Castle Hill Cider • Keswick, Virginia

Our April CIDRBOX was curated by Castle Hill Cider and shipped direct from their orchard and cidery in Keswick, Virginia the week of April 17, 2017 • Join us for a cider tasting with the maker Stuart Madany »

Castle Hill takes an apple-centered approach to cider making and aims to bring out the best of each year’s harvest

Cidermaker Stuart Madany

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Local legend has it that Thomas Jefferson spent many hours on the grounds of Castle Hill as a young man—his guardian owned the place. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, Doctor Thomas Walker built Castle Hill in 1764, a day’s travel on horseback from the land at Monticello where Jefferson would lay down his first orchard plantings five years later in 1769.

We don’t have a record of Walker’s orchards, but we know that Jefferson focused his attention on 18 different apple cultivars, including a concentration of trees renowned for cidermaking: Hewes Crab, Albemarle Pippin, Esopus Spitzenburg and the lost (?) and much longed for Taliaferro (pronounced “Toliver” by some accounts).  

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The Virginia estate hosted many American luminaries in its early history, including Presidents Washington, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and Buchanan. Time has passed, of course, and Castle Hill is now under new management. The current proprietors are making orchard cider that taps into the local heritage of American cidermaking—using regional varieties like the Albemarle, Winesap, Harrison, and Grimes Golden—in new and compelling ways. 

Among these methods is the fermentation of their signature Levity cider in egg-shaped kveveri vessels, imported across the Atlantic from Georgia, where the vessels are traditionally used to ferment wine. Made of terra cotta and lined with beeswax, the kveveri are submerged in the earth (locked away behind OSHA required padlocked lids) which helps to manage the temperature acceleration that occurs during the fermentation process. The embracing earth absorbs the heat and cools the vessel to slow and help manage the ferment.

We’ll be sharing two harvests of Levity with our subscribers in April—one in the three bottle box, and an additional newly bottled variation in the six bottle box—along with a rich assortment of Castle Hill orchard ciders curated by cidermaker Madany.

As a student of architecture, Madany has some compelling ideas about why the egg shaped vessel contributes to making such a lively cider, and we hope to share more about that with you when we share our cider session with the maker in April.