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Cider of the Week: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Lost Orchard

With the cider industry in Sonoma County constantly growing, it is only fitting to have our "Wine of the Week" become our "Cider of the Week" feature when necessary. 

Now don’t confuse the Lost Orchard with Angry Orchard. Not that there’s anything wrong with the wild success of nationally distributed cider brands in recent years — it’s all good, great, we love it that the category is growing, say artisanal cidermakers like Tilted Shed’s Ellen Cavalli and Scott Heath.

It’s just that the product they’ve invested long hours of effort in is much different than the typically sweet, flavored alcoholic beverages sold as cider. Think of craft cider as barrel-aged craft brew, versus cheap lager — some say, it’s more like a fine wine, but it’s a lot less expensive!

Lost Orchard ($20) is one of the most expensive 750ml bottlings from Tilted Shed Ciderworks. It’s always a single vintage, made partly from apples grown half-wild in an abandoned grove of old cider apple trees that Cavalli and Heath discovered in the middle of Russian River Valley wine country, and partly, says cidermaker Heath, from similar apples to balance the flavor.

These trees are no sweet and simple Red Delicious, but varieties grown specifically for cider, with evocative old names like Porter’s Perfection, Yarlington Mill, Foxwhelp, Tremlett’s Bitter, Muscat de Bernay, and Roxbury Russet.

This cider is different, indeed, but don’t be scared off by the fruit of these gnarled trees: it’s refreshing like a dry wine, with astringent tannin to match — somewhat like an “orange wine.” Without being too sour or “funky,” which can be a positive attribute in traditional cider styles, it suggests sour raspberry candy, a bite of crisp red apple skin, and the flavor not so much of apples as apples fermented and transformed — like a good Chardonnay tastes not so much of fresh fruit, but the golden nectar of a fruit transformed.

The 2014 Lost Orchard has 8 percent alcohol by volume and light, natural carbonation. Look for the next vintage release, the 2015. You’ll be happy you found it.

Here’s a recipe not to follow by the letter, but to suggest that being open to unconventional food-pairing ideas with cider can yield pleasant results.

Recipe: Stir-Fry Beef with Udon Noodles:

Flat, wide udon noodles
Thin-cut steak, 5 oz. or so per person
tamari sauce
garlic cloves to taste
scallions (or one leek)
fresh shelled peas (I harvested my last peas a few weeks ago — substitute strips of kale or broccoli florets)
sesame or olive oil
salt, black pepper (fresh-ground for both is best)


Boil water and prepare the udon noodles according to directions — five minutes ought to do it — and drain. Meanwhile, douse steak with soy sauce and grind salt and pepper over both sides and let marinate for 15 minutes. Heat grill and grill steak to taste — less than five minutes per side on an outdoor grill, or to taste and according to conditions. Place steak in foil and cover.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet, add minced garlic and chopped scallions, and sauté. Add peas or other veggies, and stir-fry for five minutes, then add a tablespoon of tamari and noodles and mix. Lastly, add sliced strips of the beef for a few minutes to mix and re-heat.

That’s about it — sounds like a job for Merlot, right? But I loved the Lost Orchard pairing, especially cooking outside on a warm summer evening.


See more fun things to do in Sonoma County. 

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