Farm Specializes in Making Apple Cider

Virginia couple grow heirloom kinds of apples to use in making hard cider.

  • An old-fashioned apple press makes great cider, particularly when you use heritage apples.
    Photo by Photoshot/Ashley Cooper
  • Grab a few Gravenstein apples for a great pie.
    Photo by Janet Horton Photography
  • Gritty is ready to press apples for some delicious cider.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson

When my wife, Elaine, and I entered the front door of Foggy Ridge Cider in Dugspur, Virginia, our first impression was of the sweet smell of fermenting fruit. By the front door, we then gazed on an inviting tray of Winesaps with a printout touting the many virtues of this traditional apple variety. On a table near the back wall, we found a neat row of three signature varieties of hard cider sold by owner Diane Flynt, and with a quick glimpse to the right, we could see the steel tanks where apples were metamorphosing into hard cider.

It was October, which meant cider-making season on this Blue Ridge Mountain farm, and Diane, with the assistance of her husband, Chuck, was busy making cider, filling orders, scheduling workshops, and doing myriad orchard maintenance chores that go with tending more than 1,000 apple trees — all of them heirloom varieties (some 30 in all) popular from this country’s settlement to the mid-1900s, then forgotten for many decades.

Now, traditional cider making with heritage apples is seeing a renaissance, and the Flynts are part of that revival.

“One of Chuck’s and my missions here is to preserve and grow these uncommon varieties and show other people how they can do the same,” says Diane. “That’s one of the reasons why we offer grafting workshops and an annual fall identification day where folks can bring in apples from ‘Granddaddy’s orchard,’ have them identified, and later, hopefully, graft them themselves so as to preserve these varieties’ genetic diversity.”

In the mid-1990s, the Flynts began looking for a farm where they could create an apple orchard for cider-making purposes. Diane had retired from her job in the banking industry and wanted to return to a place similar to her rural Georgia roots. By 1998, the couple had selected this 220-acre Carroll County farm and planted their first varieties. After they purchased the farm, Diane journeyed to England to take a course in cider making and talked with heritage apple experts like North Carolina’s Creighton Lee Calhoun Jr. and Virginia’s Tom Burford. By 2004, the cider was flowing.

“We only grow cider apples, all old-fashioned uncommon apples, chosen especially for cider making,” said Diane. “Using modern apples like Golden Delicious or Red Delicious for hard cider would be like using table grapes for fine wine. Excellent hard cider starts in the orchard, just like fine wine begins in the vineyard.

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