Yankee Folly Cidery in New Paltz joins the Hudson Valley hard-cider market

by SHARYN FLANAGAN on Jul 7, 2014 • 6:30 am

Everybody knows not to judge a book by its cover. Labels and fancy packaging, same thing. Still, it’s hard to resist picking up a bottle of the hard cider produced by the new Yankee Folly Cidery when its label is so striking, a depiction of vibrant red apples and green leaves in a crisply rendered botanical illustration juxtaposed with vivid red lettering.

Bottle in hand, the next thing one notices is the clarity of the cider: a crystal clear, pale gold liquid without a sign of cloudiness. “Liquid Gold. Drink it Cold.” That’s the cidery slogan.

The product strives for a taste that’s crisp and refreshing, with a pure apple flavor balanced between dry and sweet, something that would go well with foods one might otherwise choose say a Riesling to accompany.

Yankee Folly Cidery, launched in April, is the joint venture of business partners Edmund Tomaselli and Eric James. Their hard cider is produced with apples from the Jenkins & Lueken orchards on Yankee Folly Road in New Paltz. In the 1940s James’s grandfather, Jack Lueken, started the orchard business with his partner Raymond Jenkins. The orchards that began with a few trees now produce more than 40 varieties of apple, including the Golden Russet that Lueken brought with him to this country from Germany. Juice from that apple is now part of the blend of apple varieties selected and pressed to create the hard cider produced by Lueken’s grandson and Tomaselli, set up in what was once a chicken coop.

James runs the farm at Jenkins & Lueken Orchards, so he didn’t have a lot of time on his hands to take on another business. But Tomaselli was persistent. He had his heart set on using the apples from the New Paltz orchard, and finally enlisted James as his business partner.

Cider with raisins in it

Born in Brooklyn but raised in Woodstock, Tomaselli said he grew up with a father who, like many Italians, knew how to make wine. With the influence of all the apple-growing in the Hudson Valley, that endeavor turned into cider-making.

“He used to make cider in kegs, and put raisins in it. And you couldn’t get information back then the way you can now,” Tomaselli said. “You knew somebody who knew something … and it sometimes came out okay, and oftentimes didn’t come out that good.”

Fast forward many years. After time spent working out of the country and then in movie and television production in New York City, Tomaselli found himself spending more and more time in the Hudson Valley again. He started thinking about making wine and cider, and remembered something his father had told him. “He always said, The best juice comes from Jenkins & Lueken Orchards. So that’s where I went to get the apple juice, and I met Eric.”

They started talking, says Tomaselli, and “bit by bit,” influenced by the growing popularity of handcrafted hard cider in the Hudson Valley, the two men joined forces two and a half years ago, forming Yankee Folly Cidery.

“But it took more than 100 fermentations to get to that point,” Tomaselli said. “I did probably close to 70 fermentations in my garage, and then we did another 30 or 40 here. It’s very difficult to ferment apple juice. People think it’s easy, but it’s very tough. Especially if you want to make this kind of product. It’s a very crisp, clean, clear product. A lot of craft cider is cloudy because they don’t do the same process that we do.”

 

The blend of apple varieties used is the same in each batch, so the flavor from bottle to bottle is consistent. The varieties chosen to create the cider’s distinctive taste were selected by James according to the characteristics that Tomaselli wanted to see reflected in the finished product.

The business is a seven-day-a-week venture overseen in large part by Tomaselli. James continues to manage the orchards in addition to his contributions to the cidery. Over the months to come, the partners would like to broaden their distribution, with Tomaselli in the process of speaking with distributors to do just that. “The cider market is really, really big now,” he said, “and just a small amount of people are into it, relatively small people like us who are just trying to get something good out there.”

3000 bottles a week

At the present time, it takes six to eight weeks to complete the production process of a batch of cider. They can produce up to a couple of hundred cases per week, which amounts to almost 3000 bottles, Tomaselli said. As demand for the cider increases, they plan to add more fermentation tanks and bring in hired staff. Right now, though, it’s just the two men with some assistance from friends and family on bottling days.

Long-term plans include varying the styles of the cider they produce and getting their product in as many stores and restaurants as they can. Although the cider was just launched a few months ago, it’s already carried by a number of local retailers and restaurants. New Paltz locations include Main Course, New Paltz Wine & Spirits, The Village Tea Room and Gomen Kudasai Noodle restaurant. The cider can also be found close by at Hudson Valley Wine Market in Gardiner, Accord Wines & Spirits and Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits.

Other locations in Kingston, Saugerties, Woodstock, Rhinebeck and more are listed on the website at www.yankeefollycidery.com. Those lovely botanical illustrations on the labels were done by Woodstock-based artist June Robinson of The Laboratory of June. For more information, call 255-1155 or email info@yankeefollycidery.com.

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