Saving Apples by Making Cider. Drink a Gravenstein Today.


Pomme Fruit: Gravenstein Apples In The Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California.

The Sebastopol Gravenstein, a vividly colored, aromatic, flavorful heirloom apple is historically important in the Russian River Valley. So dominant in the region, the ribbon of roadway running through the acres of orchards became known as The Gravenstein Highway – honoring the apples prolific presence. Declining prices for processing apples, the increasing popularity of other more ‘commercially viable’ apples, and a booming West Coast wine industry, all led to Gravenstein orchards being ripped out to make way for the extremely lucrative wine grapes that now populate the region.

David Karp, writing for the LA Times:

“Gravenstein is still a favorite in northern Europe and is cultivated from Nova Scotia to the Pacific Northwest, but it reaches its greatest perfection in the Sebastopol district of western Sonoma County, at the border of the maritime and inland climatic zones, where the morning fog gives way to a moderately hot afternoon sun. The area’s fine, sandy loam soil is well suited to apples. The huge trees, grafted on seedling rootstock, develop roots deep enough to survive the dry summers without irrigation.”

Concerned Sonoma County cider makers are working to revive interest in this heirloom apple by focusing on the Gravenstein’s many desirable cider worthy traits, crafting ‘Gravs’ into unique ciders that celebrate and express the heritage of the apple and the region.

Saving Apples by Making Cider. Drink a Gravenstein Today.

Find A Gravenstein Cider:

Tilted Shed Ciderworks: Graviva! Semi Dry Cider

Apple Sauced Cider: Save The Gravenstein! Cider

Devoto Orchards Cider: Gravenstein first release October 14, 2013

Gleanings (sources for further reading):

LATimes: The future of Gravenstein apples hangs on a thin stem by David Karp

NPR: Gravenstein Apples: The End Of Summer In A Fruit by Nicole SpIridakis

Zester Daily: The Fight To Save Sonoma’s Gravenstein Apple by Tina Caputo

Slow Food USA Ark of Taste: Sebastopol Gravenstein

Slow Food USA Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple Presidia

Gravenstein apple image (detail) – credit: “U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705”

Link: The future of Gravenstein apples hangs on a thin stem. July 12, 2013 By David Karp. Special to the Los Angeles Times


Cheesemonger’s Challenge. A Cider and Cheese Pairing: Tilted Shed Ciderworks GRAVIVA! Cider

Cheesemonger’s Challenge:

Cider and Cheese Pairing with Tilted Shed Ciderworks 2012 GRAVIVA! Semidry Cider

Conceived by our resident Cheesemonger. Originally posted on: Consider The Rind

Graviva! label5-13X

Our pen pals at Tilted Shed Ciderworks have just released the 2012 vintage of GRAVIVA! their semidry cider featuring the Gravenstein, an endangered heirloom apple. We have yet to encounter any Tilted Shed ciders here on the East Coast but here at UnitedStatesofCider they have been present in many of our cider daydreams. When we drink cider we usually enjoy it with our other favorite obsession-  cheese. So for the launch of this new batch of GRAVIVA! I dreamed up a few supporting players for this fantasy cider session.

Since I have not (yet) tried GRAVIVA! I am basing the pairings on Tilted Shed Ciderworks own tasting notes:

The Gravenstein sparkles in this bright, crisp cider. The refreshing acidity is balanced with a touch of sweetness. We sourced the Gravs and other heirloom cider apples for this blend from organic growers in the Sebastopol area. The Grav lends its lovely aromatics, while a mix of “bittersweet” apples—which were specially developed over the centuries for fermented cider—imparts lively tannins. This is Sonoma County heritage in a bottle. Viva la Grav!

Great as an apéritif or celebratory bubbly, or pair with aged cheeses, spicy foods, and a hammock. Silver medal winner at the 2013 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.


Some clues about the cider I pulled from this description:

  • “Bubbly” and “sparkles” = some type of carbonation or fizziness in the mouth
  • acidity
  • touch of sweetness
  • lively tannins

A brief ponderance on these qualities lead me to the following selections:

Cowgirl Creamery MT. TAM (from nearby Marin County, CA)
Bloomy rind, Triple Crème, Cow’s Milk
Tasting notes: Fresh Butter, whispers of Mushroom, Salt
Why this pairing?

  • Smooth and buttery. Triple crèmes must have at least 75% butterfat to be called such. It is achieved through the addition of cream or crème fraiche to the fresh curds. A decadent contrast to the often restrained qualities of cider.
  • Carbonation and Acidity from the cider will cut through the richness serving as a light and airy counterpoint to the dense and unctuous cheese.
  • The cheese is mild and fairly neutral, providing a creamy backdrop to show off the flavors in the cider. Apple or other fruit flavors when mingled with the cream flavors are likely to create the taste and mouthfeel of a fruit custard or cream pie.

The way I approach pairing is through the comparison of what I call Sameness or Differentness in the possible mates. I think about some traits of the focus item (in this case GRAVIVA! Cider), then scan through my taste memories in search of things that either share these traits or are very different. This particular pairing is an example of Differentness. In the case of Graviva! and Mt. Tam the cheese and cider have aspects (texture and flavor) that are opposite. Combining them brings more variety and enjoyment to the overall tasting experience. Opposites really do attract! Well sometimes. Too much differentness can produce negative results. One characteristic may overpower and obliterate the others or there might just be too many clashing flavors. It’s tricky; you’re looking for that perfect mixed doubles player who is going to complement your game, not a sparring partner to knock around.  Mt. Tam is a straightforward (albeit superb) little cloud that should showcase the cider without sacrificing any of its own flavors.

