Purman couldnít get the crisp, clean taste of hard, French cider out
of his mind after he and his wife, Yannique, visited France. In fact,
it was a series of French vacations that led these two Milwaukeeans to
start their Door County cider orchard and tasting room.
Word of mouth is
spreading, and their business, Island Orchard Cider, is expected to
sell about 6,000 gallons of cider this year, which is up from 3,400
last year and from 1,500 the first year. Both years, they sold out of
production, and they expect to sell out this year, too.
started by making batches of cider for ourselves about 12 years
ago," Bob Purman explains. "We kept experimenting and
tweaking the recipe, and our hobby grew into a business. Thereís
nothing quite like French cider here in the United States. It isnít
really imported here because it doesnít handle transportation as
well as wine does," he says.
French cider, which has an alcohol content of 7 percent, isnít like
the sweeter alcoholic ciders produced or imported by beer giants.
Instead of being hit by sugary sweetness and big bubbles, Island
Orchard cider is more refined, like a dry Sancerre wine perhaps. Its
apple aromas are gently sweet, not cloying, with complex and almost
floral aromas. It refreshes the palette with more delicate bubbles,
and it boasts a clean, dry finish.
tasted the cider when we were visiting my father in Brittany,"
Yannique Purman says. "We call our cider Normandy cider because
Normandy cider is more famous for cider than Brittany. Brittany is
like the less famous cousin of Normandy."
initial trips to France, they also began visiting cider houses across
Normandy and Brittany, and they continued to develop their own
recipes. They purchased a farm on Washington Island in 2004. The farm,
which was growing wheat for beer, now boasts more than 1,600 apple
trees (30 different kinds of apples) and 500 pear trees (eight
different kinds of pears). "We bought the farm to preserve the
acres as farmland, and the first year, we started with just a couple
hundred root stock trees," Bob Purman says. "The cultivars
are all from France and England, and theyíre bitter-sharp and sharp.
These apples have much higher tannins than a dessert fruit, and these
apples are specifically for making hard cider."
apples, which are more gnarly and less attractive than eating apples,
are harvested in September, and they try to get the juice into tanks
for aging in October, then move them into storage by mid-November.
"It takes about five weeks to ferment the juice," Bob Purman
says. The cider is bottled in mid-March, and some of the cider gets
aged in oak barrels.
The Purmans open
their Ellison Bay tasting room in March, and they keep it open through
December. Right now, they sell apple cider, a pear cider, an
apple-cherry cider and an oak-aged apple cider. Purman is also
developing a fortified cider, sort of like an apple cider version of a
sherry. That cider, called royal cider, is aged in oak. "Itís
got a lot of vanilla aromas," he says. "The Quebec cider
makers make a dessert iced cider thatís similar to an iced wine, but
though itís quite delicious, itís way too sweet for my palate. I
love the complexity of sherries, and I found this old recipe from New
England, so thatís how I developed this."
Island Orchard ciders
Made in the French Normandy tradition, the cider has 7 percent alcohol
by volume and is less sweet than other ciders
$15 or less
Where to Find
It: Rayís Wine and Liquors in Wauwatosa, Larryís Market in
Brown Deer, Downer Wine and Spirits in Milwaukee and Ottoís in Fox