Cider: Not Just For Apple-Picking Season

If you’re looking for a change from the famed wineries of the North Fork, you’re in luck: Woodside Orchards, a family-owned orchard in Aquebogue, is now selling hard cider! Woodside Orchards, which officially opened for the season Memorial Day weekend, began selling hard cider last year as a way to bring in business during the off-season. I spoke to one of the owners, Bob Gammon, about the decision to start making and selling hard cider.

“The business is primarily an apple orchard, and we do pick apples and all that stuff. We had the property and for apple season, we’re only open three to four months out of the year and we thought, ‘What else can we do?’” Gammon said. Gammon and his brother, Scott Gammon, are co-owners of Woodside Orchards, and have another location in Jamesport that was founded in the early 1980s. The Gammon brothers purchased the Aquebogue location eight years ago, and used to open for their busy season in mid-August. Now, with their hard cider, they open for summer in May.

During its launch last year, the hard cider was a big hit with customers, and is now a permanent fixture at Woodside Orchards. “Our goal with hard cider is just to complement the existing business we already have, not to really get into distributorships and wholesaling and all that,” Bob says, although, he adds, they may wholesale in limited locations for self-promotion purposes.

Woodside Orchards currently offers four varieties of hard cider: Traditional, Traditional Sweet, Apple Raspberry and Cinnamon Apple. A fifth variety, Apple Cherry, is in the works. The Traditional and Traditional Sweet are their most popular flavors; both are very similar in taste, with subtle differences, and the sweetness of the latter is not overpowering. Apple Raspberry, which has a distinct semi-sweet, crisp flavor to it, was just released, so there is not a gauge for its popularity yet (although it was my favorite and I even bought a growler of the stuff!). Gammon’s personal favorites are the Traditional and the Apple Raspberry.

Gammon confirmed rumors that Woodside Orchards was going to start making apple wine, and said that they are waiting to have their label approved; the wine is expected to be released within 30 to 60 days. In case you were wondering about the difference between hard cider and wine, Gammon explained, “Basically, the difference between the apple wine and the cider from a legal standpoint is that anything above 7% alcohol has to be called a wine, and anything below that is considered a hard cider.” Woodside Orchards’ hard cider contains 6.5% alcohol.

Gammon is in the process of obtaining a satellite license to sell hard cider at the Jamesport location. He acknowledged the challenges he faces making a seasonal product in only one location: “The drawback is that the cycle takes about six weeks, from pressing the juice to fermenting it to filtering it and then there’s another two weeks of a carbonation process, so it’s a six-to-eight-week process from beginning to end, so what you tend to see here is what we have. We only have the apples available from August through probably March. So if you do the math, you can only turn the tanks maybe five times, so that’s the volume you have. It’s not like beer, where you can just add more water and add more hops in, so the amount of product you have is limited to the amount of tanks you have.”

In addition to the hard cider, Woodside Orchards also offers non-alcoholic apple cider and baked goods, as well as 30 different varieties of apples.

For a tasting, a customer pays $6 for a glass, which then gets filled up a quarter of the way four times with each flavor. If a customer decides he or she wants to buy a growler of his or her favorite flavor, the customer gets a $4 credit towards a growler (and gets to keep the glass!).

Woodside Orchards’ Aquebogue location is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m., May through August, and will be open seven days a week come September. woodsideorchards.com

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