Making cider is a consistent and challenging exercise of patience. As juice transforms into cider through fermentation, cider steps into the next stage of transformation during maturation. Some apples want to be served when they are young, their peak expression reached shortly after fermentation. However, the majority of cider apples are still too young after fermentation, with their flavors scattered and aromas switching week after week and the cider itself still recovering from fermentation. Not given the time it needs to develop, the cider will never have the opportunity to reach its peak expression.
Every couple of weeks we sample the tanks, monitoring the development of each cider and attempting to predict where it will go. During each week that passes, we see aromas becoming more pronounced, flavors and notes focusing themselves, and complexities creating layers to unfold. We age our ciders on their lees (sur lie), allowing dormant and dead yeast cells and apple gunk to settle over a period of time. Every so often we stir the lees into the cider, allowing the inhabitants of this invisible world to intermingle with each other. The lees settle again and we repeat the process as many times as needed. Each apple and cider demands patience and needs time to find itself again, to be strong enough to pronounce the characteristics we expect.
The second batch of Gold Dominion was intentionally forgotten, pushed to the side and allowed to mature beyond any cider we’ve ever released. York and Gold Rush were individually fermented with a champagne yeast. York matured on its lees for 17.5 months and Gold Rush matured on its lees for 10.5 months, both without any sulfite additions post-fermentation. Right before carbonation, the two single varietals were blended without any filtration. Gold Dominion has crazy tropical notes, bright tartness in the middle, and a dry farmhouse note on the finish.
The long-term maturation of cider allows for a heavy concentration of the essence of what these apples are known to be. Right after fermentation we smelled the typical fruity notes we get from these apples, but aging the cider for a long period of time allowed those same notes to intensify. With Gold Rush we ended up getting tons of fresh tropical notes and York gave us the most intense pineapple aroma we’ve ever smelled.
Allowing these two ciders to mature for a longer period of time was an experiment with an unknown outcome. Would it spoil? Would it reach its peak profile and quickly degrade from there? Or would it turn into a unique expression of York and Gold Rush that we haven’t seen before? After sampling Gold Dominion over and over again, I am proud of what these two single varietals were able to develop during their extended maturation. Experiments are always followed by new experiments and a never-ending succession of questions. As long as we continue to pursue our curiosity, we will continue learning about the apples we use while finding new ways to harness their unique characteristics.