Laura Chenel CHABIS (Sonoma County, CA) 
Fresh, Goats Milk
Tasting notes: Sweet Cream, Lemon
Why this pairing?

  • The textures of fresh goat’s milk cheeses are chalky, flaky and light.  The light and lively characteristics of both the cheese and cider should keep either from overpowering the other. Acidity in the cider and the tangy lemony flavors in cheese are evenly matched. This is an example of Sameness. There is no struggle between the two.
  • The effects of acidity may even get a lift from the combination, intensifying the trait in the cider without destroying the cheese.
  • Sonoma County terroir. French production methods. (Note: not all herds are in Sonoma County, some are across the border in Nevada.)

Another aspect in which Graviva! and Chabis share sameness, is in their origins. This is a tried and true pairing technique used for all sorts of foodstuffs and drinkstuffs everywhere. The influences of the soil and atmosphere somehow create an understanding among things even though they may express the effects differently. Things that grow together rarely brawl. The use of Old World methods in the New World is another parallel that appealed to me for this match up. Laura Chenel was a pioneer of chévre bringing the wonderful French tradition of goats’ milk cheeses to the USA in the 1970s. The beet and goat cheese salad craze we appreciate today may not have happened without her. Tilted Shed is utilizing traditional European cider making methods to preserve apples and a piece of American heritage a la the cider revival. Food can be very philosophical. Thought provoking pairings should not be underestimated as they may add another layer of satisfaction to the already enjoyable experience of consuming two virtuous cohorts such as cider and cheese.

Firm, Aged, Raw Cow’s Milk
Tasting notes: Nutty, Grassy, with a hint of Sweetness
Why this pairing?

  • Both the dry, slightly crumbly cheese and the effervescent cider are on the light side, nothing heavy or dense in either.
  • The nut and vegetal tones in the cheese may tame the acid and tannins in the cider and bring out some fruit notes. Just a hunch.

This pairing has both sameness and differentnessSameness in the textures.  Differentness in flavors. More complex than the other two cheese selections, Pleasant Ridge Reserve (especially the Extra-Aged editions) is fairly savory, and not at all tart. There is some sameness in flavor however with a “touch” or “hint” of sweetness described for both the cider and the cheese.  I am hoping this flavor echo is the thread that stitches it all into one very jolly amalgam.

If you are lucky enough to have Graviva! and any of these cheeses available to you I would love to hear your comments on the actual results of these pairings. Is it a cheese and cider dream come true? Nightmare? Somewhere in between? Only tasting will tell. Please share your experience.

(You can read more Adventures in Cheese at Consider The Rind and follow cheese related content @ConsiderTheRind on twitter)

Tasting Lab: Recipe: Fromage Fort with Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider

Fromage Fort, French “strong cheese” is usually made with bits of leftover cheese, the more variety the better, and moistened with dry white wine, chicken stock, or leek broth.

Tasting Lab: Our version of Fromage Fort is made with cider instead of dry white wine.

We selected Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider*, collected the assorted cheese scraps we had on hand, chopped them into a fairly fine mince, smashed 3 small garlic cloves, filled our jar with the garlic and cheese, splashed in about 2/3 cup of Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider, leaving more than enough cider enough to enjoy a glass or two. We skipped the salt and pepper as our blend contained many already flavorful cheeses, and figured we could add seasoning later if needed.

There are more detailed recipes, but this is not one of them.

Our Strong Cheese with Cider is “maturing” the refrigerator. You can eat this right away as a mild spread on toasted bread or crackers, and a few moments in the oven or under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese is often recommended. Contemporary recipes suggest a whirl in the food processor, but we went traditional and chopped with a knife – giving us a better sense of the types of rind bits we were incorporating.

Note: Remove cloth or wax rinds – we left all other rinds intact, because we like cider and we also like cheese, and rinds are very important part of the cheese flavor experience. You of course, are welcome to trim your rinds, if that is to your taste. (If your cheese has odd bits of uncharacteristic mold – you should trim those off).

Traditionally you age the Fromage Fort, and most modern recipes suggest the mixture can mature for a week or two (if it lasts that long).

For an interesting read see  Turning Leftover Cheese Into a Classic from The 1989 New York Times series, The Purposeful Cook, by Jacques Pepin. If you are interested in foodways, Jacques Pepin’s style of storytelling, sharing personal food history, and teaching culinary methods while explaining a recipe, is enlightening.

Purposeful indeed – with a happy frugality, appreciating that abundance is not to be squandered, scraps are to be saved, transformed and savored.

And for a complete different take on ‘Strong Cheese’ read Fromage Fort: The Cheese That Tried To Kill Me by Francis Lam at Salon.

* we topped our mix off with a bit of Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider.

Meet Ciders Best Friend, Cheese. Hello, Cheese!

Hello Cheese !

Cider and Cheese are a perfect pair. And now our Cheesemonger’s Notes and all cheese related content will be curated by United States of Cider’s co-founder, Consider The Rind.

The Petite Reine will be waxing cheesey here, and you can follow Consider the Rind – Adventures in Cheese at and on twitter @ConsiderTheRind.