An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

You know I love cider. I spend a dang January living on an idyllic organic family farm and cidery. (Read all about it.) So when I get a chance to taste (drink) it and learn about it, I jump at the chance. I attended a convivial dinner at Jeepney, a very cool Filipino gastropub, in the East Village. There I was introduced to Eleanor Léger. She is the founder of Eden Specialty Ciders in Newport, Vermont.

Not only was I impressed with the ciders, but also with the force of will and dedication Léger has when it comes to making cider in a way that honors the apple, the land, and the tradition. A word that was a theme of the event was “Heritage.” Afterwords it kept swirling around in brain for days. Not in a Citizen Kane “Rosebud” type of way but more thinking about the past, present, and future of hard cider. Regional producers like Eden Specialty Ciders are doing a lot for the, well, heritage of the beverage. So without further adieu, here’s the interview (conducted via email).

Just some of the Eden Specialty Ciders / Photo Ellen Mary Cronin

Q&A With Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

Why is the word “heritage” important when talking about cider? What led that word to be a kind of rallying point for cider producers like Eden? Does it go beyond using heritage apple varieties?

Those of us making these kinds of ciders, from heirloom and tannic apple varieties and made like wine, have been trying to find a name for the category for a long time. Groups among us have tried at various times, including “American fine ciders,” “orchard ciders,” and others.  The United States Association of Cider Makers [USACM] put out an initial set of style guidelines for the industry last fall and created “Heritage Ciders” as a category. We are running with it.

It does go beyond using apple varieties that are grown for cider. It also implies ciders that are produced like wine rather than beer: one pressing per year at harvest time and fermentation and aging to develop the flavors of the fruit. This as opposed to pressing apples out of cold storage every few weeks, fermenting fast, and using a recipe to adjust flavor afterward, followed quickly by packaging, usually within 3-4 weeks of juicing.

With Heritage Ciders it is all about expressing the qualities of the particular fruit. With modern ciders it is about making a consistent product where the flavor is determined by a recipe and post-fermentation adjustments. The economic implications for cost are significant. [See Léger’s post on Cidernomics.]

Heritage Ciders tend to be packaged in 750ml sparkling wine bottles because that is the most efficient form for us, in addition to communicating that the ciders are more like wine than like beer.

An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

Eleanor Léger in the apple orchard.

Is “Heritage” something you want to see codified, defined in a legal manner for use on a label?

The Federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau has to approve all labels for cider that has more than 7% alcohol, which most Heritage Ciders do. The TTB in general does not enforce style definitions, except in a very few cases where they have been forced to by the World Trade Organization (ice wine and ice cider being one of those exceptional cases).  

I don’t think we expect or need the term Heritage to be defined legally, as long as the USACM is willing to help provide and support the use of standards. I think those of us who make Heritage Ciders feel that by listing the names of the apple varieties we use, and describing the methods, that is sufficient to get the point across.  If there are bad actors at some point that try to call a modern cider a heritage cider, I think we will just have to hope that the market will figure it out.

What about something similar to the AVA system that wine has for cider? 

AVA is geography based in this country, not process based.  In Europe it is both geography and process based, and very strict which is too much regulation for producers in the US (and starting to be for some people in France and Italy, too). Geography might tell you something about the fruit, but it doesn’t tell you anything about quality or process. I don’t believe there is help to be had from this discussion.

One of the things you talked about what how difficult it is to know what’s in your cider, how it was made, where it came from. Do you think ingredient labeling is something that will happen in the future? Are you for it? What kinds of things would cider fans be surprised are in their cider? What can you learn about what’s in (or not in) your cider based on the limited information on the front/back label?

An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty CidersI think listing the apple varieties is KEY, and that more and more, Heritage Cider producers are doing that.  I do think ingredient labeling is something that will happen for ciders and wines above 7% abv. Right now, most modern ciders are below 7% and are already subject to ingredient facts labeling requirements from the FDA.  

There is a LOT of squirreliness out there among modern cider labels. Shacksbury cans being an example where labels have talked about “English apples” rather than listing bulk hard cider from Europe as an ingredient. Also, processing aids are not ingredients if the compounds are filtered out of the final product. The things I think most people would be surprised about are water and added sugar/corn syrup/aspartame/other sweeteners, and then all those flavors that come out of bottles.

[Note: I reached out to Shacksbury for a response and received a reply from co-founder Colin Davis. Léger also added further clarification. You can read both at the bottom of this interview.]

