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Finger Lakes Cider Trail gets ready for busy summer: “We have world class cider”

  • / Updated:
  • Josh Durso 

This week the Finger Lakes Cider Trail will celebrate its official launch.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Cider Week just wrapped up, and for an industry that’s been growing rapidly over the last several years in the region – having a trail is a welcomed change.

The Finger Lakes Cider Trail connects visitors to orchards, cider makers, and more. There are a number of tasting opportunities on the west side of Cayuga Lake, including Bellwether Hard Cider and Black Diamond Farm and Cidery, Finger Lakes Cider House, and Blackduck Cidery.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

In Geneva, Lake Drum Brewing represents that portion of the region- with the trail already planning its expansion. By fall Apple Barrel Orchards and Cidery in Penn Yan and Sylvan Cider in Hammondsport will be part of the new organization. The trail also features locations in Ithaca and the Southern Tier, such as South Hill Cider, Redbyrd & New York Cider Company.

Erica Merwin from Black Diamond, who spoke with us about the launch of the of the trail, said watching cider’s popularity grow regionally-and-beyond over the last several years has been interesting.

“It’s been great to watch, also a little bit like ‘Ah, the more people drink cider, the more they know about it’,” Merwin explained. That growth of knowledge means that for small orchards and cider producers that there’s a big opportunity. “It becomes interesting when we can teach people more about the fruit, our process, and uniqueness of the industry.”

In many ways, cider has become as mainstream as wine or craft beer. Especially in a region like the Finger Lakes, which is rich with apple history. Merwin says requests for tours and tasting room experiences increase dramatically as spring turns to summer. “Cider is an all year drink. The specific types of ciders a person might drink evolves throughout the year, but there’s a great variety of heavy and light ciders that make it an excellent drink during the summer,” she said. “It’s a huge misconception that cider is just for fall. And obviously, that’s because apples come out in the fall, but that’s one of the beautiful things about cider is that they can carry the apples through any time of year.”

Another factor that helps local cider producers is the currently-thin competition from national brands. Visit any supermarket and you’ll find a few cider options, but compared to the volume of beer being sold it’s notable. As Merwin explained in our conversation, it gives local producers a real opportunity to stand out regionally and beyond.

“Standing out is everything, right? We have world class cider; and that’s not hyperbole, we really do,” she continued, noting that many cider producers are selling and distributing products all over the U.S.

Looking ahead to this current season and the debut of the FLX Cider Trail, we asked Merwin her thoughts on the biggest misconception people have about the beverage. That comes down to sweetness.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that all cider is sweet,” she added. “A lot of the cider out there is pretty sweet; and one of the beautiful things about the Finger Lakes cideries is that we have such an amazing breadth of fruit available that we don’t tend to have to douse it in sugar. We have good fruit to begin with; and that allows us to let it speak for itself. It doesn’t need a bunch of sugar.”

There will be sweet options, less sweet options, and something for just about everyone on the Trail this year. But one thing is for sure, Merwin says. “Cider is nuanced and complex and has so much to offer.”

To learn more about the FLX Cider Trail click here.