It is Halloween and harvest is pretty much behind us; all the grapes are in, wine is fermented and waiting to be pressed, and the last batch of apples are waiting to be crushed and pressed.
At the beginning of October I helped organize the first CiderFest on Vashon. It turned into a very full day of apples, harvest, cidermaking and cider tasting; then topped off with a cider dinner.
As part of CiderFest on Vashon, the Vashon Fruit Club had their annual fall fruit day where people can view various apple varieties, even bring some in for identification. Also the club was crushing apples for juice.
I served on a panel headed by Dr. Bob Norton on “How to Make Hard Cider” attended by about forty people which was a little short of amazing because there were gale force winds, buckets of rain and an occasional blast of sunshine. Drew Zimmerman of Red Barn Cider and Richard Anderson of Westcott Bay Orchards were on the panel also. I know that people enjoyed the seminar because there were lots of good questions.
Following the seminar we had a cider tasting in the Farmers’ Market pavillon. There were nine cideries serving 21 different ciders, from very dry (mine, Irvine’s Vintage Blend) to quite sweet (Dupont Cidre de Normandie). I think about 150 people showed up and seemed to really enjoy themselves. At about four o’clock it got really crowded but no one seemed to mind. Cideries that participated: Aspall Cider (England), Samuel Smith Organic Cider (England), Wandering Aengus Ciderworks (Salem, Oregon), Eaglemount Cider Company (Port Townsend, WA), Blue Mountain Cider Company (Milton-Freewater, Oregon), Irvine’s Vintage Cider (Vashon, WA), Dupont Cidre de Normandie (France), and Red Barn Cider (Mt. Vernon, WA).
Together this was one of the most comprehensive cider tastings ever done.
We concluded the day with a four-course cider dinner at The Hardward Store: we started with mussels cooked in cider, followed by a garden salad using Chesire cheese and cider vinaigrate, a main course of baked salmon with cider and curry. Dessert was a cider bread pudding. All matched with a variety of ciders.
At the dinner, Vashon Rotary recognized Dr. Bob Norton for his contributions to the horticulture community on Vashon and awarded him the Paul Harris Award. Then Dr. Norton announced the winner of the Cider Tasting, the Dupont Cidre de Normandie, awarded in his name.
Now to wine. All of the grapes are in and most have completed fermentation, and a secondary fermentation called malo-lactic which is a bacterial fermentation that changes the malic acid (a sharp acid found in apples) into lactic acid (an acid found in milk products and thus softer). Now I allow the grapeskins to sit in contact with the wine for about three weeks beyond fermentation. I will decide to press by taste when I feel that I have picked up some extra flavor, and when the tannins are softened (called polymerization). It calls for constant attention and tasting.
I suspect I will start pressing the skins in about three weeks, just before Thanksgiving.
And lastly, we harvested the island Pinot Noir from Monument Farm Vineyard on October 26th, a beautiful day. And it was somewhat of a miracle as we needed, and got, a glorious October full of heat and dryness. I am absolutely dumbfounded. A month ago the grapes didn’t even look right…..it was as if they were these taut little plastic purple grapes but they seemed to ripen up, turning soft and black. I mean black, not blue and without the bloom, that dusty quality on the skins.
Right now the crushed grapes are in a tank undergoing a cold-soak, soaking at a cold temperature prior to fermentation in an attempt to get a bit of tannin and color out of the skins.
All in all, a good harvest.