Taste of Fall
Right when I thought I had tapped all the local liquids available at the market, here comes Wheeler’s Orchard & Vineyard with cider! Wade Wheeler and family planted the first apple tree in 1978 and they now have over 14 varieties of apples and almost 30 varieties of grapes. Jane Wheeler took over her family’s farm in 2016, and with the help of Sam The Sampler, her daughters and other family members, the orchard is thriving.
When I think apples and cider, I think fall but Wheeler’s has been producing heavy since July with early apple varieties like Mollie’s Delicious, Red Free and Yellow Transparent. Those varieties have now gone but classics like Gala, JonaGold and TN Red are abundant with more flavors fruiting in the months to come.
Their vineyard has also been having one of its best years and they are in abundance of seeded and seedless varieties like Fredonia and Ontario. I always thought I liked green grapes more than red grapes but I realized I have only been exposed to those two varieties—green and red. I have never had Reliance or Steuben and they are more than willing to help you learn, taste and find your favorite.
When I first brought home their apples, I left them on my table in a beautiful bowl thinking, that like the grocery store apples, they should be left out for display and easy access. However, they have taught me that apples do best when refrigerated at around 35 degrees and can last in your fridge for up to 4 months. Since they started coming back to market, I have been hooked on making a fruit salad with their apples and grapes, mixed with my figs and Jones’ peaches and now cantaloupe. It is such a simple creation that’s great for breakfast, midday snack or a late night sweet tooth fix.
Although I like sweet, again I thought I knew what I liked until I had varieties outside of the grocery store, I have learned to appreciate a cider with a hint of tartness. Watching Jane and Sam create cider like mad scientists is invigorating. They grab sweet and tart varieties ensuring to find a good balance, then make a batch and talk while sipping it’s results. Like most local food, the hard work that is put into it should fill your heart as much as the food fills your belly.
If you haven’t been, try to make a trip up to the orchard to enjoy all five senses…
Taste-Try before you buy. How do you know what you like if you haven’t tried it?
Touch-Pick you own grapes or apples. Take the whole family or go for date night. Its enjoyable for all ages.
Smell-A walk by the vineyard is accompanied by a strong waft of grapes like I have never experienced.
Sound-You are drawn to all the activities—the cider press running or the sheep beckoning for a bite.
Sight-The glorious view from atop Fredonia Mountain will slow your heart rate and calm your mind.