After harvest is over and the orchard has been put to bed for the winter, we enter the distilling season. All our fermenters have been filled with apple cider and are pretty much finished fermenting. 3000 gallons of hard cider at 6% alcohol equals a little over 7, 50 gallon barrels of 100 proof apple brandy. This takes us into January running the stills every day starting at 4am and finishing somewhere around 3pm. This is our year 7 since starting in 2009.. and we will be doing our first bottling in time for sales in December 2017.. Nick
We had a perfect winter for peaches.. Warm!! In March I could see the tiny buds start to swell, showing me they survived the winter. I could see all 6 varieties were loaded, every tree I looked at was full of swelling baby peaches. This is extremely exciting and at the same time I know i'm going to be hand thinning for weeks in July and August. Then April comes and delivers another wintery stretch of cold. I believe it went down to 19 degrees F .. just enough to kill peach buds. The one variety that can withstand these temperatures is "Reliance". We have a few peaches this year but not enough for all of you who come for them. If you are on the email news letter, you have already received a notice to sign up for this years "peach lottery".. all the names that signed up are places in" random.org" to be randomly chosen. We will estimate the number of people we want when the peaches are ready and we know more how many we have. The lucky people chosen will receive an email from me telling when we'll open for picking. This feels to us the best and fairest way.. Thank you for being supportive.. Nick
There are only a few sour cherries on the trees this year.. I was about to go out and put the netting over the trees, when I decided that the labor of doing so was not worth the few cherries I'd save..It's a very long and frustrating job to cover every tree with netting. Sooo.. the birds will have the few that are there before they even ripen. lt's hard to do it!! it's mostly robins.. and it's always a battle with them, they act like they''re the rightful owners.. and pay no attention to me.. when I do net the trees I feel such relief! Aw well.. so it goes.. the birds get their way this time.. Nick
Apple trees will try and go on an every other year cycle. One year heavy crop and the next very light crop. We try and correct this by thinning the apples just after they "set". When the bloom period is over, we check how well the bees pollinated the flowers. If the bloom period is sunny and warm, and all the different apple varieties flowers have opened together, and the bees have cross pollinated them..then the set will be good. If the set is heavy, we spray a mild acid on the trees and give them a temporary false sense of weakness. Hopefully If this is calculated correctly, the tree will drop apples in June and leave a moderate crop. We like moderate.. It means good size apples and a return crop the following year. Nick
There are numerous seasons in a year of apple brandy making. Early spring is apple tree planting time. We are planting apple varieties that are chosen for the flavors that are beneficial to the brandy. Then the growing season, with it's diverse weather. Stress from drought increases the sugar content in the apples, yet wet summers increase the nutrient uptake and gives us large plump fruit, and higher volumes of juice. Then there is harvest season. choosing the best time to pick the apples, mixing of varieties, pressing them when they have their most flavor. Fermentation season, adding yeast, racking off, waiting till all the sugar in the cider has turned to alcohol. December and January is the distilling season. We run all the hard cider through the stills and fill oak barrels in the cellar. then last but not least.. the quiet season. February and March we let the brandy sleep.. no poking or prodding, no noise, nobody even goes inside the cellar.. only the angles..