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Toast Earth Day with locally made hard cider

Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery near Paola, Kan., on Friday launches a sparkling hard cider made with apples from Louisberg Cider Mill. The cider is a light, effervescent summer quencher containing 8 percent alcohol.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery near Paola, Kan., on Friday launches a sparkling hard cider made with apples from Louisberg Cider Mill. The cider is a light, effervescent summer quencher containing 8 percent alcohol.

Looking for an unusual way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day?

Consider toasting Mother Earth with a glass of locally crafted sparkling hard cider.

Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery will begin pouring its hard cider at an Earth Day launch party starting at 11 a.m. and continue throughout the summer. The 8 percent alcohol beverage will be available only at the Paola, Kan., winery for $5 a glass.

And once you’ve tasted the crisp, quenching beverage, owners Cindy and Dennis Reynolds want you to help name it.

The Reynoldses planted vines in 1998 and began producing wines in 2001. The picturesque vineyard is on a limestone ridge 20 miles south of Kansas City and down the road from Louisburg Cider Mill, which supplies the apple juice that is added to Avalon, Somerset Ridge’s fortified brandy.

The leap from winemaking to an effervescent hard cider began a little over two years ago. The result is a pale, honey-colored cider with 8 percent alcohol and a light floral note that comes from three varieties of red and yellow apples.

“It’s got a nice, crispy apple-y aroma,” Cindy says. “It’s a fun, sparkly beverage perfect for summer.”

In recent years, hard cider has been the fastest-growing segment of the adult beverage industry, appealing to beer drinkers and women.

As part of the naming contest, which runs until July 1, customers are encouraged to use #NameSomersetCider to offer suggestions. The winner receives a wine-tasting event for six and a basket of local artisan foods handpicked by the Reynoldses.

Given that Boaty McBoatface was the top name submitted when the British Natural Environment Research Council invited the public to name a polar research vessel, the Reynoldses could well be worried.

Cindy laughs at the suggestion: “No, we get to pick the name from the entries.”

Once there is a winning name, the Reynoldses will produce a label and research whether to use a cap or a cork on the 750-milliliter wine bottles they’ll put into distribution this fall.

Eventually there are plans to create a blackberry-infused sparkling cider using locally grown blackberries.

Launch party hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, but the hard cider will be available at the winery all summer.

You can pair the cider with Spanish tapas from the foodtruck El Tenedor on Saturday and Sunday.

Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor, lead restaurant critic and blog curator.

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