Free Daily Headlines

News

Set your text size: A A A

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards honored for NC's best hard cider

Cider-maker Kelly Rivera Meyers and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards owner Alan Ward show a bottle of the Governor’s Cup-winning hard cider. Behind them is a binet rouge apple tree, one of the French-imported varieties that produces cider apples. Cider-maker Kelly Rivera Meyers and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards owner Alan Ward show a bottle of the Governor’s Cup-winning hard cider. Behind them is a binet rouge apple tree, one of the French-imported varieties that produces cider apples.

Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards won a first-place Governor’s Cup for the top hard cider in the state for its Appalachian Ridge Sugarloaf Mountain cider, taking home its fourth such award.

Marvin Owings Jr., the apple specialist who works with Saint Paul owner Alan Ward to grow apples for the cidery called the winning product, Sugarloaf, “our sweetest cider.”

The cider was made by Kelly Rivera Meyers, a rising star vintner who has been Saint Paul’s wine and cider maker since 2022.

“So it’s attributed to her and her skills, plus the fact that all the apples that we use in our cider are grown in Henderson County and some are specifically grown for cider,” Owings said. “We’ve got about five acres of orchard that are specifically cider varieties. They’re grown for cider because of the tannins and the acids, which gives it a unique and very typical European cider type flavor.”

Saint Paul also scored the highest in the “best of” cider category, for its Heritage Ridge Black Bear blackberry cider.

Only three North Carolina wineries took home the state’s most prestigious award for winemaking in the N.C. Wine Competition. Besides Saint Paul’s achievement in the Fruit/Cider/Mead category, N.C. Governor’s Cups were awarded to:

  • Shadow Springs Vineyard, Swan Creek American Viticultural Area, for its 2022 Seyval Blanc, (Vinifiera/Hybrid Grapes category).
  • Sanctuary Vineyards, Jarvisburg, for “The Plank,” Noble, Cabernet Franc (Muscadine Grapes category).

Sixteen judges tasted 291 wine, cider and mead entries in the competition and ultimately awarded 18 Double Gold Medals, 31 Gold Medals, and 192 Silver Medals. A panel of five judges then selected the N.C. Governor’s Cup winners from 24 wines and hard ciders.

Owings and Ward are willing to go beyond the usual sources for the best cider. They have traveled to Normandy, France, several times to acquire young trees that produce cider apples.

“We have this area where trees do really well but we want to make this one particular type of cider, which is actually very technically challenging,” Rivera Meyers said.

After earning a degree in mathematics and financial economics at the University of Virginia, “I started working in wine and after I decided that I really enjoyed it and I wanted to be serious about it, I went through UC Davis for winemaking,” she said, referring to the California university renowned for its vintner training programs. She’s had advanced training in cider-making, too, from Cornell University. She's won two national awards previously, in the Great American Cider Competition, for Saint Paul’s Bearwallow and Baldtop Mountain ciders.