Apples and grapes seem like closer cousins after visiting Bellwether Cidery in Trumansburg, Tompkins County.
“Some people who’ve had (hard) cider in other parts of the world know that there’s as wide a (flavor) range as with grape wine,” says Cheryl Barton, who founded the business with husband Bill in 1998, more than 15 years after being bowled over by the beverage’s sophisticated taste during a trip to France.
Tasting-room visitors quickly learn of the couple’s appreciation for refined flavors when sampling products such as Lord Scudamore, a sparkling hard cider exhibiting a subtle floral aroma and an understated citrus aftertaste. Other options include Spyglass, a still hard cider made from Northern Spy and Liberty apples, and the effervescent Cherry Street, which contains fresh cherry juice. Those looking to taste at a leisurely pace may buy full glasses of hard cider and mosey out to the patio, where cats Harry and Pie often lounge.
Visitors preferring to take a Bellwether product home can expect it to be remarkably food-friendly.
“In general, I would say it goes really well with things that are grilled and things that are spicy, like Asian food. But it also goes really well with elegant food, like fish,” Cheryl says, adding that she often uses hard cider to braise pork, or as a substitute for milk in pancake batter. During the annual Cayuga Wine Trail Mardi Gras celebration, she even includes it in the dough for beignets (deep-fried pastries).
To produce 6,000 gallons annually, the Bartons buy apples from regional growers. They hope to expand their product line in a few years, when the 11 varieties of apples planted on their property mature.
“The reason we planted European cider fruit is because they’re benchmarks as to the types of characteristics we’re looking for. They have a lot of tannin, a lot of acid, and – in general – complex flavors,” says Cheryl.
But growing the business will not jeopardize their uniqueness, Cheryl believes.
“Here we are in wine country, so why not (open a cidery)? There’s a receptive audience, and there are people going out and tasting,” she says. “I would say this is a real ‘native son’ sort of product. We think it belongs here.”
– Sheila Livadas, for FingerLakesWine.com
Hours: Open year-round. Closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
April through October: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. November through March, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair-accessible from the rear of the building. Bellwether products are sold occasionally at the Rochester Public Market, 280 N. Union St.
Megan Dailor for FingerLakesWine.com
Pierre Fay, 21, of Ithaca, samples cider at Bellwether Hard Cider.