Apple Hill Hidden Gems: Part 4

Back in the late 1980s I was wooed and won by hard apple cider, in England, Minnesota, and Washington state. What started for me as a Tolkien-inspired libation, which I deeply enjoyed while playing Tolkien-inspired Old-School Dungeon & Dragons (don’t judge, it was hella fun!). this novel inspiration morphed into a true journey of appreciation and discernment.

FYI: Outside of the US, apple cider, as opposed to apple juice, is understood to have an alcohol content that is similar to that of beer and is referred to as hard cider or more simply, just cider. In the US, this definition of cider depends on your state, which means labeling of apple cider may actually be unfermented, non-alcoholic apple juice. Suffice it to say, hard cider has a nice little alcoholic kick.

England is known for its legendary hard apple ciders which are delicious, fruity, and bracing…with the strong exception to this being the very rustic, farm-standard hard cider called scrumpy. Scrumpy has a rotting apple flavor with the nuance of straw and dirty socks. It packs a kick and that’s why some people will drink it.

Stateside, Minnesota and Washington states have rich apple farming histories and economies with heirloom varieties of apples unknown outside of these two states. As a repository of so many heirloom apple varieties, these states make some extraordinary small batch ciders.

So…fast forward to our recent September weekend trip to Northern California’s El Dorado County, and the region referred to as Apple Hill. This region is named from the Apple Hill Growers Association that has acted as the incubator for all of this gastronomic farm-to-table excellence in the region.

At a stop at Totem Coffee House we found a treasure!

Hard Cider from the North Canyon Hard Cider Company is out of this world!

North Canyon Cider Company, owned by the Barsotti family, makes a fantastic dry cider! It’s clean, crisp, dry, barely sweet, and with floral and fruit notes I’d expect from a finely crafted sparkling wine. It is sublime.

For the past five years they’ve been studying hard cider making from industry experts, developing the nuances familiar in the brewing and vintning business, with the resulting hard cider stopping us in our tracks. Just as I said above, it was light, fruity, crisp, dry and barely sweet. It was strongly reminiscent of an European sparkling wine.

According to their website, one of the lesson they learned was blending of juices for the balanced, nuanced flavor, nose, and finish. Sounds like I’m talking about wine, doesn’t it. As I mentioned above, this hard cider drinks like a finely vinted sparkling wine. They blend their cider with at least three freshly pressed apple varieties, including: Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Gala, Gravenstein, Macintosh, Mutsu, Red Delicious, and Pink Lady … and others varieties depending up on supply, season and need.

Want to try some North Canyon Hard Cider? Click on their locator link and find an establishment in Northern California selling their hard cider.

While they don’t give tours of the brewery, the Barsotti Family Farm does give limited tours of their wholesale juice manufacturing facility for a few weeks each year, opening their doors to the public from Labor Day until the End of September.

North Canyon Cider Company

Barsotti Family Juice Company (Wholesale Only)
2239 Hidden Valley Lane
Camino, California 95709
530.622.4629 office phone


Click here for Apple Hill Hidden Gems: Part 5