How big are cans becoming in cider? What are the advantages? Do you think every cidery (with the means) is going to can their kind of go-to, everyday cider?

Cans are HUGE.  Craft beer made them cool again, they are convenient, easy to carry, no risk of broken glass, and most of all [impact] price point. It’s amazing to me how easily people forget the principles of supply and demand: when price is lower, people buy more.

Among Heritage Cider producers I don’t know how many are going to can. Mobile canners make it easier for smaller producers to do it. I think the price point for heritage cider in a can is still high for the general market, so we will see how well it works.

Is there still a stigma on sweetness in cider among a certain segment of beverage professionals? Like “fine” cider equals bone dry and ones with some sweetness are somehow less serious? 

I think there is still a stigma on cider in general! Sommeliers don’t feel comfortable recommending a cider with a dish on the menu as a great pairing. Juliette Pope was about the only person who could pull it off. And yet Heritage ciders are so versatile with food. It reminds me of high-end restaurants in the 80s who finally had great wine lists but would put a Heineken on the drink list to be able to say “yes we have a beer” to those guests uncouth enough to prefer it.

I guess I’m hoping that if the press and trade adopt the term “Heritage Cider” they can more heartily endorse ciders on the menu that will pair well with food and support the reputation of their establishments and their lists. Every good drink menu should have a “Heritage Ciders” section on it. Not some random cans and bottles mixed into the beer section!! Similarly, Cider should be made part of the wine buyer’s responsibility, not the beer buyer’s.


Response from Shacksbury/clarification from Léger regarding labeling (via email):

Colin Davis, co-founder Shacksbury:

I had a good conversation with Eleanor today to talk through this issue. Deciding what to put on a label is tough, both from a compliance perspective, and from a marketing one as well. It is not our intention to be misleading or evasive. We call out our production partners on our website. We often connect industry friends traveling abroad with Simon (England) and Ainara (Spain). We’ve also mentioned them numerous times in news articles and have done events with them in the US. We love Eleanor and her ciders and think that the lengths that she goes to to educate the consumer (on her label and otherwise) is a boon for the industry.


I want to reach out to say that I do believe that Shacksbury’s label is factually accurate and completely legal. I hope nothing I said implied that it is not the case. I’ve spoken with Colin and I have a better understanding of the challenges they have in how to describe the cider while keeping things simple.

While our objective at Eden is to put as much factual information as possible on our can label, that’s a marketing decision, not a legal one. And even then there are legal issues that can get in the way. We would love to say that there is no added sulfites in our can, but that would have required a lab certification and caused a delay in label processing that we weren’t able to get organized for. We wanted to say that our can was packaged by Green Mountain Beverage, but they wouldn’t agree to it.  So suffice it to say that all beverage producers face challenges, and I regret calling out my friends at Shacksbury in the manner I did in that response.

[For another interview with Léger, see Meg Houston Maker’s article in Terroir Review.]

The post An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Weekend Pairing – Clams and Chorizo and Finn River Farmstead Cider

Cider is quite possibly one of the most underappreciated beverages around. But in that few years there has been nothing short of a revolution in the American Cider industry. I say American, because Europe has a long history of growing great artisanal cider. England, France, Spain all have great cider producing regions, just look to the Basques for culinary inspiration for cooking with cider or Sidra.

America has a long history of producing cider, which in the EU sense I mean hard cider. We all heard the stories of Johnny Appleseed growing up, but what most of us didn’t hear was that Johnny was peddling cider apples, meant for making hard cider. Which makes sense because fermented cider, hard cider was stable and in the times before refrigeration that is what you wanted. With the rise of prohibition the cider industry was virtually destroyed in the US. There have been a number of ciders produced after prohibition but these have been made using second grade dessert apples. Dessert apples are table apples the so called Red Delicious and its kin.
“Up until Prohibition, an apple grown in America was far less likely to be eaten than to wind up in a barrel of cider,” writes Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire. “In rural areas cider took the place of not only wine and beer but of coffee and tea, juice, and even water.”
Cider apples are a different breed, these apples are bitter and tart and have grown to produce ciders that are complex and interesting.

