Castle Hill Cider
Summary: Castle Hill Cider is located on the Castle Hill estate, an historical landmark near Charlottesville, Virginia. Currently the cattle auction barn on the property is under renovation for the location of the cidery, tasting room and an event room. In June 2011 the changes will be completed and the building opened. Bookings for events are already being accepted.
Castle Hill Cider is located on a 600-acre estate. The Castle Hill estate is on the Virginia Landmark Registry and the National Register of Historic Places. A large barn was built on the property in 1998 for use as a cattle auction barn.
The idea of turning the barn into a cidery was the brainstorm of architect and landscape designer, John Rhett. John is also General Manager of Castle Hill Cider. When a suggestion was made to add vineyards to the property, his response was “I like trees better.” The thought quickly turned to orchards. Orchards have already been added to the estate property. John has done his research on cider and is well informed on all aspects of producing cider. John believes that there is a strong potential for cideries in the country.
Stuart Madany is the Production Manager. Stuart has also done his research into the long history of cider. Cider will be bottled in the following weeks. While cider is fermenting and soon will be available for tasting and purchase, the large two-story barn is being renovated. When completed the Castle Hill Cider will be open daily from 11:00 to 5:30, except for Mondays.
When the renovations are completed, the tasting room will be at the end of the building on the first floor; a second tasting room will be above the first. Both tasting rooms have a homey feel with fireplaces and plenty of seating. Visitors may use the second floor tasting room to enjoy a glass of cider. A balcony off the second floor offers views of the country setting. A patio with tables and chairs is adjacent to the first floor tasting room.
A special events area is located on the first floor in the main section with a smaller space on the second floor above it. There are stunning views of the property from both event areas.
At Castle Hill the cider will be produced with two different types of fermentation vessels. The cider maker can ferment cider in stainless steel tanks or in the old style kvevri that have been made in the Republic of Georgia, the claimed birthplace of wine. Research has shown that these kvevri were buried in the ground while wine fermented in them. Today this old wine making technique is used with the same-style kvevri for producing cider. According to John, “The terracotta pots are made from that very same clay and the interior walls are lined with beeswax. There are only three artisans in the world who know how to make kvevri and they are in their 80s. Only a handful of wineries in the world still use this process for making wine.” John believes that Castle Hill is forging a trail for cider makers with the use of kvevri for fermentation. The kvevri are buried several feet below the surface. A terracotta ring extends from the top of the kvevri to several inches above the the soil (see photos). The second photo shows the top of a kvevri with four airlocks.
At this time Castle Hill Cider has eight kvevris buried with apple juice fermenting. It will not be long before fermentation has stopped and the cider will be bottled. We look forward to a future trip to Castle Hill Cider to taste their ciders and photograph the completed facility.
When visiting historic Charlottesville, set aside time for a visit to Castle Hill Cider.
6065 Turkey Sag Road
Keswick, VA 22947
GPS: N38º 05.321' W78º 17.441'
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