From apple to bottle, all right here on our farm.
At Dragon’s Head Cider, we take a traditional approach to cider making. Our focus is on the apple varieties that we use and the quality of the fruit. We love the story that apples alone can tell through cider, altering the flavor by changing the blend of apple varieties that we carefully select. The process is simple and the ingredients list is short. Perhaps we’re a little old fashioned.
Each year, starting in September the harvest begins. Many of the apples in our ciders come from our very own orchard here on Vashon Island. We grow mostly English and French traditional cider apple and perry pear varieties with wonderful names like Kingston Black, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett, Medaille d’Or and Reine de Pomme. The rest of the heirloom apples and crab apples that we use in our ciders are purchased from other small orchards in Washington and Oregon.
During the harvest season we also begin pressing. Our cider press is up and running for about three months every Fall. The fruit that we press ripens at various times in the Fall, and it is essential that we press the apples and pears at the peak of ripeness or after they have been properly “sweated”, which is a process that concentrates their flavors in the cider.
As Winter settles in, and our orchard trees lose their leaves, we put the press away and our tanks full of fresh pressed juice begin their fermentation process. Fermentations happen at low temperatures, slowly over Winter.
Spring arrives, and our orchard begins to blossom. Early Spring is when we begin blending trials for our ciders. Some apples contribute a bite of acidity, some contribute high levels of sugar, some contribute beautiful aromas, and each apple has its own unique flavor profile. The artistry of cider making is finding the perfect balance of these characteristics to create a blend, or occasionally recognize the balance of an individual apple which allows it to stand alone as a single varietal cider.
As Summer arrives, once our blends have been perfected, and the ciders have been allowed to properly mature in our tanks, then we begin bottling our ciders to get them to you.
Our process involves patience. We love that our product is so closely tied to the seasons and the annual cycle of the harvest. Apples pressed each Fall are rarely ready for you to drink before the following Summer – nearly six months later at the earliest.
Careful selection of the fruit, slow fermentations, mastery of the art of blending, and proper maturation of the cider are keys to high quality.