In the US today there is nothing short of a cider renaissance, with cideries opening up at record numbers. Here in Northwest we are at a center of the action, for decades Washington has been synonymous with apples and with over 175,000 acres of orchards we produce over half the apples in the US.
We are blessed with many great cider producers but a personal favorite is Finnriver. Finnriver Cidery was founded in 2008 by Eric Jorgensen and Keith and Crystie Kisler. The roots of the cidery began in friendship and farmland and now, with several thousand heirloom cider trees in the ground, farming and fermenting continue side by side on 80 acres in Chimacum Valley on the Olympic Peninsula.

Weekend Pairing – Clams and Chorizo and Finn River Farmstead Cider
Finnriver is at the forefront of the craft cider revival and farmcrafts a range of traditional, contemporary and seasonal ciders made primarily from organic Washington fruit, along with a line-up of spirited fruit wines.
Erin James in her new book “Tasting Cider –The Cidercraft Guide to the Distinctive Flavors of North American Hard Cider” she shares a recipe from Chef Paul Zerkel for Clams with Chorizo with Sweet Peas and Leeks. You can pair this with a traditional Basque cider or something local like the Finn River Farmstead Cider.
Weekend Pairing – Clams and Chorizo and Finn River Farmstead Cider“An earthy, amber-colored cider with an aroma of warm bread and sweet apple. Offers a rustic taste of the ripe orchard and hearty homestead cider tradition. Nutty with a sharp acidity that balances a gentle tannic finish. Unfiltered lees lend body to this cider.”

Clams and Chorizo with Sweet Peas and Leeks
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, diced and well rinsed
2 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
1 bunch Italian parsley, minced
3 pounds Manila clams, rinsed, scrubbed, and soaked in salt water for 1 hour
1 cup ÆppelTreow Winery & Distillery Appely Doux cider
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
{1/2} cup fresh sweet peas (frozen is optional)
1 baguette, sliced in half lengthwise and buttered

Weekend Pairing – Clams and Chorizo and Finn River Farmstead Cider
1. Preheat the broiler. Set a large pot over medium heat and add the butter. Add the leeks, chorizo, and half of the parsley. Sauté until the leeks are soft and the chorizo is a little crispy, 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the clams and stir gently, until they are well coated. Add the cider and season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and let simmer until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Add the peas during the last minute.
3. While the clams are steaming, place the baguette under the broiler and toast until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Pour the clams and broth into a shallow serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining parsley, slice the bread, and serve hot.
Courtesy Erin James “Tasting Cider”

Join us for an evening of Cider and Pairing With Erin James September 6th

The post Weekend Pairing – Clams and Chorizo and Finn River Farmstead Cider appeared first on Madewine's Sippy Cup - Blog.

Sunset Supper at Pike Place Mkt

Fri. August 12th, 7:30-11pm
General Admission: $150
Purchase tickets HERE

Celebrate the anniversary of Pike Place Market by enjoying the bounty of local food, wine, brews and more! At the height of summer in Seattle we invite you to join us for this special evening at the Market where you will sip and savor your way through many of the region’s best restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries – see a complete list by clicking here! Meet local chefs and winemakers, try your luck in the “Pig Pen”, and dance under the stars to live music.

The Market will transform into the perfect party venue for 1,400 guests and 90+ of our region’s finest restaurants, wineries and breweries. All ticket levels include unlimited food and beverages while they last. CLICK HERE to see pics from a recent Sunset Supper!

Proceeds from this event benefit The Market Foundation’s mission to end hunger, care for the sick, educate kids, and find homes for those without – right here in Pike Place Market. Learn more about our work supporting over 11,000 seniors and families in the Market community.

Look below for your favorite local restaurants or discover something new! Sunset Supper features the best food, spirits, beer, and wine the Northwest has to offer.

Vendor List

Look below for your favorite local restaurants or discover something new! Sunset Supper features the best food, spirits, beer, cider, and wine the Northwest has to offer.


Athenian Seafood Restaurant

Bell + Whete

Bookstore Bar & Café


Café Campagne

Cutters Crabhouse

DeLaurenti Specialty Food and Wine

Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Ivar’s Acres of Clams

Kaspars Special Events and Catering

Le Pichet / Café Presse

Los Agaves

Matt’s in the Market


Paseo Caribbean Sandwiches

Pike Place Chowder


Red Cedar & Sage


Scout at Thompson Seattle

Seatown Seabar

Shaker + Spear

That Brown Girl Cooks!

