet)
21% BB Butter Bone* (wild bittersweet)
13% Gnar Gnar of New Philadelphia* (wild bittersweet)
25% sharp blend Honey Gold, Atlas, Golden Russet
11 cases (750ml)
Batch 20 is a highly tannic cider with a big mouthfeel, long dry linger and notes of clove and Lychee fruit. This cider is the result of nearly 10 years of wild apple evaluation in and around Washington Co. Vermont. It is my personal favorite of the last few years. Primary fermentation on native yeast in stainless steel and cultured yeast on secondary fermentation in bottle. All fruit harvested in 2019/2020 and bottled in 2021. Aging beautifully and likely will continue to age well for a few years. The focus here is on tannic apples. Wligo Akwan takes its name from the native Abenaki language, roughly translating to 'it is a good bitter'. It is highly tannic and the source tree is generously productive. Gnar Gnar of New Philadelphia takes its name from the now defunct early American settlement once established as New Philadelphia, but now acquired by the US Forest Service. Gnar Gnar is late ripening, high sugar, mild tannins but uniquely flavored. BB Butter Bone is a small greasy coat golf ball sized bittersweet that only produces a few bushels every few years. It is mildly bitter with little aroma.
The primary apple of interest here is the wild AOI (48%). This apple is a large wild seedling growing in the forest edge of a hay field in Waitsfield, VT. I have been observing this tree since about 2014. It is annually producing and disease resistant, so those two things alone should catch the attention of any fruit explorer. It's only flaw that I can asses so far is that the fruit ripens over a period of a few weeks, and it rots very quickly. It does seem prone to uneven ripening as well. Otherwise I find it's flavor and astringency to be very high quality. I now have observed a few seasons in a row where the microbiology of the fermentations of this apple are very similar, generally slightly acetic. Quite honestly though, now that I see how this cider has aged in bottle, I wish I had blended it in at a higher ratio, because it is a unique flavor that could really be allowed to stand out a bit more. But the Mac family Atlas apple (also appearing here) is no slouch in flavor contribution, at least grown in a biologically diverse no spray orchard. That's another conversation. I suspect additional aging will benefit this one, so stash a bottle in the cellar for another year or so..
85% Striped Russet*
15% wild AOI crab*
3 cases (500ml)
Fermented on a neutral yeast strain (DV10). Why? Well I'm all about wild yeast and microflora and whole systems, but sometimes with these wild apples I like to blast them out with a neutral yeast strain that does not impart any added fermentation-based complexities. While many argue that the results are one dimensional, it is a useful tool in evaluating what the underlying fruit is capable of producing. In this case I was shocked to discover some of the most intense fruit aroma I have encountered in any fermentation. DV10 is not known for producing aromas, in fact, most of these bayanus yeast strains can actually strip aroma. This batch was so aromatic, that even after cleanup I could still smell this amazing floral aroma on the racking cane. The aroma does seem to be fading after some time in bottle, but some other complexities in the flavor seem to be emerging. If I were bottling for commercial viability, this would not necessarily be a winning blend. But nonetheless, I wanted to share the results of this single carboy. Striped Russet could have a place in a cider orchard as a contributor of aromas in young ciders.
Striped Russet is completely scab resistant, leans biennial but sets very large, easily harvested crops on the on year. I have been watching it since 2013 and have already grafted some of this apple. The other AOI in this blend is a small high flavor crab. I am unclear on its impact in this blend. Both these trees bloomed in 2018, but had no crop due to other challenges of the growing season.
50% Perrys Pickle*
30% Wolf River
20% Kerr Crab
6 cases (500ml)
Two carboys- one on neutral bayanus yeast strain, the other wild. However, there is not much "wild" profile in this cider. The tannic structure comes mostly from Perry's Pickle and a little from Kerr Crab. Perry's Pickle (named after a resident charismatic rooster, Perry) is a wild seedling growing in the Mountain Valley Farm orchard. It leans biennial (unthined) and shows good scab resistance. It's only a moderate producer in marginal soils with low PH, but does bring a unique flavor, appropriate acidity and moderate tannins. It's currently one I am watching and may even make the graft/propagation list.
Indeed, my first single variety. I have been monitoring this tree since 2015. It is a large tall tree growing in a low canopy successional forest surrounded by other wild apples, willows and alders. It is strongly biennial and only moderately producing but the fruit is sound and mostly disease free. The juice is very high in sugar and presses out with a beautiful dark amber glow. This particular vintage was wild fermented with no added sulfite and fermentation has slowed to a keeved-worthy creep, leaving some residual sugar to balance the 8 grams/liter acidity. So far, I'm not convinced that this particular variety is worth propagation in a commercial environment, mainly due to it's irregular productivity, but the source tree is a beauty and the fermented fruit has certainly been unique and worth sharing.
60% Honey Gold
20% Golden Delicious
20% Connel Red
3 cases (500ml)
perlant (only slightly effervescence)
I know, you're probably thinking, 'what's so special about these cultivars'. Well, the real Golden Delicious (older stock, very different from what you get in the supermarket from large scale monoculture operations) is actually not a bad cider apple. I have access to one backyard tree, unsprayed, large rootstock, maybe 25-30 years old. Honey Gold, with its trendy sounding name clearly chosen for marketability in the desert fruit market is also an excellent cider apple- even worthy of a single variety some years. It has moderate acidity, low tannins, but excellent flavor and seems to carry a nice mouthfeel when fermented to dryness. It does have a little scab problem, but tolerable for me. Connel Red joined this party simply because sometimes a cider maker just needs to top up a vessel. But, Connel Red usually brings on good aroma, and I believe that some of those fruity aromas in this cider are, in part, from a small amount of CR.
The other factor in this cider is a long slow wild fermentation, and a noted drop in acidity during the summer of 2017, so I believe there was a small spontaneous malolactic fermentation (MLF). Keen tasters might detect some of those wild MLF notes: I get a little medicinal even old leather coming through. No sulfite added.
The first number is the year the fruit was grown and harvested. The letter is the actual batch or blend.
Example: 17A = fruit from 2017, A is the first batch/blend of the series from that year.
* = a wild (seedling) apple I have named
AOI = Apple of Interest, also a wild seedling, just one with no name yet! WTF