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Wintry Ice An Eden For Cider Wine

For some of us, spring can’t come too soon. But this cold winter has created the ideal conditions for making a sweet dessert beverage. It’s called ice cider and it’s fermenting right now in a a cellar in Newport.

In 2007, Albert and Eleanor Leger were looking to start a food business in the  Northeast Kingdom, where Eleanor’s roots runs deep. If there’s one plentiful ingredient here, it’s ice. Combine that with another reliable staple—apples--and you get Eden Ice Cider. Eleanor Leger says the recipe works best in the freeze-melt cycle we’ve been seeing this year.

“This has been the best winter ever. It’s been so cold, which is great for ice cider and then also the fact that we had a warm period in January and then it got really cold again and then it’s kind of been doing that, is extremely helpful to our process,” she explains.

In late Fall, the Legers harvest several varieties of apples from the thousand trees they planted on their farm in West Charleston. They also buy fruit from other farmers. After it gets pressed, the cider stays in cold storage until the first frost. That’s when it goes outside for about two months. Freezing and melting concentrate sugar and flavor.

Back inside, the liquid essence drizzles out, leaving about 75 per cent of the icy block behind.

“We take that delicious concentrate and bring it here to Newport and put it in our tanks and start it fermenting,” Eleanor Leger says.

"This is the best winter ever." - Eleanor Leger, Eden Ice Cider

That cycle is just beginning now. On one sunny, arctic day Jeremie d’Hauteville, a oenologist from Canada, is siphoning foamy liquid out of the vats, squirting it in a glass, sniffing it, and rolling it around in his mouth.

“No bad tasting, bad flowers,” he pronounces. “I can sleep well tonight.”

In a few months, he says, the ice cider will be a fine dessert wine or aperitif.

“It’s not tasting like only apple, but it’s more complex,” he says.

Between now and bottling time, Albert Leger will do even more tasting, just about every day.

“Tough job,” he says, smiling. 

“At the end, it’s your palate that tells you the right balance between sweetness, acidity, and alcohol.”  

Upstairs in Newport’s new Tasting Center, where a variety of artisan foods and drinks from local providers are for sale, Kim Sorber and Jacki Meehan, from Fairfield, are doing some sampling of their own. They like two  Eden Ice Ciders—Classic, and a newer flavor, Honey Crisp.

“I mean, they’re both very sweet but if you like Honey Crisp Apples…”

Then, she says, you’ll love this stuff.

That kind of tasting and telling is what Eleanor Leger says the business needs to grow its customer base. Eden Ice Cider is showing up on some of Vermont’s most sought after menus and shops. It’s distributed in 20 states, and it’s getting kudos in food magazines, as well.

Eden is not the only ice cider available in Vermont. At least five others are also making it, or thinking about jumping into the business.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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