Mendocino County may be known for its luscious wines, but hard ciders are the new fermenting fashion. With a similar climate to Normandy, France, Mendocino is taking full advantage of this and growing not just grapes but acres of apples too.
Here are the must-sip Mendocino County Hard Ciders:
This is an in-the-know stand, just off Highway 128 in the tiny town of Philo. Just like the rustic farms along the countryside roads of Normandy, don’t expect a slick tasting room. It’s a DIY honor-system shop. Choose from a cup of fresh apple juice, jams, chutneys, vinegars or the hard cider. As the former owner of the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, it’s no wonder the quality of the Bates & Schmitt country farm products have a refined, luxurious taste.
Wish I would have bought a case of the Bates & Schmitt Hard Cider, instead of just a bottle as they don’t ship it. It is a low alcohol cider with more bite than sweetness: perfect to bring on a picnic at the nearby Navarro River or to serve at brunch as a creative alternative to the mundane mimosa.
The Apple Farm also offers high-end farm stays in their four cottage rooms with hands-on cooking classes and farm tours. If you’ve ever had farmer fantasies, Apple Farm also offers Live/Work opportunities.
A grassroots operation from the same owners of the ‘modern roadhouse’ Boonville Hotel, Bite Hard Gravenstein Cider and Bite Hard Apple Current are worth the stop. Right now you can only try and buy Boonville Cider House’s ciders at the Boonville Hotel along with a few other locations throughout Anderson Valley. Across the street from the bucolic hotel, slated to open Spring 2012, will be a retail Boonville Cider House tasting room.
Bite Hard Cider is just one of the many reasons to linger in Boonville. Looking for a peaceful retreat away from city noise and pollution? A stay at Sheep Dung Estates in your own private cottage is the ultimate unplug experience. After a soak in the cottage’s outdoor Japanese tub overlooking vineyards, stroll among the little town’s main street to sample homemade sweets at Paysanne, wine taste at Phillips Hill Winery, stock up on life’s little pleasures at Farmhouse Mercantile, and dine on fresh Mexican food at Libby’s or Americana elevated eats at Lauren’s.
Cuckoo for Ciders? Check out Bon Appetit’s Favorite American Hard Cider picks.
Visit Mendocino is a helpful site for more must-sip and do ideas in Mendocino County.
Philo Farm photo by author, Bite Hard Cider photo by Boonville Cider House.