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Bates and Schmitt



I’m a huge cider fan, dating back to my teenage years and my first trip to Europe. It was with my parents, and I was about 15 years old. Going to Europe at that age with one’s parents was difficult enough. I was always trying to drift behind or bolt well ahead of the family unit so that no observers (especially the European teenage girls) would suspect that I was traveling under the auspices of parental units.

Easing the humiliation of being perceived by the natives as anything less than perfectly independent was a nice gesture from my folks. They let me drink . . . a little. When we visited Glenfiddich, I got to taste the scotch. At dinner in France, I’d get some wine. And in England and Normandy, rather than letting me have a pint of beer, I was allowed to order glasses of hard cider. A small, late-afternoon buzz therefore accompanies many of my memories of Europe’s greatest attractions.

My affection for good hard cider persists, which is why I was excited to find some locally made stuff on sale at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago. It was being sold by the Apple Farm, the wonderful Anderson Valley-based family collective of the Schmitts (who used to own the French Laundry) and Bates (son-in-law), who sell wonderful heirloom species of apples and all sorts of apple products.

While the apples I bought were superb, I must report that the cider disappointed. It was tinged with a heavy aroma and taste of sulfur (a preservative) that overwhelmed any delicateness and sweetness from the apples. Sadly, we didn’t finish the bottle, but dumped our glasses out and turned to white wine. Nevertheless, it was nice to be reminded of my first trip to Europe.