West County Ciders • United States
Since 1984, in the face of artificial sweeteners and industrial production, the Maloney family (Terry, Judith, and Field) have passionately crafted artisanal ciders that are dry, complex, and very satisfying.
They arrived in the Northern Berkshires, from Northern California in l972, and brought their passion for wine-making with them. Although the grape supply in Massachusetts was limited, they discovered a wonderful new alternative: apples.
Impressed and inspired by their neighbors’ cider-making, they tried their hand at this local tradition, applying their California wine-making techniques to a new art. When they offered their first vintage for sale in ’84, they became the first U.S. winery to specialize in hard cider.
They now tend an orchard of about 1400 American and European trees, and constantly seek new, exciting, apple varieties. Their current assortment includes the traditional American Roxbury Russet and Golden Russet, as well as Baldwin and Redfield, along with the European varieties Tremlett’s Bitter, Reine de Pomme, and Dabinett. They also grow over twenty traditional American and European ‘test’ varieties, and make trial batches from the fruit. The most promising varieties are then used for larger scale planting.
When fermented, different apples give each cider its particular flavor and structure. Golden Russet is sweet, low in acid, and moderate in tannins. Kingston Black is acidic and tannic (bittersharp). Dabinett has lots of tannin and very little acid (bittersweet). Craft cider makers blend their juice for a balance of sweetness and acidity, among other things, and the apples used are based on the season’s harvest. This means each year brings new ciders.
The Maloneys begin making their cider in late October, after the fruit has matured. After the harvest, the apples are sorted and pressed into cider. The freshly-pressed juice is then fermented and bottled in small batches at their Catamount Hill Bonded Cellar.
We just learned of West County a few months ago, and we contacted them as soon as we heard all the good things people were saying. Unfortunately, since cider-making happens in the fall, West County was at the end of this season’s supply and we have limited 2009 availability. However, they were kind enough to send us what they could, and they sent some of their best. Grab a bottle if you see it and ask for it if you don’t; you don’t want to miss out.
Daniel says “My god, this stuff is tasty!” and he’s always right.