On Sponsoring New York Cider Week
It might not make a lot of sense for a behind-the-scenes industry consultant to sponsor public events across a state in which said consultant doesn’t even reside. And, on the surface, you’d be right. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s a method to my madness, though. Let me explain.
My personal history with New York Cider Week goes back a decade. In my time at New Jersey distributor Hunterdon Brewing Co, I managed their cider portfolio from 2009-2017. It was November 2009 when I first tasted Farnum Hill Ciders, meeting Louisa Spencer and Corrie Wolosin at a table downstairs in Grand Central Station. They literally hopped on a train to head back to NH when we were done with our tasting.
In 2011, I attended the Glynwood Farm event, “A Spirited Tasting: Celebrating the food and drink of Le Perche (Normandy) and the Hudson Valley”. With local food and drink from each region, there were ciders (including Calvados and Pommeau!), meats, cheeses and even fresh bread from a local bakery. A good time was had by all. I distinctly remember tasting Eden Ice Ciders for the first time here and complaining to Eleanor that I wish I had the market to sell her ciders in New Jersey.
My first Astor Center tasting was in 2012, where dozens of producers from the Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes and other areas of New England descended to present their ciders to invited trade accounts and distributors. This was where I first tasted Eve’s, Steampunk, Naked Flock and many of the other earlier pioneers. I was not disappointed to be tasting Eden Ice Ciders again. I attended the Astor Center tasting every year for the next three or four years.
Each year, there were other events that were a part of NYC Cider Week that I attended as my schedule permitted. In subsequent years, I brought co-workers and clients to Cider Week events to promote the cider category and feature the quality brands that were part of our portfolio.
My motives in all this effort were two-fold. One was certainly to help support the sales of the brands in my portfolio and even to potentially attract new brands. We did end up bringing Eden aboard - finally - in 2015. The other motive was to show my colleagues and customers that a wide variety of cider had a place in the New Jersey market.
In 2015, I planted the seeds for Jersey Cider Week, by planning Jersey City Cider Night the day before NY Cider Week events started. Jersey City was (and still is) the right place in NJ to support cider events in multiple locations on the same evening. By running these events the day before, I hoped to get a few producer folks that might already be on their way to the area to travel a day earlier and be present at our events. There was also the benefit of intentionally not interfering with or trying to compete with NYC events.
Jersey Cider Week happened just once, in 2016. I scheduled it in May, well away from everything else related to any New York Cider Weeks. There were a number of cider-related events throughout the state, but the reception was not as glorious as I had hoped. I was considering running it again in 2017, but I made my exit from Hunterdon mid-year for a variety of reasons.
I was invited to Lower East Cider Fest in 2018 and then volunteered at that same event the following year while attending other NYC Cider Week events as my schedule allowed. It was an opportunity to interact with potential clients and prove I was still not afraid to get my hands dirty in support of the industry that is their livelihood.
Before the pandemic hit last year, I was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion at the inaugural Northeastern Cider Conference. When the world first started ending on Friday the 13th, I remember wondering if the conference would still be held two weeks later in Albany. Well, here we are, more than 13 months later, and it may not be safe to hold this conference for another 13 months. We just don’t know.
So that brings us to this year’s Cider Weeks. I think the move to hold them statewide five months apart is brilliant. We know that the more time goes by, the more people will be vaccinated and the less dangerous it will be to gather at these events. By not pinning one region to a time when less people will be vaccinated, each region gets a chance to maximize their events and revenue from Cider Week 2021.
For me, sponsorship of NY Cider Week 2021 is a step forward. I believe in Cider as an industry and beverage category, regardless of the package. I believe in New York Cider as a cornerstone of the Cider industry. I believe some of the best apples for making cider are grown in the Hudson Valley, Lake Champlain and Finger Lakes regions. I believe there should be the cider equivalent of AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). They should be called ARAs - Apple Rootstock Areas - and should identify the effects of the local climate on apple growth as well as the range of acidity, tannins and sugars.
After all, we all know that a single varietal Newtown Pippin grown in the Central Delaware Valley ARA tastes completely different than a Newtown Pippin grown in the Finger Lakes ARA. Oh - we don’t know that yet? Well, maybe someday we will. And if it’s going to happen in New York, I want to be a force behind that. What better way to do that than to plant the seeds now and sponsor New York Cider Week?
I’ve believed in Cider for more than a decade now. I’m going to continue believing in it - and supporting it - until Cider is truly established as a separate beverage category.