Locally grown apples were transformed into several varieties of handcrafted hard cider served up by Daniel MacNeill.
“The cider is made from a blend of Montezuma County heritage apples,” he said.
Hard cider is fermented for alcohol content. Flavors ranged from dry to sweet and have a more refined taste than apple juice.
Some ciders were blended with different flavors, including cucumber, basil, maple syrup, raisins, lemon, chokecherry or lavender for more complex flavors.
“There are so many varieties,” said MacNeill. “Cider is the fastest-growing adult beverage industry in the country.”
He plans to open a cidery in Durango using apples from a Weber Canyon orchard.
“It has the characteristics of a fine wine, a refreshing drink that livens up the taste buds and goes well with food,” said taster Elise Essenwein.
“I’m looking forward to Montezuma County having fresh-made cider for sale,” added her friend Nancy Marion.
The Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project sponsored the tasting and is working to bring back the once thriving apple orchard industry in Southwest Colorado.
As part of a trial run, this month they will process local apples using a portable apple press and packager arriving from Montana.
“Front Range cideries would love to buy apples from the Western Slope instead of Washington or Oregon,” MacNeill said.
The niche market is ideal for local orchards because cider production does not require flawless apples, he said. Apples that fall on the ground can be harvested for cider making as well.
Also at the event, fresh jams and jellies were available along with heritage apples and fruit trees. Farm-fresh produce was abundant, including local pumpkins and unique bean varieties.
Laughing Wolf Farm offered Yellow Indian Woman beans and purple Hopi beans, along with Tarahumara and Navajo pumpkins.
“The Indian yellow is a cross between a butter bean and a black bean, and the pumpkins are good for purees and roasted seeds,” said farmer Zac Fulton.
The Mancos-based farm is also promoting a “seed to seed” program where seeds from melons, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, corn, and cilantro are harvested for future planting.
“Saving your own seeds allows you to adapt to your micro climate,” Fulton said. “You can harvest seeds that performed well, resist disease or outlast the frost.”
Laughing Wolf Farm will have a seed-saving workshop on Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 8411 County Road 41 in Mancos. For more information, call Lee-Ann Hill at 970-560-5486.
Overall, the Harvest Fest appeared to attract more people this year, said Rocky Moss, director of the Dolores Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re seeing a lot of families and drop-ins from tourists driving through town,” she said.