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Forget the Pumpkin Spice Latte - Open a Cider!

Thanks to an extra wet winter, it has been a bumper year for apples at our ranch in Big Sur-- we started picking early so the weight of the fruit wouldn't break the branches. My brothers in the UK are reporting the same with their back-yard apple trees, and the three of us are competing to make the best sage, apple and onion chutney -- our family specialty.

Apple harvesting always puts me in the mood for cider. It's that perfect balance of crisp bubbles and sweet, ripe fruit, that for me really captures the true essence of fall (even better than Pumpkin Spice Lattes!). There's nothing like opening a cider on a bright fall day, while gathering the squash from the garden or raking the orange leaves off the lawn. Then finishing the bottle once the sun sets and you've hunkered down for a chicken or pork casserole and a baked potato after a good day's work.

Our friends in northern France look after 300-year old apple and pear trees and make cider with the same care and precision as fine wine. After many years as sommelier, Eric Bordelet returned to his family's farm in Normandy, where he started producing ciders from ancient pear and apple varietals. His cider making is intricate and slow, and his ciders are so well made that they can often age for quite some time, and continue to evolve in depth and flavor. They are bursting with fruit and not overly dry, making them just so easy to enjoy. For the non-cider aficionados, and just cider-curious, these are a wonderful place to start your exploration.

Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tendre NV ($16) This apple cider is fermented to dry and boasts a super fresh, zesty character full of punchy fruit, and wonderfully crisp elements. It tastes as if you are biting into the fruit! Wonderful with mussels in a creamy broth and a side of baguette - heavenly!

Eric Bordelet Poiré l'Authentique NV ($19) This elegant off-dry pear cider is a pleasure to the senses! Wonderful texture and fruity character, with fresh acidity and just the right amount of residual sugar. Perfumed notes of pear, lemon zest and hints of caramel. A perfect accompaniment to a cheese plate, apple chutney and warm crusty bread.


Besides ciders, here's what we're sipping as the season changes.

A fascinating white wine from Liguria, Italy, with notes of apple, lemons and lightly toasted almond. Rich and delicious. Perfect for a lazy fall afternoon or cozy evening.

A spicy and complex red with ripe blackberry and boysenberry notes. The Grenache (80%) offers a broad, full palate, while the Syrah (20%) adds delicious, warm spices. A perfect companion to a classic beef stew.

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