By Cindy Rinker
Join the Cider Revival with a special week for cider recognition Nov. 15 through Nov. 24. #ciderweekva.
In the past few years, cider has exploded in Virginia which makes sense since the Old Dominion ranks 11th in the nation in apple production, harvesting 225 million pounds of apples in 2017.
Bruce and Amy Helsley of The Winery at Kindred Pointe near Mount Jackson did not start out producing cider. They have been creating fine wines for years and opened the winery in 2013. “We started making cider to have an alternative to our mostly dry wine available,” said Bruce. “We make a beer style cider that is carbonated.”
Their cider, dubbed Life is Hard Cider, runs the gamut from sweet to dry. They do not have orchards at Kindred Pointe, but all apples are locally sourced and all ciders are made at the Pointe by Bruce.
Much of the raw apple juice comes from Red Delicious apples, but Bruce experiments with other varieties, adding them to the Red Delicious to achieve a certain taste. He is learning as he goes and supplements his knowledge by visiting other cideries and reading.
Like elsewhere in the state, Kindred Pointe has seen a significant increase in interest in their cider. Bruce has some theories about cider popularity. “I think part of it may be health-conscious people. It is gluten-free. They know where the product comes from. Many people today want to know more about the source of their food and drink. There also is less alcohol and it is easier to drink.”
There is something about the approachability of cider, Bruce said. “Wine has a more sophisticated reputation. Cider is down to earth, less intimidating,” Bruce added.
Their approach is with humor as well. They have a cartoon horse on each label doing something fun related to the name of the cider. The Life is Hard line of ciders are:
Hard Times – a classic semi-dry.
Hard Luck – a classic semi-sweet.
Hard Core – a traditional sweet.
Hard Up – a super sweet cider made with Belgian Candi Sugar.
Cherry Bomb – a taste of cherry soda up front with a slow onset of habanero for a nice kick.
Hoppy – a cider infused with hops to give a citrus flavor.
Cinniful – a cinnamon flavored brew.
Cider Master’s Cut – a cider reminiscent of a fine bourbon, yet the apple flavor is still there.
The ciders are available in half and full flights, by the glass, pitcher and growler. For the uninitiated, a growler is a container (a kind of jug) that is used for “to-go” purchases mostly. Flights are samplers of the ciders.
Like the wine they make, the cider is also fermented at Kindred Pointe. In colonial America, fermented cider was the drink of choice. Though their cider is brewed in a beer style, there is no grain involved. It takes longer to make cider because it is all about time. There is no cooking or fast way to create quality cider.
“This is the third year we have made cider,” Amy said, noting that they seemed to pick the perfect time to add cider to their options.
The couple, who have been together 30 years, still have day jobs. The Winery is open Thursday through Sunday most of the year, though they do reduce hours in the winter. The winery was a barn where they boarded horses at one time. You can still spot traces of its former existence in the cozy interior set up for long chats in comfy chairs. They do host events, but they do not provide food.
While they have returning customers, who are local to the area, the Helsleys get visitors from “all over the place,” Amy said, attributing that to being part of the Virginia Wine Trail which helps tourists “sip their way across the Commonwealth.”
To find out more about Life is Hard Cider, go to kindredpointe.com and to find out about cider-related events during Cider Week, go to ciderweekva.com. Make sure you take time to join the Cider Revival!
Cindy Earehart Rinker is a writer and storyteller with Write Words of Shenandoah County.