Tart or sweet: Carter Mountain has them all

As days turn cooler and fall fragrances fills the air, it won’t be long ‘til we’re playing in piles of crisp, colorful leaves and sipping steamy mugs of hot apple cider. Not only do Albemarle families have the good fortune to live in one of the state’s leading apple-producing areas, but we have Carter Mountain Orchards south of town. Up on that glorious hill eager apple lovers can pick their own Jonathans and Granny Smiths by the bushelful. 
The orchard is open everyday with trees full of ripe fruit. Early in the season, munchkins can grab a handful of sweet apples— Red and Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Gala, and Jonathan— and crunch them crisp and juicy right there in the orchard. Come October, it’s the tart varieties— Winesap, Figi, Granny Smith, Rome, Stayman, and York— that will be coming into season just in time for cool weather pies, crisp, dumplings, and sauce.
Owner Ruth Chiles tells us this year’s drought has affected the size of the apples, but the taste is just as good. “It just means you get more apples per bushel,” she says. 
The mountain is also a great place to hang out for the afternoon, with 360-degree views of the bucolic Virginia countryside from the observation deck atop the apple shed. Apple pickers are invited to bring a picnic and a camera. Binoculars are a great idea, too, so curious kids can scan the vista trying to pick out favorite locations around town.
Fresh-pressed apple cider is available at the bakery, which coincidentally sells all sorts of apple delights including pies, breads, cookies, and apple cider donuts (these donuts are to die for, by the way). A gift shop next to the bakery sells locally produced crafts. And the first of the fall crop of pumpkins has arrived for kids who want to be the first in the neighborhood to have a jack o’ lantern on the front porch.
For those who enjoy a party while they’re picking, Carter Mountain’s Apple Harvest Festival takes place on the first two weekends in October. It’s a much-anticipated annual event that, in addition to the views and fruit, features free hayrides through the orchards, cider pressing, apple butter making, live music, and lots more fun.

Carter Mountain Orchard is off Rt. 53, on the right about half-way up the mountain to Monticello. It’s open seven days a week 9am-6pm. Apples are available pre-picked by the bushel or pick-your-own sold by the pound. 977-1833.

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