3 A Trip Up to Champlain Orchards & Cidery

A Trip Up to Champlain Orchards & Cidery

Jeren Stoneman

Champlain Cider

Head Cidermaker at Champlain Orchards & Cidery in Shoreham, VT

Years Making Cider: 5

Favorite CO Cider: "Sidria! When I moved out from California, I realized nobody was producing a sangria-style cider. I thought "We grow our own cold weather grapes and apples so why not put them together?". It's a great cider to crack open when barbecuing with buddies."

Favorite Type of Cider: "Dry and acidic! Especially chilled, high acid ciders were made for those hot summer days on the water."

1. What are you drinking when you're not drinking your own cider?
"A good cool weather, California Pinot Noir, Dry Creek Zinfandel, or West Coast IPA."

2. What got you into cider making?
 "I was fresh out of college with a degree in Microbiology and no idea what to do next. On a whim, I approached my neighbor, who owns a small winery specializing in Pinot Noir, about the possibility of me interning that upcoming harvest.  She said yes, and that started me down the path of becoming a nomadic winemaker. I loved making wine but found it too restrictive so I jumped ship and joined the cider industry. Making cider is exactly the same as producing a white wine, but with much more creativity and freedom."

3. Your orchard grows over 100 varieties of apples as well as other fruits. How do you choose which varieties to use when creating a new cider?
"Mother Nature has a hand in deciding which varieties are used in our ciders. For the most part, the base blend stays the same, but it can change depending on how good or bad the harvest of certain key varietals are in any given year. Luckily, with over 100 varietals of apples, we have multiple substitutes that we can blend in to keep the product consistent. As for our single-varietal or true traditional hard ciders, that depends on what is tasting the best post-fermentation. We do a lot of experimenting with all of our types of apples. I ferment anything I can get my hands on to see what happens and what it tastes like."

4. What do you think sets you apart from the many other ciders on the market today?
"Our extensive apple library. I have so many varietals to choose from that it's a bit overwhelming. For instance, just one of the many cider projects I'm working on is teasing out single-varietal ciders. A lot of the apples we grow have never been fermented on a production scale before so we are making exciting discoveries every time a carboy stops fermenting. Of our many varietals, a substantial quantity are traditional heirloom cider apples whose only purpose/use is to become hard cider. A lot of these apples have been lost to time or don't grow in large enough quantities anywhere to make a single batch of cider. I feel like I'm rediscovering our cider heritage, and thoroughly enjoy the prospect of sharing these "lost" apples with the cider community."

5. Ice Cider, freezing apple cider? I haven't heard of this before can you elaborate on this concept and the special line of yours?
"Unfortunately, I'm relatively new to the concept. I never lived in areas with winters that were cold enough to pull it off before now. The basic concept is that apple juice is placed outside in the deepest part of winter to freeze. In Vermont, that doesn't take long. During the freezing process, the water freezes first which concentrates the sugars. The frozen juice is brought inside to melt and the sugar-rich apple syrup is drawn off. The concentrated apple juice is fermented until a desired alcohol and sugar level is reached; then crashed. This generates a product with a higher alcohol and residual sugar content that is perfect as a digestif, similar to a dessert or ice wine."