“I’m not sure what Napa Valley felt like in the days before the world really discovered California wines, but I’m pretty sure it’s close to the vibe that hard-cider lovers are feeling these days in Port Townsend, Washington.” – David Volk, USA Today.
And it’s not just in Port Townsend, hard cider is now an Olympic Peninsula staple. Cue the Olympic Peninsula Cider Route – the key to tasting, discovering, and exploring all things cider with three cideries located within 10 miles of each other.
Each cidery and tasting room on the route is unique & distinctive and well worth the visit. The three cideries are Alpenfire, Eaglemount, and Finnriver. I recently traveled the Olympic Peninsula Cider Route and had a fantastic time.
I began my trip at the Finnriver Cider Orchard in Chimacum. The orchard has over 5,000 organic apple trees and the historic feed trough has been turned into a gathering place for locals and tourists alike to enjoy the views of the Chimacum Valley and quite literally enjoy the fruits of their labor. The rustic and charming tasting room is inviting and a great place to learn about cider and the historic property.
I had the chance to taste Finnriver’s Artisan Sparking Cider, Golden Russet, Farmstead, Barrel Berry, Spirited Apple, and Pear Wine. Each cider and the pear wine were distinctive and delicious. And when you’re finished with your tasting, one of the kind and helpful employees will allow you to try tastes of what are currently on tap and you can enjoy your glass of cider in the historic trough.
While at the Finnriver Orchard, I highly recommend taking the self-guided walking tour through the orchard – it is absolutely beautiful! Finnriver also has kombucha on tap so your designated driver can also enjoy a cold and tasty beverage before you head onto the next cidery.
Next on the list was, Alpenfire, the first organic cidery in Washington State. Alpenfire is in their sixth year of production and also produces vinegars. The drive from Finnriver to Alpenfire was breathtakingly beautiful, it was scattered with small farms, water views, and bright green foliage. I recommend taking your time and enjoying the scenic drive. Nancy, the owner of Alpenfire, greeted my other half and me when we arrived and was a gracious host.
Nancy guided me through a tasting of six ciders in the intimate tasting room. Starting with Dungeness – a non-carbonated cider made with over 200 varieties of apples, then Spark! – a semi-sweet cider that is a customer favorite, followed by Ember – made of tannic & astringent apples including Vilberie, Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout and more, then Pirates Plank – described as bold, brash & tannic, then Glow – a single variety rosé that gets its color from the flesh of the Hidden Rose apple, and last and most certainly my favorite…Calypso – a blackberry cider distilled in rum barrels.
I couldn’t leave without a bottle of the limited run of the Calypso and my other half was drawn to the vinegars. He loved the Incendiary vinegar. This vinegar is hand crafted with additional herbs including garlic, ginger, turmeric, horseradish, lemons, onions, honey, rosemary, and peppercorns. Included in the tasting is your glass – a unique keepsake that is now proudly placed in my kitchen cabinet waiting for a glass of the Calypso.
Last, but certainly not least, was Eaglemount Wine & Cider. Eaglemount is a family-owned winery & cidery located on a beautiful 12-acre property in Port Townsend with an apple orchard. The relaxing and comfortable tasting room allows you to select five ciders or wines to try.
I chose to taste the Rhubarb, Raspberry, Quince, Raspberry Hopped, and Ginger ciders. I truly enjoyed all the ciders, especially the unique Quince, but the Raspberry was my favorite. The semisweet cider with a slight sparkle was dry and delicious and I couldn’t leave without purchasing a bottle.
It’s worth noting that Finnriver is open daily whereas Alpenfire and Eaglemount are only open Friday through Sunday. But not to worry, the award-winning wine list at The Fireside offers ciders from all three cideries.
The Olympic Peninsula Cider Route is to be enjoyed at your leisure, whether you make it to all three in a day or a weekend, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the journey and experience, but the destinations sure make the trip worthwhile.
Written by: Kaitlin Chester