Discovery

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excitement of discovery at Washington State University.

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Posts Tagged ‘extension’

A good apple (cider)

Every year hard apple cider consultant Peter Mitchell treks from Britain to Mount Vernon teach a course in cider making to serious hobbyists and business owners. Last week 19 students from around the United States and Canada met with him at the Washington State University Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center to learn everything from the history of cider production to fruit selection and fermentation.

Examining the color of a cider

Examining the color of a cider

I skipped the orchard management and yeast handling instructions, but on the last day nosed in on the sensory evaluation training. The students met at the picturesque La Conner Flats farm to sample ciders and even share some of their own homemade efforts. Under the green and white striped awning of the patio Mitchell stood in front of a table populated with bottles – tall and short, from cider businesses just five miles away and as distant as Spain and France.

To lay a tasting groundwork, Mitchell began with two simple samples that were made from apples grown at the WSU research station. The first was cider made from galas, which he called dessert apples. The sample filled our glasses with a bright yellow. He held it up and asked the students to describe the color. “Clear,” said one lady. “Light caramel,” said another. “I would very much describe this as straw,” he said peering down into his own glass. A few wrote that in their notebooks. Then he told them to look at the liquid. Is it thick, did it shine? Yes, and a little.

“Keep it still and see what you can pick up,” he said, “Then give it a good swirl.” The swirl brought up a “hint of cantelope,” and “citrusy.” It’s not complex, he noted, it’s more winey.  “And that’s about it. Not a lot. Don’t go looking for something that isn’t there.”

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Wine in a cool climate

Thomas Henick-Kling, the new director of Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program, focused on wine from western Washington during a recent reception at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon.

Wine bottles - Mount Vernon

Wine bottles - Mount Vernon

On the tables around him stood bottles holding wines made primarily from grapes grown in areas like Hoodsport, Bainbridge Island, Mount Vernon, and the San Juans. While eastern Washington regions such as Walla Walla and the Columbia Basin form the base of the state’s wine operations, there are now more than 50 commercial vineyards and 150 acres planted in wine grapes on the west side of the Cascades. The oldest vineyard represented was Bainbridge Island Vineyards, established in 1973. Most, though, have only started up in the past five years. They are very small operations, with just a few acres of grapes. The varieties include the Müller-Thurgau a Riesling-like grape, the Armenian Burmunk, and the Madeleine Angevine which comes from the Loire Valley.

Thomas Henick-Kling

Thomas Henick-Kling

“There are so many great varieties out there: Regente, Siegerrebe, Pinot Noir. And some we haven’t even tried yet,” says Henick-Kling. He is looking forward to helping with evaluating new varieties for the region and looking at interspecific hybrids – grapes that are the result of crosses between European varieties and one or more American species. That would involve using native grapes to breed new grapes with ripening qualities, disease tolerance, and winter hardiness suited to western Washington’s climate, he says. (more…)