The Gravenstein apple has played an important role in the history and culture of California’s western Sonoma Valley since the nineteenth century with peak planting in 1945 with over 14,000 acres. Unfortunately, there are far fewer today with thousands of acres being replanted with grape vines. Slow Food has declared the Gravenstein apple to be a “heritage” food to protect it from further encroachment. The fruit is sought after by chefs for its culinary uses and its elegant balance of sweet and tart flavors. And it makes the best cider!
Here is where our efforts come in…we take this hard cider made from late ripening Gravenstein apples when the sugars are high, and then convert it slowly to vinegar in our 55 gallon oak barrels. The result is a pleasant elixir, redolent of baked apples, honey and sweet spice balanced with a solid backbone of acidity. Executive Chef Kimball Jones from the spectacular Carneros Inn in the Napa Valley sent me a note recently that extolled its virtues this way, “It reminds me of an apple cider vinegar I used to buy in Paris…very fruity but with great acidity.”
Now…as for the doctor part of the story…apple cider vinegar has been a folk remedy used for hundreds of years. Its beneficial claims include: aides in digestion, lowers blood pressure, helps with weight control (the claim we see most often), improves memory, and last but not least, relieves arthritis.There are no shortcuts to making great vinegar!
A few years ago with the help of some local grape grower friends, who share our passion for traditional and authentic foods, we ventured out to make vinegar in the centuries-old Orleans Method, first perfected in France. Most vinegar today is produced by a system that takes just hours, but removes most of the taste and the nutrients. In contrast, authentic vinegar is converted slowly over many months and gently from quality wines with the starter (called the “mother”) in oak barrels. This is the way we do it in our Suisun Valley Vinegar House, and the result is a startlingly rich elixir with fine balance and subtle complexity. Our vinegars are used everyday in some of the best restaurant kitchens in America.
USES IN THE KITCHEN