Between 1769 and 1814 Jefferson planted eighteen varieties of apples in the south orchard at Monticello, some of which are used today by Virginia cidermakers. Based on his many detailed farming notes, Jefferson was a discriminate farmer and particularly fond of four cider apple varieties; Taliaferro (now thought to be extinct), Newton Pippin, Esopus Spitzenburg, and Hewe’s Crab (also known as Virginia Crab).
Hewe’s Crab is a small, nearly round apple with dull red skin highlighted with green-yellow streaks and was the most important horticultural cultivar in eighteenth-century Virginia according to Monticello.org
While apple orchards and hard apple cider production for personal consumption was common in colonial Virginia, the popularity of hard cider waned in the mid-19th century.
The drop in cider consumption was widely thought to be due to the influx of German immigrants in the 1850s who brought with them new and more efficient methods of brewing beer. Making beer was cheaper and quicker than growing apples and harvesting once a year to make cider.
Fast forward about 150 years and Virginia is on the threshold of a cider revival thanks to a small group of farmers dedicated to fine cider production.
One of the modern-day cider pioneers responsible for the cider renaissance in Virginia is Diane Flynt.
“We are the first cider producers south of Massachusetts to plant a cider apple orchard for the purpose of producing hard apple cider commercially,” says Diane Flynt, who founded Foggy Ridge Cider in the mid-1990s with her husband Chuck.
Foggy Ridge Cider is situated on the Blue Ridge plateau in southwestern Virginia, equidistant between Roanoke, VA and Winston-Salem, NC, about 12 miles north of the Virginia-North Carolina border.
A banker by trade, Flynt left the banking industry in the 1990’s to pursue what she calls her “last career,” in agriculture.
Flynt studied cidermaking in England under Peter Mitchell, one of the most recognized global authorities on cider, and also took enology classes at Virginia Tech and Surry County Community College. Flynt counts the time she spent working with other cideries during the fermentation and bottling process among her most valuable learning experiences.
The Flynts planted their first orchard at Foggy Ridge in 1997 and now have about 30 acres of semi-dwarf apple trees planted with 30 different cider apple varieties. The first Foggy Ridge Cider was released in 2005.
Today, with a total production of 5,300 cases, Foggy Ridge produces six different fine ciders — ranging from dry, light and zesty to a sweet dessert-style cider made with local apple brandy. My favorite, appropriately named Serious Cider, is crisp, light, and refreshing with notes of citrus and apple blossoms.
Flynt’s experience and dedication to the craft of artisan cidermaking shows in each Foggy Ridge cider.