Sadly, what most Americans think of when they think of cider is that overly sugary, fizzy beverages in the beer aisle at the grocery store. This past weekend I got to experience, for the first time, the true taste of hard cider at Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Virginia. The orchard and tasting room are high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, several miles off the Parkway and in the same neck of the woods as Chateau Morrisette. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but trying and experience true cider at an eye-catching location was well worth the drive.
Pulling up to Foggy Ridge we were shocked by the stylish tasting room and rolling hills filled with neat lines of short apple trees. The tasting room was industrial but in step with the fresh and clean feeling associated with apples. From the metal siding and the beautiful concrete floors, to the red and green furniture, the building was exceptional. The place looks like it could have easily fit in with a young, modern city.
Since this was my first cider experience it was clear we needed to start with a tasting. Our pourer was Liz and she was sweet enough to do His and I’s tasting outside on their porch. We had brought his dog and they aren’t allowed in the tasting room, but it was great that they were so helpful to us! The tasting was six of their featured ciders and Liz was great in answering all of our questions. We had plenty since this was our first tasting of the sort! We started with the drys and finished with their sweet and strong dessert ciders.
True hard cider is nothing like the sugary alcoholic apple juice that most Americans love. True hard cider comes from apples that you would never want to eat due to their acidity and bitterness. There is a long list of apples Foggy Ridge uses in their ciders and five different apples are grown right on the orchards (two classic English cider apples: Dabinett and Kingston Black & three American Heirlooms: Roxbury Russett, Graniwinkle, and Harrison).
This whole cider tasting experience was all so new! Firstly, the ciders were bottled in green wine bottles but had a bright green bottle cap in place of a cork. Then when our pourer, Liz started to dish out our tastings, she gave us more than double a single wine sample! I was little worried we would be needing a designated driver after this tasting. Hahah.. But we then came to realize the alcohol percentage was much lower than wine (yet, a bit more than beer). The taste was similar to your typical cider but way less sugar. The fizzy ciders were very similar to a dry, brut champagne, WHICH I LOVE! (Champagne is one of my favorite things in the world) Even tasting their high residual sugar dessert ciders was completely new to us! I’m usually a fan of dessert wines but at 18% alcohol these were dessert drinks with a serious kick. We tried the Pippin Black and the Pippin Gold, but the Gold was my favorite. It is aged for less time and is mixed with local apple brandy, which definitely made itself known in the unique flavor. I guess it was kind of silly for us to expect a tasting similar to a wine tasting. After all, this was hard cider!
Foggy Ridge Cider was a great, new experience in one of the most beautiful areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tasting real hard cider is a one-of-a-kind experience that more people should go through. Foggy Ridge has now set the bar very high for all the future ciders I drink. So, next time you’re in the area, you’re going to want to make sure you make some time for a tasting!