60 miles east of Portland is the start of the Columbia Gorge AVA. There’s a burgeoning wine scene taking shape there, and in my opinion, it's the next Oregon wine region to watch—largely in thanks to Hiyu Wine Farm. However, the Gorge is just as much home to apples and pears as it is to grapes, so I felt compelled to write about Hiyu's cider, which left an unexpected yet lasting impression. 

Today, I'm happy to offer the Hiyu Floréal Cider III.

In 2010, Nate Ready (former Master Sommelier) and China Tresemer (artist and chef) combined their curiosities for winemaking, farming, and culinary art and formed the 30-acre property that is Hiyu. In tune with the mystic of Biodynamics, spending time here almost feels like stepping into the pages of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. 

During my recent visit to the Gorge, I was lucky to befriend the two women apprenticing at Hiyu for the harvest season. Every morning and afternoon, rain or shine, they would gather hay and barley they sprouted from the barn, then trek up the hillside to feed the cows, chickens, and pigs that roam the vineyard. The sensory smells of wandering through the barn, vineyard, and winery with them really stuck with me.

Because of Nate’s curious, playful philosophy and consideration for the Gorge's terroir, it only makes sense that he would be experimenting with cider. This is the third vintage of Floréal Cider, a collaboration project with a nearby Biodynamic orchard in Mt. Hood, and in this case, the third time is definitely a charm. 

Floréal III has nuanced apple aromas, from freshly sliced to baked crumble, and notes of white floral appeared when paired with a sorrel soup (the herbs sourced from Hiyu’s garden). The palate was fresh and bright, with glimmering notes of yellow citrus and stone fruit, and there was the slightest hint of fresh hay on the long finish. As I sat on Hiyu’s outdoor patio, the sun shining but the breeze crisp, I realized that the cider captured my surroundings or, if anything, some of the spirit of Hiyu. 

There’s no wonder Floréal is so complex, as it’s made from at least 20 apple varieties. And it turns out that when the apples are pressed, the basket press is lined with straw, which might explain my tasting note about the finish. The juice is fermented and aged in neutral barrels, and they use fermenting juice from the following vintage to begin secondary fermentation in bottle—not much different than wine.

I’m finding more and more winemakers experimenting with apples, and after discovering Floréal III, I have a better idea of why. When done well, the result can be rather profound.

—Sydney Love