Apparently American perrymakers are like buses. We met New York State’s Grisamore Ciderworks yesterday, and today we’re back Stateside for a chat with Jeremy and Erin of Oregon’s Blossom Barn.
Excitingly though — to me, in any case — this is Cider Review’s first ever encounter with a West Coast American producer.
Number one on my all-time travel wish list (possibly number two, behind a return to Tasmania) is to make my way down the West Coast. Originally for the wine — Sideways played a huge part in my early fascination with the drink — but latterly for the seemingly incredible cider scene that has sprung up in Washington and Oregon States.
As with the ciders from so many cultures afield, I’ve only been able to watch on with envy and think to myself ‘one day’. So it’s a joy to be able to chat to West Coast cidermakers for the first time, and even more of a joy that we’re chatting about perry instead. Reading Jeremy and Erin’s responses had me thirstily perusing their website at 10 in the evening, wishing I had a friend living in Southern Oregon. Needless to say, perry has been added to that fantasy road trip …
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Blossom Barn: Jeremy Hall and Erin Chaparro, Blossom Barn Cidery, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Blossom Barn: This is all part of a farm transition plan to keep the family farm in the family. We are on the Applegate Valley wine trail, surrounded by vineyards, and were inspired by Herefordshire and Normandy perries to do something different in Southern Oregon.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape (perhaps even the terroir!) and any perry culture (or lack thereof).
CR: We are in the Applegate Valley, part of the greater Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon. Pears have been commerically grown in the area since the 1880’s. Harry and David, the largest producer of Comice pears in the US, is here and is a larger employer and important member of the community. Several wineries have been making perry or pear wine for some time. At one time, it appears that there were some significant perry pear orchards, but they are long gone. We do a lot of education at farmers markets and festivals about perry, because it is not well known here, although people deeply appreciate pears and pear orchards. There is much pressure to convert orchards to vineyards, hemp fields, and housing, so we want to provide a long-term market to buy culinary pears to supplement the perry pears we grow on our farm.
CR: Tell us about some of the pear varieties you work with. How they are to grow and work with and the different flavours they bring? Tell us about any of your favourites.
Blossom Barn: On farm, we grow English (Oldfield, Barnet, Green Horse, Butt, Thorn, Yellow Huffcap, Hendre Huffcap, and Barland), Austrian (Gelbmostler), French (Martin Sec), and Romanian (Romanian Brandy) perry pears. So far, the Romanian have produced the best yield with the most tannin. We buy Comice and Bosc pears from other growers.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Blossom Barn: We make perry in chilled stainless steel wine tanks, using DV10 yeast. We control H2S production and reductive fermentation with juice with a copper addition and pH adjustment to 3.9. Our straight perries are dry, with <0.1 grams/liter of glu/fru. We make a barrel aged perry with a 6-15 month aging period in french oak barrels, as well as a stainless steel matured perry. ABV is 5.0-6.2%, depending on the sugar content in the fruit. We are finding that as we continue to suffer from drought here, ABV is higher.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Blossom Barn: As difficult as perry is to make, (challenges with reductive fermentation, low acidity, and pectin hazes come to mind) it is more of a challenge to sell. This is mostly because people are not familiar with perry. If we can get people to try it, they like it.
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Blossom Barn: We love that we make a light, refreshing, and lower alcohol beverage out of Oregon’s state fruit. Cider in general allows one to produce a stable and enjoyable product out of fruit when it is in tremendous abundance, and the local pomme in abundance locally is pears, not apples. We love how perry is lighter and more delicate than an apple-based cider, and how the natural sorbitol makes the cider very mildly sweet without any residual sugar for microbes to metabolize.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Blossom Barn: The fact that people in the US, even cider drinkers, don’t know what it is and how it is different than apple based cider.
CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?
Blossom Barn: Mid afternoon with Baja-style fish tacos.
CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?
Blossom Barn: Perry is light, easy drinking, and delightful. It is simply fantastic.
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Blossom Barn: Our Rogue Valley Perry is our barrel aged perry. We always appreciate a bottle of Le Pere Jules, as it was the perry that opened our eyes to how delightful perry could be.