The Essential Baking Company

Thomas Cuisine Management

Uli’s Famous Sausage

Urbane Restaurant




Bluebird Ice Cream



Macrina Bakery

Seattle Pops

Shug’s Soda Fountain + Ice Cream

Storyville Coffee Company

Whidbey Island Ice Cream


Brews & Beverage

Number 6 Cider

Black Raven Brewing Company

DRY Sparkling

Elysian Brewing Company

Fremont Brewing Company

Georgetown Brewing Company

Hellbent Brewing Company

Iron Horse Brewery

Jones Soda Co.

Lowercase Brewing

Old Stove Brewing


Rachel’s Ginger Beer


The Pike Brewing Company

The Shrubbery/Seattle Distilling

Woodinville Ciderworks



3 Howls Distillery

Copperworks Distilling

Fremont Mischief Distillery

Heritage Distilling Company

Novo Fogo

Sidetrack Distillery



Alexandra Nicole Cellars

Array Cellars

Armstrong Family Winery

Basel Cellars

Bunnell Family Cellar

Cascade Valley Wine Country

Chandler Reach Vineyards

Coral Wines

Columbia Winery

Des Voigne Cellars

DiStefano Winery

Diversion Wine

Elephant Seven Wine

Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery

Hoodsport Winery

Lauren Ashton Cellars

Lodmell Cellars

Mackey Vineyards

Naches Heights Vineyard

Naked Winery

Patterson Cellars

Portlandia Vintners

Reininger Winery

Robert Ramsay Cellars

Seven Hills Winery

Structure Cellars

The Walls Vineyard

Torii Mor Winery

Tranche Cellars

Treveri Cellars

Woodinville Wine Country

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The sun sets over Jamesport Vineyards (photo via Ron Goerler’s Facebook page) NEWS VitisGen – 1/12/2016 VIDEO: Dr. Anna Katharine Mansfield, Associate Professor of Enology at Cornell, discusses where color comes from in European and hybrid grapes. – 1/21/2016 Things may be fairly quiet in wine country during winter, but it’s actually a great time to talk with the producers. NorthForker – 1/21/2016 A peek behind the curtain and a look at what’s cooking inside of Wölffer Kitchen. Finger Lakes Times – 1/25/2016 New hard cider maker fermenting away and prepares to set up a New York beverage shop in Geneva.…

Weekly New York Wine News — November 23, 2015

Photo courtesy of Nancy Irelan, Red Tail Ridge NEWS Finger Lakes Wine – 11/15/2015 Meet the new Finger Lakes winemaker Nova Cadamatre, who comes from a big wine business to her own small winery. Leisure Group Travel – 11/18/2015 Canandaigua gets recognition as a well rounded tourist destination with wine and food at its hub. Henrietta Post – 11/20/2015 Finger Lakes Community College wine program is up and running in style, and will soon be producing commercial products made by students. Buffalo News – 11/20/2015 Five upstate NY wines to pair with the feasts…all under $20. WCAX – 11/20/2015 The…

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Albert Wilklow and Devin Britton, founders of Bad Seed Cider Company, love their work. They also love family and friends, and seeing familiar faces at the NY Greenmarkets where they sell their well-crafted hard ciders and in the newly opened Bad Seed Tap Room. This take on life drives their passion for creating excellent dry hard cider and enjoyable experiences for their many fans. I had the opportunity to taste and feel the excitement of Bad Seed first hand on a recent press junket sponsored by the Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance during the 2015 Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits and…

Washington Cider: A Visit to Seattle Cider Company and Nashi Orchards

Washington Cider: A Visit to Seattle Cider Company and Nashi Orchards

Recently took a media tour focused on cider in the Seattle area. And recorded my thoughts on a couple stops via conversations with my podcast producer, Tina Nole. She’s also at the helm of Seattle Kitchen, where you can hear our cider chats. Our first is on a bus post-visit to Seattle Cider Company in SoDo. (As in South of Downtown…formerly South of the Dome before the dome got blown up…on purpose.) Check out The Woods, the spacious tap room Seattle Cider Company and Two Beers Brewing share.

Considering Nashi Orchards on Vashon Island, prepare to be regaled by thoughts concerning a charming afternoon respite and unique, pear-based ciders. Be sure and stop by next time you’re on Vashon Island for the weekend or a Saturday/Sunday day trip.

Here’s the show, where Tina calls me both “fabulous” and “intelligent” in the same sentence. I also extoll the virtues of shredded hash browns as the bus passes by one of my favorite spots for breakfast in Seattle. Our segment begins at the 8:12 mark, but please listen to the whole show or Tina will take away my hash browns.

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