By Kat Johnson
Any serious cider drinker should take the journey to Ithaca, New York to explore the dozens of cideries that call the Finger Lakes region home. As HRN embarked on our Hard Core journey, documenting the revival of American cider, we spent a weekend enjoying Fingerlakes Cider Week. Follow in our footsteps from cidery to cidery, with a few stops to eat along the way!
Redbyrd Orchard Cider
At Redbyrd, we were greeted by Eric Shatt and Deva Maas (and their very adorable pasture full of sheep and geese). Their small family-run cidery with Certified Biodynamic managed orchards is nestled in the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York (originally the lands of the Cayuga Nation of the Haudenosaunee). Eric and Deva have grown heirloom, wild seedling, and cider apples to produce distinct hand-crafted orchard based ciders since 2010 and planted their first orchards in 2003. Their Cloudsplitter cider is not to be missed!
Eve's Cidery produces naturally fermented ciders from organically-grown and wild-foraged apples and pears in the hills of Van Etten, located at the intersection of the Finger Lakes and the Northern Appalachian Plateau in upstate New York. We stopped by Eve’s Cidery during their soil-to-glass event. After a short hike around the orchard, we got to see how their team produces biochar, a charcoal-like substance that's made by burning organic material (in this case, branches from pruning). This biochar is highly effective at sequestering carbon, and is just one tool the Eve’s team uses to increase soil health and grow more delicious apples. Stop by to visit Autumn and Ezra at Eve’s Cidery if you want to be fully-immersed in how great cider begins with the soil.
Black Diamond Cider
Black Diamond Cider lives at Black Diamond Farm, started by Ian and Jackie Merwin in 1992. Ian has a PhD from Cornell University and worked there as a pomology professor for years. His teaching focus centered around Horticultural Systems and Science, Viticulture-Enology, and Ecological Orchard Management. Since 1985, Ian and his family have been growing heirloom varieties of apples and making “rough-and-tumble” cider. They got their farm winery license when Ian retired from Cornell University in 2013. We stopped by during Finger Lakes Cider Week for an enlightening conversation about terroir from Ian and tastes of some of their most recent vintages.
Cornell Orchard Store
Any cider-focused trip to Ithaca isn’t complete without a visit to the Cornell research orchards and its excellent store, where you can shop for apples, house-made cider, other fresh fruit, produce from Cornell’s vegetable research farm in Freeville, Cornell maple syrup, honey, Cornell Dairy products, specialty foods, gifts and more. The store is open every day (check their website for hours), and make sure you get a couple pints of Cornell Dairy Bar Ice Cream to take home!
This wine, cider, and spirits shop is situated on the famous Ithaca Commons in downtown Ithaca. Mark Grimaldi and his wife, Olivia, founded The Cellar d’Or in 2013. When you visit, you’ll likely be greeted by the shop’s manager, Eden Mayora. While the shop has a thoughtfully-curated, terroir-driven selection of wines, the really special thing about Cellar d’Or is its proximity to so many Fingerlakes cideries. Stop in for special bottles from South Hill, Kite & String, Blackduck, and many more. They also have a cider club, where you can sign up to receive two bottles of traditional hard cider from around the world each month.
Where to eat
Just a Taste
Our first stop upon arriving in downtown Ithaca was the tapas (small plates) restaurant, Just a Taste, located in restaurant row adjacent to Ithaca Commons. We knew we had a weekend full of cider ahead of us, so we opted for local wines. Just a Taste has several reds, whites, and rosés from the Fingerlakes region on its wine list. The wide variety of shareable dishes make this restaurant a crowd-pleaser. There’s no wonder it’s an “old favorite” among locals.
Ithaca Farmers Market
Situated on the southern tip of Cayuga lake, the Ithaca Farmers Market is where you can taste an array of locally made dishes, from pizza to dim sum, and purchase seasonal produce, meat, crafts, and more. We were there at the perfect time of year, when the market was in full swing – heirloom tomatoes and honeynut squash were both available! The market is a member-run cooperative with more than 160 active members who grow or produce their wares within 30 miles of its Ithaca pavilion. You’ll find a full spread at the market with something for everyone. Picnic on-site, or pick up fixin’s to go for a party or picnic.
Our friends at Visit Ithaca took us to Creekside Café for a quick and delicious lunch between orchard tours. Situated in the middle of the Village of Trumansburg, the café serves locally sourced, farm to table cuisine for breakfast and lunch. Stop in for a sandwich and a chocolate egg cream, or fresh eggs with crisp bacon and a generous cup of hot coffee. Take a look at the blackboard for specials and the display case for the yummy baked goods to eat in, or take home.
Our cider trip to the Finger Lakes included a prix fixe dinner with cider pairings at Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg. This cozy restaurant with an open kitchen boasts a local, seasonal menu and top-notch hospitality. Reservations are recommended.