Our Hard Cider
Joe grew up picking apples on his family’s ranch and today they have about 180 acres of apples at Dutton Ranch along with grape vineyards. Tracy’s family also has Sebastopol roots with apples of every sort. Inspired by their combined family history, this is fun project that we’ve been sharing with friends since 2016.
The blending of Gravenstein and Golden Delicious apples fashion the perfect Summer beverage, refreshing and not overly sweet. The result is a hard apple cider emphasized by the beloved heirloom apple of Sebastopol, the Gravenstein Apple. The combination of the two varietals allows for a fruit-forward cider bursting with the flavors of biting into fresh apples paired with a distinctive tartness and touch of sweetness on the finish. This enjoyable union of flavors will undoubtedly keep you going back for that next sip on hot Summer days.
The sweet and tart flavors of the Gravenstein Apple are symbols of Sonoma County’s historical agricultural traditions. Dutton Ranch currently farms about 180 acres of CCOF certified organic apples. The Dutton’s raise several varieties in addition to the Gravenstein, including Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Red Delicious, McIntosh and Rome Beauty. Most of these other varieties are sold to make America’s favorite non-alcoholic celebratory libation – Martinelli’s Gold Medal Premium Sparkling Cider and is committed to one of the last small, independent fruit processors in Sonoma County, Manzana Products Co. of Sebastopol. There, the pristine apples are turned into organic apple juice and applesauce, ultimately finding their way to the shelves of grocers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Golden Delicious apples are pale green to golden yellow in color and speckled with small lenticels (spots). They are small to medium in size and tend to be conical or oblong in shape. Golden Delicious apples are firm, crisp, and white-fleshed. These apples have a balanced sweet-tart aromatic flavor, which has been described as honeyed. The flavor varies depending on where these apples are grown; in a cool climate, the amount of acid increases, creating a sweeter flavor. When grown in warmer areas, the acid content is lower, creating a milder flavor.
If you visit the Russian River Valley in late summer or early fall, you will find freshly-picked native Gravenstein apples for sale in farmers’ markets, local groceries, and in classic old-style fruit and vegetable stands along our quiet country roads. Pull over and bite into a piece of Russian River Valley history. And even better, visit us for a taste of our Gravenstein-Golden Delicious Hard Apple Cider.
Keeping the apples and the pressed apple juice cold is the “secret” to our Hard Cider. This ensures that all the crisp apple flavors are retained and the acidity is smooth and bright. You could say “COLD” is our mantra. Cold Pressing, Cold Settling, Cold Fermenting, and Cold Storage make our Hard Apple Cider shine and differentiate us from many others.
All of our ciders, regardless the combination of apples used, go through our same handcrafted process. All of the fruit is sorted by hand and travels via a conveyor to the apple grinder where the juice is freshly cold pressed. After stainless steel tank fermentation, the cider is stored in neutral French oak barrels to give you a complete palate experience. The alcohol is typically higher than in other craft ciders due to the natural sweetness and natural sugar level of the freshly-picked apples from our estate orchards. At bottling, unlike many other cider producers, we add a kiss of carbonation to magnify the vibrancy and freshness.
Guests tell us that they find our ciders refreshing and not too sweet or too dry - the perfect sparkling cold beverage.
While delicious on their own chilled, we love pairing our Hard Ciders with food! A few ideas are:
- Chicken casseroles
- Quiche Lorraine.
- Glazed ham, bacon, or nearly any form of pork. Try this Cider Braised Pulled Pork Roast.
- Dishes cooked with onions and apples – sausages, lighter fish entrées.
- Buckwheat pancakes filled with ham, spinach, and cheese.
- Mild curries.
- Squash soup. Add a few crisp apple chips on top for extra pizzazz.
- Blue cheese – on its own or as an ingredient.
- Goat cheese or creamy Brie.
- Roasted turkey.
- Creamy pasta dishes like carbonara and Alfredo. Risotto is nice too.
- Stir fry bok choy.
- Sweet grilled fruit like nectarines.