Although I’ve been an enormous fan of Eve’s Cidery for a good few years now, this year they have been the cidery that has captivated me perhaps more than any other.
Visiting Autumn and Ezra in person was a huge factor in that, of course. They were the focal point of my first ever visit to the Finger Lakes, and they couldn’t have been more generous with their time or with their sharing of knowledge and cider. After a couple of hours talking terroir, fruit, methods and motives, then walking up Albee Hill and wandering its namesake orchard, I left as inspired as you would expect, and have thought about my visit, and their conversation, a huge amount ever since.
A later flight of their ciders, reviewed here, only served to deepen my admiration for this remarkable Finger Lakes producer, and among the very best of the flight was their traditional method sparkling perry 2020.
So when I was fumbling around with the idea of this perrymaker series, Autumn and Ezra were two of the first makers I sent an email to, and I’m hugely grateful that Autumn has taken the time to offer her usual thoughtfulness and insight below.
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Autumn: I’m Autumn Stoscheck and I, along with my husband Ezra Sherman, are the people behind Eve’s Cidery in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Autumn: Started making perry right alongside making cider…without really thinking much about it: pears and apples seem like obvious pomological cousins.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape, terroir and perry culture.
Autumn: Here in the Finger Lakes, perry occupies a very similar space as cider, (except maybe with less colonial nostalgia) that is, a beverage with origins in the UK and temperate parts of Europe whose production was brought to this continent with European settlers.
Like much of New England, the mid-west and even the west coast of this continent, our region is home to millions of feral, naturalized (sometimes naturally hybridized) seedling apple trees, planted by cows, deer, birds and the like and raising themselves in the wild for generations. Unlike in many of these other places, in the Finger Lakes this is also true for pears. In fact, in a year like this one, a forager will be much more likely to find an abundance of wild pears than apples to make cider with.
For many years I had assumed that finding an excellent grove of wild pear trees meant that there had been a white settler’s homestead in the vicinity, but I’ve learned that the Hodinöhsö:ni’, who were excellent agriculturalists, also maintained orchards with tens of thousands of peach, apple and pear trees with plant material introduced by the Europeans. Both apples and pears thrive in the region, which is among the best for growing pomme fruits.
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.
Autumn: We initially planted English perry pear varieties in our orchards- Butt, Gin, Blakeney Red, Yellow Huffcap and a few others. After 13 years of tending them, we had our first real crop. That’s when we really fell hed over heels with perry (asking ourselves, why did we plant thousands of apple trees and only 100 pear trees in our fledgling orchard?).
In 2015, the year of our second crop, we had a massive fireblight outbreak and sadly learned that the European pears were ridiculously susceptable to our Finger Lakes strain of fireblight. We had to cut down most of those trees. Since then, our long term project has been to find suitable perry making pears from fireblight resistant individuals in the wild. We scout, harvest, return, observe these trees and eventually collect scion and graft into the orchard. Right now, my favorites of these are the offspring of what we call Langford Copse Mother, a massive 80+ year old tannic and aromatic pear and her seedlings that surround her.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Autumn: Most of our perry is made using the traditional method: ferment to dryness with natural yeasts in neutral oak. Bottle with a tirage for secondary fermentation. Hand disgorge.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Autumn: Perry is mysterious and strange compared to cider. It’s clear that the juice chemistry is different and diverse. I find that nearly every batch has a surprise, such as stubborn tannin hazes, strange pectin blobs, mysterious pink tints, a proclivity towards frustrating faults like mouse and forget even trying to filter perry. Besides, the pear trees take forever to bear, don’t really have the yields that apples do, the pears are so heavy but produce less juice and are sometimes difficult to press. But, it must be worth it for that delicate, ethereal beverage?
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Autumn: When done well, it tastes absolutely lovely.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Autumn: It reminds me I’m less talented of a cider maker than I sometimes want to believe. And that I’m going to be quite old before my experimental perry orchard finally comes into bearing.
CR: Your perfect perry and food pairing – and/or the time you most like to drink perry?
Autumn: I find perry a bit more challenging to pair with than cider. It’s delicate, and often lower in acid. Also it’s often quite compelling onits own. That said, some of the most beautiful cheese pairings I have ever tasted have been with perry….
CR: What would you most want to tell a new drinker about perry to convince them to try it?
Autumn: Just pour them a glass!
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Autumn: Right now, my favorite perry that I’ve made is the ’21 Tioga Ridge…a single tree bottling from a wild pear tree on Tioga Ridge. It was too tannic to enjoy but we bottled it for secondary and kept it on its lees for 18 months. We just disgorged it in time to release it to our club for the fall and it’s awesome. No sign of the harsh tannins. It’s rich, creamy mouthfeel, delicate perry aroma, and great structure.
I would say two perry makers that have helped form my perry making aspirations are Olivers and Eric Bordelet.