This Cider House Rules
Imagine this: Five great cideries collaborating at a gorgeous cider house on a sprawling 69-acre farm a short drive from NYC and Western Massachusetts. Eighteen ciders available by the glass, including seven on tap.
For the cider fanatic, it sounds too good to be true. But it's a reality, and a delicious one. Owned by husband-and-wife team Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller, Good Life Farm is a certified organic farm growing 39 varietals of cider apples, a cidery and the home of the Finger Lakes Cider House. Miller and his brother Jimmy press apples in the basement of the cider house.
Set on a farm in Interlaken, New York, alongside one of the region's eponymous slender Finger Lakes, the space has a chic-barn sort of feel, with lots of wood and a peaked roof. Homey touches will be nostalgia-inducing for any New Englander who grew up with the region's ubiquitous cider houses: There's apple-scented hand wash in the bathroom and a mini farmers' market at the entrance, featuring local families' vegetables, apple butters and wild plum preserves. You pay via an honor system.
The focal point here is the cider, not the food (although it's good, there's a limited menu). Look for Good Life's own, including the brothers' most popular cider, the sweet, easy-drinking Honeoye, which is available as part of a five-tastes-for-five-dollars afternoon happy hour. But Madden, Miller, and the bartenders—some of whom are cider makers, themselves—are just as happy to espouse the virtues of the four other cideries—Black Diamond, Redbyrd, Eve's and South Hill, asking about your taste and walking you through the menu.
As is the norm these days, all the food on the short, snacky menu, curated by chef Katie Church, is hyper-local. Absolutely nothing is brought in from outside the Finger Lakes region. This means there's no black pepper. This is good and bad: Church's menu is simple, and a creamy liver mousse made from Good Life's own turkeys is fantastic and doesn't miss pepper—but a delightful apples-and-greens salad could have benefited from a hit of it.
Really, though, you're here for the ciders and the neighborhood-y vibe. So, make small talk—the locals are chatty and might reveal, say, that Rod Serling, inventor of The Twilight Zone, is buried in Interlaken—and sip your way through the ciders. They're helpfully sectioned into fizz- dry and off-dry Champagne styles, semi-sweet and sweeter ciders and "specialty ciders" that typically include a few more viscous "ice wine" styles.
Though the menu changes frequently, keep an eye peeled for Eve's Cidery's Northern Spy—a very dry, Champagne-like style unusual in its single-apple-varietal approach—which happens to be a favorite of wine sommeliers, such as Michelle Biscieglia of New York restaurant Blue Hill. Among the sparklers, Good Life's Barrel Rye is a bit more flavorful, with a smoky, almost bacon-y profile that complemented the house-made salami.
Among the sweeter options, there's Rustica, from Eve's, which is fantastic, reminiscent of an off-dry Riesling and has a bouquet the menu correctly describes as being of "apple butter and vanilla." Good Life's Workhorse cider delivered on the promise of its name, and is maybe the most food-friendly of the bunch.
On Friday nights, when Church offers a more extensive menu, a local musician plays in the corner of the room, so you can order a charcuterie plate and a glass of your favorite cider. Then kick back, listen to some cover songs and sober up over some of Good Life's kick-ass local ginger beer or switchel.
We won't blame you if you start perusing Finger Lakes real estate on your way home.
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