In an area full of wonderful apples, it is exciting to find a person with a dream of making apples into a special, hand crafted product—apple wine and hard cider. The earliest recorded use of hard cider was in Rome, 55 BCE, but it has recently been having a renaissance in the Hudson Valley.
Tim Dressel, the grandson of Rod and Ethel Dressel, apple farmers and local legends, started Kettleborough Cider House a few years ago and wants to “revive cider beverages and educate the customer about what good cider is and can be.” Every fall on “Pick Your Own” days, he operates a tasting bar in the Farm Store, behind the Dressel Farmstand. There, he engages individuals in conversation about his hard ciders, the foods they pair with, and the reasons to enjoy hard cider. He also sells his hard cider year round in the Farm Store.
As a student at Cornell, Tim enjoyed taking wine classes and working in a winery. When he came home to work on the farm, he planted some wine grapes, but it takes three to four years to produce decent grapes and then a year or two to ferment and rest. While he was waiting, he decided to try hard cider using a scientific approach to make “quality crafted ciders that can be held up to the same standards as wine.”
Much of his hard cider comes from Northern Spy and Stayman Winesap applies grown on the 450-acre family farm. However, he has planted about 20 special varieties of cider apples with fascinating names like Esopus Spitzenburg (raised from a chance seedling dropped in Esopus in the 1800s and cultivated since), Dabinette, Harry Masters and Chisel Jersey.
Kettleborough Cider House produces a dry cider, a honey honey cider and a lightly hopped cider. The dry cider won a Silver Medal in the Cider Category in the 2013 Hudson Valley Wine Competition. It is a popular cider made from Granny Smith and Northern Spy apples, which provide a crisp and clean flavor and is a wonderful complement to Dressel Farm’s regular cider; combine the two for an Apple Mimosa! The honey honey cider is made with Stamen Winesap apples flavored with Honey Crisp apples and local Wildflower honey. It has become very popular with those who like a sweeter hard cider. The dry hopped cider is new this summer and combines Ginger Gold and Tideman apples so that the acidity of the hops complements the sweetness of the apples. It is an unusual combination, and he looks forward to comments when people taste it late this summer and this fall.
Like many of his peers, Tim is committed to using local products and selling locally; his hops are grown by Colin Boylan of Wright’s Farm and much of Tim’s Cayuga White grape crop is sold to Whitecliff Winery. He is also partnering with Gable Erenzo of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile on possible fruit spirits. Gable has located his still on the Dressel Farm, which provides the fruit. It is an exciting partnership since Gable has a distillery license to make spirits off site and Tim only possesses a farm winery license. Together, however, they can make a wider range of products. Surely, this kind of partnership will help realize the dream of most Hudson Valley cider brewers—to make the Hudson Valley to cider what Napa Valley is to wine. As Tim says, we have the “fruit, the ability, and the market!”
Watch in the future for the introduction of his apple wines, still in development, and a possible non-carbonated hard cider. Wait for the announcement of the hop cider, stop by the tasting bar on “Pick Your Own” days and check out the website at Kettleboroughciderhouse.com.