The (not very) Old Guard

Snowdrift Cider Sharp-flavored cider apples in Wenatchee

Cideries that were operating five years ago are now the industry’s elder statesmen. Some stick only to apples, others use them as a base palette for other flavors. All of them are part of a working orchard.


Alpenfire Cider
220 Pocket Ln, Port Townsend, 360-379-8915; alpenfirecider.com
First release 2008

Nancy and Steve (aka Bear) Bishop would cross the border to Canada and drink something “sweet, sparkly, and nice” during their courtship days as 19-year-olds in the 1970s. Additional years of cider appreciation confirmed that making the type of cider they like—bone dry and slightly bitter—required apples uncommon in Washington state. So they started planting cider apples like Britain’s bittersweet Brown Snouts and Dabinetts alongside the heirloom apples in their Port Townsend orchard. The uber dry, brashly tannic Pirate’s Plank is one of the most delightfully challenging ciders in the state. And if you happen upon a bottle of its Burnt Branch Reserve Glow Rosé Hard Cider, made with a rare green-skinned apple with bright magenta flesh inside, snap it up immediately. The crazy-laborious bottle conditioning process is what gives the sparkle to all of Alpenfire’s ciders.

Taste it The tasting room tucked next to the cidery is the place to find rarities like the Dungeness Orchard Blend, a semidry still cider, blended from no fewer than 70 different
apple styles.

  

Eaglemount Wine and Cider
2350 Eaglemount Rd, Port Townsend, 360-732-4084; eaglemountwineandcider.com 
First release 2007

Cider apples are in short supply across the state, but when Jim and Trudy Davis bought an old 1883 homestead in Port Townsend, they ended up owning an abandoned orchard full of them. Today Trudy makes red wine and swingtop--stoppered bottles of cider. Her homestead series is made exclusively with apples from that long-forgotten orchard, colored with flavors of hops, ginger, raspberry, and even quince. The results are pleasantly complex.

Taste it Traverse the homestead’s winding driveway for a tasting split among eight ciders and five wines, separated by a palate-cleansing buffer of cheese. In the Seattle area, Full Throttle, 99 Bottles, and Metropolitan Markets carry Eaglemount. 

 

Snowdrift Cider Co.
277 Ward Ave, East Wenatchee, 509-630-3507; snowdriftcider.com
First release 2009

The Ringsrud family has farmed apples in the Wenatchee Valley since the 1930s. In the early 2000s the Ringsruds made the prescient choice to graft over part of the orchard to sharp-flavored cider apples. Another smart move—taking cider from an expensive hobby to an actual business in 2008, precisely the time cider started catching on. Five years later Snowdrift is racing to keep up with demand for its seven-cider lineup, made almost entirely from heirloom and cider apples. The most popular cider, the semisweet Cliffbreaks, pairs complexity with just a bit of sparkle. The English-styled dry cider caught on slowly at first, but in recent years it’s gained momentum as customers wrap their brains around cider that speaks of crispness and caramel rather than
apple juice.

Taste it Snowdrift has a decently broad presence in Seattle, at PCCs, Whole Foods, bottle shops, and bars like the Dray or the Noble Fir. The cidery does tastings and tours Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 and also by appointment.

 

Tieton Cider Works
321 Humphrey Rd, Tieton, 509-673-2880; tietonciderworks.com
First release 2008

Three generations of the Campbell family have grown apples on this land but cider trees appeared on the scene in 2008; impressively 55 of the orchard’s 400 acres are dedicated to cider apples. Though it boasts the state’s largest cider apple plantings, Tieton’s top seller is apricot cider. The disarming sweetness is a gateway drug to the more complex stuff, like its reserve line—smaller in production, higher in price tag, and focusing on traditional cider apples. This year Tieton released its Cidermaker’s Reserve—a blend of bittersharps and bittersweets—that spent two years in a bourbon barrel with appealingly boozy results.

Taste it The cidery takes visitors by appointment, but Tieton’s regular line is easy to find in local bars, restaurants, and bottle shops. Look for the seasonal Holiday Cheer spiced cider, tasting of maple, vanilla, and apple pie.

 

Westcott Bay Cider
12 Anderson Ln, Roche Harbor, 360-378-3880; westcottbaycider.com
First release 1999

The oldest cidery in the state is nestled on the north side of San Juan Island, where the climate resembles the famed apple orchards of Normandy. And at 14 years old, it’s practically ancient compared with its counterparts. In 2011, founder Rich Anderson took on two new partners who introduced apple brandy and some other distilled products and continued making a trio of crisply complex British-style ciders—traditional very dry, traditional dry, and traditional semidry—from bittersweet and bittersharp apples. Westcott Bay is another of Washington’s few estate cideries, harvesting, pressing, and bottling right there amidst the orchards.

Taste it Ciders make occasional appearances at Capitol Cider, Whole Foods, PCCs, and Central Co-op, but none of these are nearly as quaint as the small orchardside tasting room, open on Saturday afternoons during summer (otherwise, just call ahead). The distilled liquors attract more visitors, according to partner Suzy Pingree, but “almost everyone walks away with cider.”