Bacchus and PomonaPhoto 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 were Ginger-Carrot Cider and the wild Homestead Cider.) But getting label approval for it 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 "Traminette-Apple Cider," which is what appears on our first label, we ended-up changing it to "Appinette."
Specifically, this wine/cider is comprised of Traminette, Northern Spy and Golden Russet (two heirloom apples and a hybrid grape.) All of these varieties originated in New York State. The fruit for our wine/cider of course is grown in NY too. The apples are from the Hudson Valley and the grapes from the Finger Lakes. This is the one cider we make from "cultivated" (conventionally farmed) fruit.
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 for two reasons: (1) the flavor of the cider is enhanced by the mineral and biological additions, and (2) I'm lazy. And besides, true champagne makers leave the lees in the bottle for as long possible, a minimum of 5 years, for flavor benefit. So to disgorge the ciders at a young age makes no sense to me. (Also, champagne producers would love not to disgorge their wines but their hands are tied at this point- customers expect it "clean.") Now that we stopped disgorging the Appinette the drink appears cloudy as hell.
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 quality? But to my knowledge our Appinette was the first "fine cider" made in America with the blend of both. Certainly the 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 pairing with the bright malic acids and tangerine juiciness of those two apples... it just needed to happen.
BTW, I have seen wine companies in California are now blending grapes and apples too (different varieites, of course) and to that I say, "Good!" If the goal is to blend for taste (and isn't that what you blend for?) then it is 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 contention point for the "other fruit addition percentages" and "alcohol percentages" allowable by the SLA when in 2012 the New York State Legislature re-wrote its cider licensing laws. (We only call it cider and not wine because it's 2/3rds apple.) But then it was made famous in 2013 when Eleven Madison Park restaurant in NYC (the highest Michelin ranked restaurant in America) put it on their tasting menu. Appinette subsequently commanded the highest price of any cider in America (a distinction many of our ciders have since eclipsed), and now it continues to be found in many high places. Currently it is on Broadway served at Hamilton, the Musical.
All of this is to say we stumbled into a hit. It's not in keeping with our "cider purism" dogma but truly the Gods were speaking through us: Bacchus, that infamous wino, and Pomona, Goddess of apples. They met just outside our cider barn one day (that's where the photo above was taken) and produced baby Appinette.