Oregon’s fertile Hood River Valley is rapidly becoming a hard and sweet cider hotspot, thanks to the area’s 15,000 acres of orchards and a new generation of innovative cidermakers. Located about 60 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge, the valley is now home to eleven (and counting) working craft cideries, many of which welcome you to stop by and sample the fruits of their labor.
At Draper Girls Country Farm, enjoy sweet or fresh (non-alcoholic) cider as well as the hard stuff. Owner and orchardist Theresa Draper specializes in making the only licensed, unpasteurized sweet cider in the valley. All fruits are grown and cold-pressed by hand at the farm; flavors include apple, cherry and pear. More ciders offerings and a tasting room are currently in the works.
Fox-Tail Cider is more brash and European in style; hard ciders are dry with low carbonation and are fermented with farmhouse and commercial yeasts. In their family-friendly taproom, you’ll find Fox-Tail’s five standard ciders on tap, including a double-fermented Irish-style cider and a raspberry-infused cider, along with seasonal offerings.
Mountain View Orchards grows more than 80 varieties of apples and pears. This 53-acre multi-generational family farm has offered homemade sweet ciders at their seasonal farm stand since the 1970s. They are now taking steps to make hard cider as well, breaking ground this summer on a new cider production building.
Rack & Cloth is named for the traditional press that co-owner and cidermaker Silas Bleakley uses to crush the apples for his dry, elegant ciders. The juice is then fermented in oak barrels for up to three months, allowing the flavors to evolve. Sample Bleakley’s two flagship ciders at the Rack & Cloth Mercantile, a cheery yet casual tasting room located in downtown Mosier.
Gorge Cyder House at the Ovino Market has sold hand-crafted old world-style ciders since 2010. Owner and cidermaker Stefan Guemperlein favors natural fermentation and a long aging process, at least one year. The results are dry, full-bodied ciders, including the Knee Drop Hopped, a hop-infused cider that has a distinctly nutty finish.
Gorge White House is a family-owned, century-old working farm named for its distinctive c. 1908 Dutch colonial house. You can sample their hard ciders and perries in the newly renovated beer and cider tasting room. Styles and flavors range in sweetness and finish, from the bright yet dry New Town Apple to the sweet and refreshing Lemon Perry.
This article was originally published in the September/October issue of Northwest Travel & Life Magazine.