Bacchus and Pomona, by Andy Brennan, 2015
"Traminette-Apple Cider" was one of our three original ciders prior to getting licensed in 2011. Getting label for it though proved difficult because the Federal Government won't let you name specific grape varieties unless it's at least 75% that variety. Specifically, this wine/cider is comprised of Traminette, Northern Spy and Golden Russet (two heirloom apples and a hybrid grape), all varieties originating in New York State. The fruit for our wine/cider is, of course, grown in NY too.
For the first couple of years we disgorged the yeast 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 am lazy. (And besides, true champagne makers leave the lees in the bottle as long as possible for flavor additions, so disgorging at a young age makes no sense. And champagne producers would love not to disgorge anyway, but their hands are tied at this point.) As for our Appinette: all the natural carbonation of champagne but cloudy as hell.
I had heard of Italians mixing apples and grapes but to my knowledge our Appinette was the first "fine cider" made in America with the blend of both (I call it a cider because it's 70% apple.) Certainly the lack of prerequisite is due to the fact the U.S. Government, who compartmentalize EVERYTHING, had no ideas on how to regulate the mixture of cider and wine! (FYI: the licensing for wine and cider continues to seriously limits the creativity of the industry.) But we couldn't let lame 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- Look, it just needed to happen. So we were involved in lobbying the State government to allow it and eventually things started to swing our way. Finally we could sell the stuff legally.
(BTW, I have seen wine companies in California now also blend grapes and apples (different varieites, of course) and to that I say, "Good!" If the goal is to blend for taste (isn't that what you do when you blend?) then it is absolutely ridiculous to limit yourself according to the fruit type. It’s hypocritical. Unless the goal is to express a varietal, the art blending wine and cider is to express the properties you want. Good is good, and bad is bad. That’s all the judge and jury you need.)
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. And 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 Appinette continues to be found in many high places. Currently it is on Broadway served at Hamilton, the play.
All of this is to say we stumbled into a hit. Truly, the Gods were speaking through us: Bacchus, that infamous wino, and Pomona, Goddess of apples met in our orchard one day and produced baby Appinette. (That's what the above photo is supposed to reference.)