Apple juice and grapes ferment together to create cider and wine coferments at Tilted Shed Ciderworks. (Brooke Herron)

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a small trend start among winemakers and cider makers. 

It’s called cofermentation, or blending, of apples and grapes or cider and wine together, to make cider-wines. 

Cider and wine coferments involve fermenting the apple juice and grapes together, rather than fermenting them separately to make cider and wine and then blending together later. Whether a blend or a coferment, blending apples and grapes is something we haven’t seen much of in Sonoma County until the past few years (with a couple of exceptions). 

There are a few things that have contributed to the development. Grapes have had some difficult seasons over the past five years in Sonoma County, between drought, fires and smoke pollution. Apples, on the other hand and for the most part, have been thriving and don’t face the same potential issues as grapes. They have thicker skins, and most ciders are fermented without the skins, so smoke taint is a non-existent issue. 

Add to this that wineries and cideries often get inspiration from and share with their neighbors. So when a Sonoma County winery or cidery decides to try out an apple-grape coferment for the first time, they may get those apples from their neighbor who grows apples and/or makes cider. Then that neighbor may decide to try a coferment or blend of their own, using grapes or wine from their neighbor. And so on.

Try a cider-wine coferment or blend at the following local wineries or cidery.

Kivelstadt Gravignon Blanc

I love the name of this cider-wine coferment (courtesy of winemaker Sam Baron) that is made with what else… sauvignon blanc grapes and juice from Gravenstein apples! At only 10% alcohol, it’s light and refreshing and tastes exactly like what it is—a mostly sauvignon blanc wine with a small percentage of good quality Gravenstein apple juice. It’s clean and pure, without anything getting in the way of the flavors of the fruit that went into this wine.

Tilted Shed Viniferal

This coferment of Rhode Island Greening apples, Alicante Bouschet and other wild grapes found on Tilted Shed’s and other neighbor’s properties is made in a pét-nat style (bottling a wine while it is still fermenting so it goes through a gentle, natural fermentation in the bottle without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugar). The blend is almost all apples (organic, dry farmed, locally grown), with a small amount of grapes added to the apple juice so that they can ferment together. 

Dry, crisp, sparkling and lean with a little bit of a tannic bite on the finish, this cider feels a little bit like a zero dosage champagne in your mouth.

Tilted Shed Chaos Garden 

Juicy, fresh, lightly sparkling and delicious, with notes of bright red fruit (from the Carignane), this Newtown Pippin and Carignane (sourced from Tilted Shed’s neighbor, Two Shepherds)  “communal coferment” is my new favorite celebratory cider sparkler (I cannot wait to try this with turkey at Thanksgiving). To me, it tastes and feels like an appley version of a rosé sparkling wine, but with more juicy red fruit and a lusher, more refreshing finish.

Old World Winery Abourio Early Harvest Coferment Sparkling Red

Made with 88% Abourio grapes (extremely rarely planted red, Italian grapes that produce wines with bright acidity) and apple juice from Martinelli Vineyard, this sparkling, dry, Lambrusco style red wine-cider is tangy, with flavors of strawberry and rhubarb and a tart almost vinegar-like finish.

Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc & Wickson Apple Sparkling Cofermented Wine

This is only the second year that Two Shepherds has done a cider and wine coferment, but this Wickson apple and grenache blanc sparkling blend has been selling so fast (they only made 25 cases) that it’s currently only available to wine club members. 
Aged in neutral oak barrels for 10 months, this sparkling co-ferment includes Wickson apples from Two Shepherds’ neighbor cidery, Tilted Shed, and grenache blanc from the Russian River Valley. The flavor profile is bright with notes of citrus and honeysuckle, and the wine is refreshingly zippy with a soft, cider-like mouthfeel.

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