Sutton Cellars Delicious Ciders | San Francisco, CA

A battle of apple versus grape

One general rule of thumb: If Thomas Jefferson drank it, it's good enough for you.

After all, Jefferson imported wine from Bordeaux in the late 18th century.

Jefferson was also a fan of hard cider, which in recent years has regained its reputation as a worthy libation that's as American as, well, apple pie.

Winemaker Carl Sutton may be best known for his Carignane and tawny-hewed vermouth, but this year he has jumped on the apple wagon. The inaugural, 1,000-case lot of Sutton hard cider is made with the juice from a blend of organic Sonoma-grown Jonathan, Golden and Red Delicious, Gala and Pink Lady apples.

After four weeks in a combination of old French oak and stainless steel, the resulting hay-colored liquid is bone-dry and tannic, with high acidity. As is the custom with farmhouse ciders, the cider is flat, unfiltered and unsulfured.

The cider is available on draft ($6 for 14 ounces) at the Alembic, and Magnolia Pub is serving a cask-conditioned version ($7 for 13 ounces). Bottles ($6 for 22 ounces) are available at Rainbow Grocery and at the weekly Jug Sundays at Sutton Cellars' Dogpatch headquarters.

"This is like the cider that was made before technology," says Sutton. We have a feeling President Jefferson would approve.