Close enough to the Thruway exit to be convenient for travelers, but far enough down the road to feel like a day in the country – even for locals – the Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz offer a peaceful, bucolic setting. Fall will bring apple-picking, of course; but in the meantime, the covered pavilion by the pond offers casual dining al fresco on wood-fired pizza and burgers paired with traditional handcrafted hard ciders, and the tasting room and farm market invite visitors to bring a taste of the farm home.
The Brooklyn Cider House tasting room on-site greets the visitor who drives up the long gravel driveway at 155 North Ohioville Road. The artisanal market inside is chock-full of locally grown seasonal produce (including some grown on the farm at the site), along with a variety of edibles and specialty products produced by New York State makers: jams and pickles, meats and cheeses, breads and beverages. The tasting bar that runs the length of the wall offers free samples of the ciders on tap that begin life as apples grown at the Twin Star Orchards, which are then fermented naturally to become one of the cidery’s tasty varieties. It also offers a selection of New York State-produced wines and spirits.
The orchard’s principal owner, Peter Yi, was in the winemaking business for more than 25 years. He now applies that beverage-crafting knowledge to making hard ciders in the traditional way. The orchards were purchased in part to grow the raw goods for Yi’s Brooklyn Cider House business in Brooklyn, where there’s currently a restaurant and tasting room for the cidery under construction; but it was always a part of the plan to open the orchards as a destination, too, to both New York City day-trippers who can enjoy a day at the source of the product that they enjoy in the City and to locals to provide a nice spot to sit outside and enjoy some casual dining.
A short walk up the hill outside the tasting room is the spacious covered pavilion that looks out at a scenic pond: just one of a number of bodies of water on the orchard grounds. The pavilion houses a plethora of picnic tables; there were 15 there on a recent visit, and there’s yet more seating independent of the pavilion for when the weather allows. The structure also houses a beautiful tiled imported Italian wood-fired pizza oven and a wood-fired grill for making grass-fed beef burgers and a new lamb burger that they’re experimenting with.
Several varieties of pizza are offered consistently, including the classic Margherita of tomato, basil and mozzarella. Pizza specials are inspired by whatever is growing on the orchard farm; recently some eggplant and zucchini grown there provided the basis for a ratatouille pizza. Cold charcuterie plates of cheeses and meat, made up from the farm market offerings, are also available. And since the whole dining experience there is a new venture this year, they’re open to hearing customer comment as to what people are looking for, says site manager Lindsey Storm.
The land served as a commercial apple business for decades – owned by twin brothers, whence the name “Twin Star” – so the land didn’t have to be planted from scratch when Yi and business partner Mikel Martiarena came to town. They officially opened the orchards for apple-picking last fall, and this spring planted almost 100 acres of the land with nearly 8,000 two-year-old heirloom apple trees of the types that produce the best cider. And while cider apples aren’t good eating apples, the orchards also grow plenty of apples for munching on that include Cortland, Golden Delicious, Gala, McIntosh, Fuji and Macoun.
The hard cider varieties produced by Brooklyn Cider House include one for those who like a particularly dry beverage: Still Bone Dry (with zero carbonation and zero sugar) is aged for 12 months on the lees and six months more in the bottle. Unfiltered, it’s a low-alcohol, high-acid drink. Kinda Dry is tart and suitable as picnic companion; and for the more adventurous palate, there is “Half Sour,” an astringent blend with the aromas of wildflowers and honey. Coming soon are Bone Dry, which they say will be their shout-out to America’s original style of cider (bone-dry, lightly carbonated and full of fruit), and Raw, which is enticingly billed as being “unforgiving.”
The farmstand and tasting room are open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday (plus holiday Mondays) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The wood-fired pizza oven and grill are fired up on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, with fresh bread available on Sundays.