It started with a call from Ben Watson asking if i would be interested in doing a tasting/talk at Franklin County CiderDays 2014 I already knew that a week later The Festival 2014 hosted by Shelton Brothers (my USA importers) was taking place in LA , so that left the mid week period and it was good fortune that my longtime friends Dick and Diane Dunn asked whether i would care to visit with The Rocky Mountain Cider Association . I was very pleased to be asked and even more pleased that i could say yes, thanks to everyone’s generosity especially Dick and Diane, Bill Lyon and Ben and the CiderDays Committee Lisa, Lynn, Don et al at Franklin County Chamber of Commerce .

My other job is perfect preparation for this 10 day sprint round cider in the USA.

Franklin County Ciderdays was wonderful. So much pride in the locality for the apples, orchards and cider, both hard and sweet. Events and locations that would keep participants coming back year after year in  order to enjoy everything that is on offer. To steal directly from the program here are some of the 2014 Event Highlights that i got involved in:

  • 20th Anniversary Kickoff Reception — Friday evening event at The Blue Heron restaurant in Sunderland, MA, featuring select Massachusetts ciders, a selection of sweet and savory small plates from Chef Deborah Snow, and the opportunity to meet and greet cidermakers. I really enjoyed this opportunity to meet and talk with cider makers and match their ciders with superb food. I recall these but there were more!
  • The Marketplace at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls, with local artisans and producers, food vendors, and, of course, apples!
  • The Cider Salon — the world’s longest-running hard cider tasting with more than 65 individual cider brands from across North America and Europe in the big tent across from the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, 53 Main Street, Shelburne Falls. Two sessions — 3 to 4:30 and 5:15 to 6:45 (Saturday). This was fantastic, swamped by people tasting so many different ciders, many being poured by the cider makers themselves. I met with the emerging legend that is Andy Brennan who is Aaron Burr Cider and i commended him on the prices he is getting for his cider in New York and i showed not a hint of jealousy ;-).
  • CiderDays Locavore Harvest Supper — Chef Paul Correnty will once again mastermind a savory fall feast featuring apples, cider and other locally grown foods. Held this year in the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls.
  • British Cider Tasting with Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider and Perry, Herefordshire, England, on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield. I think we had fun and learnt a bit. 6 months later, we will have had 7 people who were at the talk visit our cider house in Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire, the power of cider.
  • Apples to Juice to Cider tasting with Steve Woods and John Bunker on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield.  “Taste the Apple then Taste the Cider” was a great experience for all. Can you determine from the raw apple exactly what the cider might taste like?
  • Steve has passed the end of my road on many trips to Herefordshire but this was the first time we had met and i am very glad to have made the connection to the “godfather” of cider in the US. We also made a trip to Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Cider which did not disappoint. It also meant i could meet with the owner of a very fine nose belonging to Nicole LeGrand Leibon some 12 years after we first met at the Slow Food Salone del Gusto in Turin. (this link is 2014, we met in 2002). Much apple and pear juice has flowed through the presses since. A pleasure too to talk with Brenda, Wanda and Ryan.
  • Cider and Cheese Pairing on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center in Historic Deerfield.
  • Apples for Baking: Tasting and Workshop with Rebecca Clark, Betsey Clark Dickson, and Lori Clark on Sunday at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield. It was great to meet with Ben Clark on a number of occasions through the weekend.
  • Fermentation: Basics and Beyond with Jocelyn Kuzelka of Panacea Wine Consulting, on Saturday at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center. Jocelyn will cover yeast selection, nutrients in the juice, and blending and sensory analysis. This was a chance to hear first hand information and experience from Jocelyn who has amassed a wealth of experience and put together a great presentation.
  • Fruit Exploring with John Bunker and Rowan Jacobsen on Saturday at Apex Orchards, Shelburne John and Rowan made this a compelling experience and it could have gone on for a lot longer and still have only scratched the surface of what these 2 know. Rowan’s book “Apple of Uncommon Character” is superb, informative and a great read. John’s apple manual is a true reflection of the man himself, crammed with info.
  • Ice Cider Making with Claude Jolicoeur, author of The New Cider Maker’s Handbookon Saturday at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center. Great to meet with Claude at last and i took many many notes during this presentation…..

Judith (and Terry) and Field Maloney of West County Cider kicked FCCD off some 20 years previously, the essence of what they started remains but has blossomed into an event for many, whatever your level of interest and experience. It was a pleasure to see Judith and Field again and thanks to Field for the Johnny Appleseed from Leominster shirt, that is Leominster in MA not Herefordshire.

Special thanks to Ben who kindly sorted all this and drove me around for 3 days. Needless to say we talked cider and many other topics and always, always finished the day with other cider fanatics (including the delightful Eliza “apple mad” Greenman, Jocelyn Kuzela and Rowan Jacobsen, round  a table strewn with cider at The Wright House in Historic Deerfield . I would return in an instant.