Newport Vineyards Rhody Coyote hard cider a local option for fall

As I was thinking about what to write for October, something I’ve enjoyed most of my life immediately came to mind: cider. I wrote about cider years ago here, so I thought before I get into red wines for winter, it seemed like a good time to revisit. As the leaves change and the fire in the fireplace ignites, it’s the perfect cool weather treat! After all, apples and New England go hand in hand. Cider is a close relative of wine, the apple being to cider what the grape is to wine. Both go through the same process, both are fermented drinks, both are food safe. Chilled plain non-alcoholic cider is delicious on its own, but hot cider with cinnamon, brown sugar and cloves – with or without alcohol – is even better, especially on cooler days.

The aroma of a simmering pot of cider prepares you for the holidays, the transition from the bounty of New England farms and orchards to the expectation of winter. I’ve experimented with different forms of alcohol in cider, but have always found rum to be an all-around favorite. Another good match is Tuaca, the vanilla citrus liqueur from Italy. Top a cup with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and you have a liquid hot apple pie!

But for this article, I want to focus on hard cider. Hard cider can be made from apples, pears, and occasionally quince. These ciders have enjoyed a renaissance in the United States. At one time, in colonial times, it was a very popular drink, even pilgrims drank cider because apples were plentiful. Millennials adopt them a lot and are the source of a large part of the consumption. A few reasons; alcohol is usually around 4-5%, if they drink one that is carbonated they are not as carbonated as beers. Ciders are a little healthier than beers or wines, lower in carbohydrates and calories. And the cider is gluten-free, a quality that many crave. Looks like cider checks a lot of boxes for millennials!

Sales of hard cider explode. There are many on the market and a few immediately come to mind. England is the largest consumer of hard ciders per capita in the world. Bulmer’s and Samuel Smith’s Organic, both from England, are top notch. Sam Smith is one of my favorites. It has an accessible flavor, light in body and crunchy. It also goes well with many foods, but roast pork is a classic with it. Then there’s one of New England’s favorites, Angry Orchard from our New England brewer, Sam Adams, as well as Harpoon Craft Cider. All this goes very well with food and can also be used as an appetizer, to cleanse your palate. Think again of pork dishes and apples! There’s the old favorite Magner’s of Ireland which can be found in many of our local Irish pubs around town. Stella Artois, the great Belgian cider-certified brewer. It has elegant packaging and touts using hand-picked apples from Belgium. It’s a cool, refreshing European-style cider, paired with Manchego cheese, Waldorf salad and Belgian endives.

Many of these ciders can now be found on tap in restaurants, which has been happening in England and Ireland for years. You should definitely try this form. And like I said, pairing with food is something a lot of us don’t think about, but cider has its place.

This all brings me back to Aquidneck Island. Agriculture is strong in our state and our island. Two farms in particular on Aquidneck grow apples, Rocky Brook Farm on Wapping Road and Sweet Berry Farm on Mitchell’s Lane, both in Middletown. I just ate Sweet Berry apples, made a turnover and also nibbled on them.

A bottle of Rhody Coyote from Newport Vineyards.

But we are talking about hard cider, made from their apples. Drive to East Main Road and stop at Newport Vineyards. They’ve been making a hard cider for years now, Rhody Coyote. But what interests me is that they have something relatively new — Mr. Green. Using RI Green Apples, they made a hard, dry, unfiltered 10% ABV hard sparkling cider. The only problem at Newport Vineyards is that harvesting and producing apples often clashes with grapes and winemaking, so given the choice of what rules the barn, wine wins out, but the brothers managed to make the cider despite scheduling problems.

I also want to mention those who can stop at our three county wineries. Harvesting, milling and fermentation are all underway, it’s an exciting time for everyone. Buying from these farmers helps support our farms and preserve green spaces, which I love!

This month’s PSA: While the hospitality industry on the island is slowing down, as usual, the industry continues to be plagued by product shortages as well as labor shortages -work. I strongly suggest as I have done in the past that you make reservations with those who accept them. This helps them as they can manage their space properly as many tables cannot be serviced due to lack of staff. Again, patience is a virtue, so keep that in mind if you’re not just waiting for a table, but once seated waiting for your food. We are all well aware of what has happened to us over the past few years and we all need to feel bad and relax as best we can. The employees we have working in the industry are very important to the future of the industry, so please bear with them.

Next month we will be talking about turkey!!

Len Panaggio is a wine consultant and former director of corporate beverages for Newport Harbor Corp. Send your comments and suggestions to [email protected] The Wine Press appears monthly in The Daily News and online at newportri.com.

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