Bacchus + Pomona = Appinette

Photo by Andy Brennan, 2015 (click to enlarge.)

The naming: "Traminette-Apple Cider" was one of our three original ciders prior to getting licensed in 2011 (the others two were Ginger-Carrot Cider and the Homestead Cider.) But getting label approval proved difficult because the Federal Government won't let you name specific grape varieties unless the contents are at least 75% that one variety. Because they wouldn't allow us to call it what it is, or even say so elsewhere on the label, we ended-up hybridizing Apple and Traminette, resulting in "Appinette."

Specifically, this wine/cider is comprised of three fruit varieties: Northern Spy, Golden Russet and the aforementioned Traminette (two heirloom apples and a hybrid grape, respectively.) All three of these varieties originated in New York State and the fruit is, of course, grown in NY too. The apples are from the Hudson Valley and the grapes  are from the Finger Lakes. This is the one cider we make from "cultivated" (conventionally farmed) fruit. It stretches our over-all production during off-years for apples. (Note: Appinette amounts to between 15% our total volume on normal years and up to 45% on bad. We can't, in good conscious, allow it to be over 45% our total volume because that disqualifies us as real grower-producers. One either picks their own fruit or they buy it like beer malt on the commodity market. This is the main difference between honest farm-cider and industrial production.)

The process: For the first couple of years we bottle conditioned with a Suss Reserve and disgorged the yeast 3 months later, à la methode champagne. But in 2014 we experimented with leaving the lees in the bottle for two reasons: (1) the flavor of the cider is enhanced by the mineral and biological additions, and (2) I'm lazy -disgorging is a LOT of work. And besides, true champagne makers leave the lees in the bottle for as long possible for texture and flavor benefit, a minimum of 5 years, so I don't see where it makes sense to disgorge the young 2-year ciders anyway. And trust me when I say real champagne producers would rather NOT disgorge their wines too but at this point their hands are tied, customers expect "clear" wines in the market place. Now that we stopped disgorging the Appinette the drink appears pretty hazy. Think of it as a Pet-Nat.

The idea: I had heard Italians mixed apples and grapes up near the Swiss border. Why not do the same with varieties that are not (in my opinion) stand-alone wine or cider varieties? But to my knowledge our Appinette was the first "fine cider" made in America which blended apples and grapes. Certainly this lack of prerequisite is due to the fact the U.S. Government (who compartmentalize EVERYTHING) had no idea how to regulate the mixture of cider and wine. But we couldn't let droll regulation kill this product because the marriage between these three fruit varieties is match made in heaven; The rose petal florals, the tannin and tartaric minerality of the Traminette grape pairs brilliantly with the tart malic acids and tangerine juiciness of those two apples... it just needed to happen. 
(BTW, I see some wine companies in California now blend grapes and apples too -different varieites then that ones I use. To that, I say, GREAT! If the goal of blending in cider or wine production is to accomplish great flavors then it's absolutely ridiculous to limit yourself according to the fruit type!)

The reception: Appinette has had an interesting ride in its short career. It was a point of contention during the re-writing of NY State alcohol laws in 2012. To our NY Cider Associations' credit (all six of us back then) the lobbying group fought for it when New York State Legislature re-wrote its cider laws. We squeak in under a "25% of other fruit addition" clause and the now 8.5% alcohol percentages. 

But then Appinette was made famous in 2013 when Eleven Madison Park restaurant in NYC (which is currently the highest Michelin rated restaurant in the world) put it on their tasting menu. Subsequently Appinette ended-up commanding the highest price of any cider in America (a reluctant distinction many of our ciders have since eclipsed.) Over the years Appinette continued to find fame in other high places and now it's on Broadway as an intermission drink for Hamilton, the Musical.

All of this to say we stumbled into a hit. Technically, as a blend of "other fruit" it doesn't even fit within our purist cider philosophy, but Appinette has a life on it's own. The Gods have willed it. Bacchus, that infamous wino, and Pomona, Goddess of apples met outside our cider barn one day (that's where the above photo was taken) and their progeny now roams the earth.