Virginia has around ‘300 wineries’. But did you know that cideries fall within this number? That’s because under Virginia’s ABC law, ‘cideries’ hold the same license as a winery. Since cideries are (in theory) under the same category as wineries, I’ve been doing my best to knock out as many cideries as I can during my wine travels.
Tumbling Creek Cider came across my radar because it’s sold at nearby Abingdon winery. Not only that, they were about to open a tasting room in town (I missed it by days). Given I was already headed this way, I added them to my ‘to do’ list.
Cider is an up-and-coming beverage in Virginia. With its agricultural tradition, the south-west corner of the state seems particularly well suited for this endeavor. Five years ago I could only find a handful of cideries. But along with the surge in craft beer, cideries are popping up everywhere.
Since the tasting room wasn’t yet open partner Justen Kelly Dick invited me to visit him at their production facility at his family farm of Kelly Ridge Farms. I love driving country roads, but I strongly suspect that Uber Eats doesn’t deliver to this neck of the woods.
The production building looks like a large garage with cider-making equipment everywhere. I admit I’m not particularly mechanically inclined, but even I could appreciate the ‘do it yourself’ engineering that went into putting the operation together. Now that the official tasting room was finished visitors may not need to visit here for their cider fix, but there was still a small sitting area overlooking the farm.
Justen kicked things off by explaining his connection to the farm goes back 10 (!!!) generations. In addition to having an orchard, he grows hops and raises pigs. Wanting to make the farm productive spurred his research into cider making.
Farming is a tough trade for anyone, but with a background in environmental consulting and family ties to a centuries-old farm, the jump wasn’t as crazy as it sounds. Justen and three friends put together a business plan and eventually, Tumbling Creek Cider was born.
Local ties was a recurring theme here, be it family ties to the land, sourcing their apples locally, and wanting to create business opportunities in community they came from. The four were also mentored by the owner of Foggy Ridge, a well-regarded local cidery that has since closed but still sells apples.
After a quick tour, we got down to drinking some cider! What I tried:
Ridge Runner: Bone dry, made about as ‘natural’ as you can make a cider. Definitely my favorite of the lineup.
Moonshot: Semi dry, and their flagship cider. I actually found it closer to ‘dry’ than ‘semi dry’, but that may be because it was very well balanced. It also had more body than the Ridge Runner.
Hellbender Hopped: For lack of a better term, my first thoughts it had a ‘green’ quality to it. Not the color of course! It so happens my palate was spot-on, because I later learned it’s made with fresh green hops which gave it a ‘fresh’ quality.
Whitetop: Grassy nose, with some tartness on the palate.
High Trestle Cherry: Cherry flavored cider. Second favorite of the bunch
I wish I had visited the new tasting room, but this was a great alternative. Look for Tumbling Creek’s ciders anytime you’re in the Roanoke area, or visit their brand-spanking new location in Abingdon.