“Tastemaker” is a term typically used to describe a person — either a sommelier or writer in the wine world — who decides what is good, cool or otherwise interesting. With our new regional #Tastemaker profiles, I’ve decided to usurp the term to mean someone who actually makes the wines, ciders, spirits, etc. that we love. A “tastemaker” should make something, after all.
I have yet to meet Autumn Stoscheck from Eve’s Cidery in Van Etten, NY, which is roughly 20 miles south of some of the primary wine districts of the Finger Lake region. But through her ciders and a handful of email and Twitter exchanges with her, it’s clear that she is someone that I need to know better.
Over the years I’ve dabbled in local ciders — tasting one or two here and there, but rarely feeling compelled to dig deeper. There jusTt wasn’t anything interesting or special about what I had tasted. Then, late in 2015, Autumn offered to send me some of her ciders. At first, I declined. Wine is the focus of this site and most of my writing. I told her that I just don’t have the knowledge or the context with which to critically taste her ciders and know where they fit into the larger cider world.
Eventually she convinced me that I should taste them and at least consider adding cider coverage to the site. I’m thankful for that because her ciders were a revelation. Varied and intricate and complex — with flavors that diverge greatly from simply “apples” into leather and gravel and honey and berries and citrus and peaches. And the tannic structure in some of them set them apart from so many New York ciders, which now taste like little more than bubbly apple juice.
She’s inspired me to seek out and explore the real ciders of New York and I hope to cross paths with her when I’m in the Finger Lakes next month.
Location: Van Etten, New York
Current Job: I work with my husband, Ezra Sherman, our partner James Cummins and our right-hand woman Celia Bakaitis to grow apples and make cider at Eve’s Cidery. My other job is raising two spunky young children in the back woods of Van Etten.
Cider of the moment: Right now I’m absolutely savoring a bottle of calvados, which is a version of cider, I guess, My husband bought me a Michel Huard Hors D’Age 90-92-99. It starts out with dried herbs and damp leaves and as it warms in the glass opens into this marvelous layer cake of bittersweet apple in press cloths, nutmeg, vanilla and rich caramel. It’s a masterpiece of blending and transports you to a misty orchard in Normandy. We like to sit by the wood stove in the evening after dinner and crack hickory nuts we collected from the tree in our yard. I can’t think of a better pairing.
My ciders in 1-5 words: Hard work + awe of nature.
First bottle of wine I remember drinking: The first cider I drank did not come out of a bottle. It came from a barrel behind the cabin at James’ orchard.
How I wound up here: I started Eve’s Cidery in 2002 with money I had saved from waitressing. My ambition was to be able to find a way to make a living pruning apple trees. making cider is both tangential and primary to that goal.
My cidermaking style — in more words: For me, cidermaking is a life-long quest to make a truely amazing cider. Like any art or craft, cidermaking is a process of taking chances and learning from your mistakes thereby honing your skills and clarifying your artistic vision over time. Only this particular craft takes patience since you only get one shot each year to do that. Any cidermaker in his or her 30s that tells you they have a “style” is full of $#!*. We are just lucky enough to be involved in something so interesting that it will hold our attention for decades.
Mentors: Everything I have and know is due to the generosity of amazing people, so this is a hard question to answer briefly. James Cummins and his father Dr. Cummins and brother Stephen Cummins who opened the door to the magical world of apples for me. Steve Wood and Louisa Spencer of Farnum Hill Cider…essentially the godparents of the American dry cider revival. My dad, the builder, who is always good-naturedly answering our questions and loaning us tools so that we can DIY on everything from concrete to plumbing, and of course a cast of characters in the Finger Lakes wine Industry who are always available to answer questions and give suggestions, in spite of the fact that we make cider.
Music playing in the cellar right now: First thing in the morning, on a day when we need to get a lot done: Stromae, Racine Carree.
Favorite thing about New York cider industry: Two things I particularly love about our little cider scene here in the Finger Lakes are the old-timers and the newcomers. Not that long ago, there was still an old-fashioned cider mill up the road from us where folks from the hills took apples gathered from yards and hedgerows to be pressed into cider. Some of that cider was drunk fresh, but not much of it. Sadly, mills like this no longer exist in New York State. But we lucky that we still have some of those people around to tell us where the good apples are growing and connect us with this rural tradition of our past. Over the past five years, the number of cidermakers in the Finger Lakes has more than quadrupled and these people are truly friends and colleges. The cidermakers of the Finger Lakes are pretty committed to the notion of orchard-based cider which means that we are all interested in making a cider that is reflective of the varieties used and the place they were grown. And we believe pretty passionately that some of the best cider apples in the world can be grown here.
Least favorite thing about New York cider industry: The New York State cider industry is in a very immature stage right now, so sometimes it’s hard to look around and see what’s passing for cider. But everything is changing so rapidly, that I’m not too worried about it. I’m optimistic about the potential for our industry to evolve and have faith that consumers will see through marketing and capitalism and choose quality, authenticity and deliciousness instead. .
One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Extracting splinters.
What I drink: My family is very working class, and I grew up with the tradition of ending a hard day’s work with a nice cold beer. So that’s a hard habit to shake. We drink a lot of local beverages because we believe in supporting the local food system, and also because there are so many good things being made in the Finger Lakes. To me, knowing the people who make it and their story adds an element of enjoyment to drinking.
My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: I would be most happy with a cast iron pan, some fat for cooking, a knife and fishing pole. I take great joy in foraging and figuring out how to make something delicious out of basic ingredients that are on hand. And I’ll take a Forge riesling with that to help me contemplate the meaning of my existential crises.