Editor’s Note: Find out all about the cider brand, Seminary Hill and their tasting room in the beautiful Western Catskills.
Seminary Hill, a local, environmentally-focused, orchard-focused cider brand based in Callicoon, NY, will launch a new line of hard ciders on June 25, 2021. Made in small batches in its own specially designed cider house Designed and Passive House Certified with a blend of cider apples and perry pears from its own holistic orchards and additional cider fruits from local producers, Seminary Hill Cider is a true reflection of the character and heritage of the Upper Delaware River valley and the Western Catskills.
Founded by husband-wife duo Doug Doetsch and Susan Manning, Seminary Hill is a reminder of how local farmers, including Doug’s family on both sides, made cider from their own apples, one of the few crops grown in such a way reliable in the hilly and rocky soils of the Western Catskills. , long before artisanal cider became fashionable. “Our family ties with Callicoon go back five generations,” says Orchard and Facility Manager Bill Hess, who grew up on the family’s mother-land near the cider house. “We are delighted to revive the ancient family traditions of cider making, sustainability and hospitality.”
Seminary Hill Cider is made from blends of over 60 varieties of American, English and French apples and pears specially selected for the qualities and characteristics they promise to add to blends, holistically planted in two orchards picturesque according to the holistic precepts of the orchardist Michael Phillips, author of The Apple tree. Free of harmful pesticides and herbicides, orchards use organic soil supplements, daffodils planted in rings around each tree to ward off voles, and companion plants to attract bees and other natural pollinators.
“You need great fruit to make great cider,” says cider Stuart Madany, formerly of Castle Hill Cider outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. “Rather than reproducing historic ciders, our goal is to produce the best possible expression of terroir, using methods that respect the land and agricultural heritage of the Catskills. Because we put so much effort into varietal selection and holistic cultivation, we really want to let the inherent qualities of the fruit shine through. “
Seminary Hill Cider is fermented in stainless steel vats and bottled just steps from the orchard in the specially built two-story cider house, which combines a production facility on the ground floor with an expansive tasting room with Cathedral ceilings framing floor-to-ceiling windows and a wraparound patio and balcony offering the perfect view of the verdant Catskill foothills and an early 1900s Franciscan seminary from which Seminary Hill takes its name.
Designed by James Hartford of River Architects and built by the first construction company Baxter, the cider house is the first of its kind built to Passive House standards, consuming minimal energy for heating and cooling while taking advantage of direct sunlight during winter and shade during summer. Low-impact inside and out, the tasting room is clad in larch wood reclaimed from the underwater pilings of the original Tappan Zee Bridge and decorated with recycled woodwork, fashioned by Bill Hess (who is also a master carpenter) from oak trees felled to build the property.
Seminary Hill worked with the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) to structure, plan and help finance the growth of the cider house in the 21st century. Through joint efforts, Seminary Hill received grants under the Regional Council Investment Fund Program and Marketing New York Grants Program totaling $ 900,000 through Empire State Development, which will create at least 13 new jobs over the next eight years.
Inside the tasting room, guests can pair the brand’s distinctive range of hard ciders with small, farm-fresh platters from the kitchen, all within easy reach of apple trees. “Our ciders tend to be drier and are great with food or on their own,” says Madany. “We have a range of ciders so there is something for everyone at the table.”
The tasting room menu offers a range of light bites and snacks from the outdoor wood-fired Argentine grill that complement the local flavors of the cider. For a more immersive cider experience, Seminary Hill will offer guests orchard and cider house tours every Sunday at 1 p.m. for $ 45 per person, which will end with a cider tasting. Customers who prefer to go directly to the tasting room can enjoy cider tastings anytime for $ 25 per person.
As an estate cider house, Seminary Hill’s cider expression list will constantly vary, providing people with a new experience every time they come to visit us. The cider house currently offers the distinct expressions below.
Available by the glass in the Tasting Room and by the bottle:
Susan’s Demi-sec: A sparkling dry cider with deep gold, bright hues and notes of peach, raisin and spices on the nose, peach and lemon on the palate, followed by moderate bitterness and spices in the middle of the nose. palate with a hint of guava on the finish. Available in 750 ml bottles and by the glass in the tasting room.
Beeches: A quiet rose gold cider with aromas of dried apricot and fresh peach, stone fruit, melon, vanilla and a slight astringency on the palate. Available in 750 ml bottles and by the glass in the tasting room.
Delaware Sec 2019: A bright, golden and pearling dry cider with notes of apple, sweet hay and lemon on the nose and creamy citrus on the palate. Made with a blend of Gold Rush, Tremlett’s Bitter, Chisel Jersey, Harry Master’s Jersey, Winecrips and Sundance apples. Available in 750 ml bottles and by the glass in the tasting room.
Exclusively available by the glass in the Tasting Room:
Delaware Sec 2020: Lightly filtered, this golden cider has a touch of cloudiness. Aromas of orange, grapefruit and violet follow one another on the palate with Concord grapes, tangerine and a slight bitterness. This dry cider surprises with its lush fruits.
Northern spy: A golden, cloudy, fully sparkling single-varietal cider, bottled, made from 100% Northern Spy apples. Notes of apple and caramel on the nose and a dry, crunchy and refreshing palate. Currently only available by the glass in the tasting room.
Baldwin Pepin: A sparkling dry cider straw to gold with a persistent foam. Notes of fresh and cooked apple on the nose and a creamy, tangy and fresh apple palate. Made with 50% Baldwin apples and 50% Pippin apples. Currently only available by the glass in the tasting room.
The bottles are available for sale at the Cidrerie, online at www.seminaryhill.co with delivery to 37 states and to local retailers, including Catskill Provisions. Four other expressions will be available in bottle and glass this summer, including a sparkling cider in a 500ml bottle, unfiltered, made from 100% fruit grown on the estate, exclusive to holders of a Seminary Hill Cider membership. The subscription service, also rolled out this summer, will have two different tiers that are split into 4 seasonal shipments: tier 1 has 1 case per year and tier 2 has two cases per year.
For more information, please visit www.seminaryhill.co and follow us on social media @seminaryhillcider.
About the Seminary Hill Orchard and Cider Mill
Rooted in history and revitalizing tradition, Seminary Hill is a new brand of locally produced, orchard-focused, decidedly eco-friendly cider based in Callicoon, New York. Free of harmful pesticides and herbicides, the 12-acre holistic orchard features over 1,500 trees and 60 American, English and French varieties of apples and pears. Committed to the sustainability of the land and the local community, the green design of the production facility, tasting room and event space makes Seminary Hill the first cider house to be Passive House certified. The Seminary Hill Cider House combines a ground-floor production facility with a top-floor tasting room and event space with sweeping views of the converging pastoral acres, the meandering Delaware River, and the verdant Catskill foothills. On site, visitors can learn about the entire process from orchard to bottle and sample the signature ciders while enjoying light bites and snacks from the Argentinian open-air wood-fired grill that complement the cider’s terroir flavors. . Seminary Hill Ciders reflect the agricultural heritage of the Western Catskills and are available exclusively at the Tasting Room, online at www.seminaryhill.co and at retailers, including Catskill Provisions.
Photo credit: Brad Dickson