|Bottles of cider from West County gleam in the sun.|
My trip to the western part of Massachusetts only scratched the surface of this two-day, three-ring collection of tastings, tours, meals, and workshops.
Note: yes, it's Cider Days, but where cider leads, apples are never far behind.
The event is spread thinly over a rural swath of Massachusetts. To the extent that Cider Days has a heart, it is the community center in Shelburne Falls.
|Second Chance Farm grows more than 90 varieties of apples.|
Still, the only place I saw anything like a crowd was at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Greenfield.
|The scene at Clarkdale Farm|
Robert Cox, author of New England Pie: History Under a Crust (History Press, 2015) held forth on pie in all its forms, including mock apple, mincemeat ("evil"), and the correct mode for a la mode (vanilla).
|Author Robert Cox declaims on pie: Julia Child meets John Brown|
Clarkdale also had a tasting table, one that included pear and quince.
Meanwhile, the line to taste cider was long at Tip Top Orchard in Buckland.
|Cider fans belly up to the tasting table for Artifact Cider at Tip Top Orchard in Buckland, Massachusetts.|
(Overheard at the tasting table: "We just stuck the labels on this morning.")
Also at Tip Top I learned the story behind the name "Second Chance Farm" (the tasting table in Shelburne Falls, above). Most of the trees at Tip Top were planted, in the 1970s, by the couple who later moved to Greenfield and founded Second Chance.
I also stopped in for a tasting of West County Cider's varietals. Variety-specific cider is a logical point of departure for someone who knows more about apples than cider.
|The West County Cider crew|
I walked away with a bottle of West County's "heritage" blend, which leans on a cider apple called Rosemont. They had some drier ciders that I liked a great deal, but I judged the heritage blend to be more accessible generally and a good bet for the Thanksgiving table.
I also came home with a bottle of Artifact's Baldwin varietal cider and some unpasteurized sweet cider from Second Chance.
Two final notes about Cider Days.
First, in early November the hills of Franklin County, tended and wooded, are fairy-tale ravishing.
|The view from Tip Top: The Shire plus elevation.|