Summit: Cider makers head to North Garden

Ben Watson, the celebrated author of Cider, Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own, will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Cider maker's Forum, held later this month in North Garden.

The event includes tasting of ciders from around the world and brings together some of the top apple experts including Tom Burford, who's helping musician Dave Matthews become a cider maker.

But attendees expecting anything remotely resembling juice are in for a surprise: International ciders are booze.

"That's what real cider is," says Charlotte Shelton, whose family farm, Rural Ridge Orchard, plays host to the event. "In Europe, cider is presumed to be alcoholic."

Until Prohibition, says Shelton, hard cider was widely enjoyed by people of all ages. "It was a way of keeping fruit nutrients all year round," says Shelton.

Under its new brand Vintage Virginia Apples, the Orchard has 1,000 trees in 200 varieties– most unavailable commercially.

"We are growing for flavor, and not for mass-markets," says Shelton, who adds that the demand created by national supermarket chains and intercontinental shipping have left most Americans fewer than a dozen apple varieties.

The November 22 event begins at 10am and is open to the public, but it requires advance registration and an admission fee of $25. For more info, call 434-297-2326.

The Dave