Apfel Eis, Apple Ice Wine
The Still River Winery is located in the town of Harvard, not far off Route 2, in the midst of an area well known for apple orchards and where you might have gone apple picking before. It is a small, family-run winery and they only produce a single item: Apfel Eis, an apple ice wine. At the Expo, I got to meet the winemaker, Wade Holtzman, his wife, Margot, and son, Leif. They were very personable and evidenced passion for their wine.
The Holtzman family has been involved in brewing beer as a hobby for years and still grow their own hops. They are also wine lovers but did not feel that grapes grew well enough in Massachusetts for them to make the attempt. They also did not want to make wine by purchasing grapes from California or any other state. So, while visiting Quebec, they received inspiration after tasting a version of apple ice wine, “ice cider.”
They realized that apples grew extremely well in Massachusetts and that Harvard is actually the number one grower of apples in the state. Thus, they felt they could produce an apple ice wine that would be at least as good, and maybe even better, than what they found in Quebec. So they spent much time experimenting, including using various combination of different apples and yeasts until they found what they desired, naming it Apfel Eis.
The Holtzmans purchase their apples from a couple local orchards in Harvard. Apfel Eis is fermented in five-gallon batches and over 80 apples, of various types such as Macintosh and Red Delicious, go into each bottle. It is pressed without preservatives, slowly fermented at very cold temperatures, and no sugar is added. This is a small, intimate operation and they only produce about 400 cases of wine each year. Apfel Eis is sold in half-bottles, 375ml each, for about $24.99.
You can check their Web site for the list of local wine stores and restaurants that currently sell this wine. That list is small, but will continue to grow as more and more stores decide to stick this delicious wine. In addition, you can order it online from their Web site, making it readily available to anyone in Massachusetts. You can visit their winery and you only have to call ahead to arrange it. Unfortunately, as Harvard is a dry town they cannot let you sample the wine or sell it directly to you out of their winery.
I really enjoyed the taste of the Apfel Eis. It has a rich, golden color and a powerful nose of fresh apples, like a delicious, fresh cider. It is a full-bodied wine with a nice crispness, mild sweetness and plenty of apple flavors. It avoids being cloyingly sweet and has a richness and complexity that place it above a simple cider. I think it also has a nice balance to it. If you love the flavor of apples, the Apfel Eis should really appeal to you.
This wine would pair very well with an apple dessert, such as a pie or apple crisp, or even a cheese plate. I think it is reasonably priced for a dessert wine and definitely recommend that you check it out. Plus, I think it is good to support a local winery, especially as they make such a high-quality product.
The Holtzmans have a bright future ahead of them if they keep making delicious products like this. They are currently focused exclusively on Apfel Eis and making sure that they maintain a high level of quality while expanding their production. In the future, they might consider expanding their product line but they have no immediate plans to do so.
Still River Winery, 104 Bolton Road, Harvard, MA. For information, call 978-456-6850 or visit http://stillriverwinery.com.
Richard Auffrey is a Stoneham resident and wine and food enthusiast. Visit his blog at www.passionatefoodie.blogspot.com.