Good cider starts with good apples; and the apples we seek start with healthy soil, clean water, clear air and the lively light of the sun. There are multiple streams of fruit that flow into Finnriver and the following explanation is for those who are cruious about the origins of our apples.
Here on the land, the farmers tend an orchard planted over 20 years ago by Lige and Kay Christian, the previous owners of this farm. The intent of this orchard was to experiment with a wide range of varieties and celebrate the diverse uses for different kinds of apples. It was Lige who brought us our first bottle of homemade hard cider and inspired our cidery endeavor! Now we harvest some of these ‘original’ apples for blending into our more traditional ciders, apples like the Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout, and Harry Masters Jersey.
Three miles up the valley we have begun planting our own organic orchard, where we are specializing in growing traditional cider apple varieties, which are bittersweet and bittersharp fruits high in acids and/or tannins and full of complexity. This orchard used to live in the Skagit Valley at Red Barn Cidery, but when its owner Drew Zimmerman retired last year, we hand dug all 937 of those trees and relocated them to the Brown Farm, 50 acres of lovely loamy soil near the Chimacum Corner. These are mostly French and English cider trees that are rare in the commercial market and prized among traditional cider makers, with over ten varieties that include Hewe's Crab, Dabinette and Kingston Black. We use these traditional apples in ciders like our Fire Barrel and other limited releases. Drew comes to visit the orchard every other week or so to make sure we are taking good care of them; and so far so good! We also just planted several hundred nursery stock trees to begin growing out a new generation and will continue to do so every year.
We also source local apples from our neighbors across the Olympic Peninsula during our Calling All Apples campaign in October. This is when we ask folks to bring in the “funky” backyard apples that they are not eating because they are too bitter or earthy. We then ferment this motley crew of apples and blend them into our annual Farmstead Cider. We share proceeds from sales of these bottles with the local food banks and we enjoy featuring a cider that seeks to capture the authentic apple heritage of this community.
We’ve also begun to contract for apples with small organic orchardists around the state, in regions ranging from the Okanogan to the Dungeness Valley. We’re actively looking for more such relationships.
The bulk of our apples, used in the base blend for many of our ciders, are organic dessert apples from Eastern Washington's Yakima Valley and Columbia basin. We source tart varieties, high in acids, for that clean, bright base cider. These include varieties such as Granny Smith and Pink Ladies. We have a good relationship with the suppliers since we can use the organic 'seconds' (fruit that is not picture perfect) for pressing and this makes a nice market for that fruit and supports the organic industry.
All of the commercial dessert apples we source are certified organic and our antique fruit comes from small sustainable orchards or backyard growers. We make cider because we love the land and the fruits of the earth. We believe that the finished cider bottle is a vessel for carrying the vital elements of earth, air, water and light. Finnriver strives to be part of an agricultre and food culture that honors these elements by farming without pesticides, GMOs, and other toxic inputs.
Every day we ask ourselves, how can we serve the land with cider?
Apples and pears we pick, grow, buy, are given, scrounge for, beg for, and generally covet
And for those of you who want details on the actual varieties, here is a list of all of the apples we have used! We plan to add more detail soon...
Medaille d’ Or
Belle de boskoop
Harry masters jersey
Karmijn de sonneville
Coxs orange pippin
Hudsons golden gem
St Edmunds …?
PEARS: Anjou, Bosch, Bartlett, Hendri huffcap, Yellow huffcap, Romanian perry