Cider House Rules

Foggy Ridge Cider founder Diane Flynt earns third nod from James Beard. 

When she opened Foggy Ridge Cider in 1997, Diane Flynt was the first modern cider producer in Virginia to grow apples exclusively for hard cider. Since then, the industry has taken off in the state and now includes at least 18 cideries—but Flynt continues to lead the way. 

Earlier this year, she was named a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional—the Oscars of the food world. It was Flynt’s third nod from the high-profile arbiter of culinary taste; she was also nominated in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s an industry award. You’re nominated by your peers,” says Flynt, 63, who sees the recognition as a validation of the cider category. “There has been a real resurgence of interest in what we call ‘orchard cider,’ cider made from authentic cider apples that reflects the terroir of an orchard site.”

Foggy Ridge Cider began when Flynt, a former banking executive, planted an orchard of high-tannin apples with her husband Chuck in the mountains of Carroll County in 1997. “We were one of the first ones to do that in any kind of significant way in Virginia. And it’s those high-tannin fruits that really make the best cider.” 

Some wineries in Virginia had made cider on the side, but they had purchased juice instead of growing their own fruit, Flynt explains: “Foggy Ridge has been a leader in growing real cider apples and making cider that reflects apple varieties, rather than added ingredients. So much of the cider world now is using inferior fruit and then using a lot of ingredients to cover up the fact that the cider doesn’t taste very good on its own. We don’t do that.”

Flynt blends a trio of high-tannin apples—Dabinett, Tremlett’s Bitter and Yarlington Mill—with fruity varieties Gold Rush, Grimes Golden and Newtown Pippin to produce her dry Serious Cider. For her full-flavored Stayman Winesap Cider, Flynt mixes the original Stayman apple with Winesap, long grown in the South for cider, adding Newtown Pippin, plus a touch of the modern Pink Lady, to achieve just the right aroma.

“We planted this orchard just for making cider,” says Flynt. “We ferment slowly in stainless steel and do not add flavorings such as hops or other fruit juices, which is common now in cider. We aim to express apple varieties just like a winemaker aims to express grape varieties.”

Cider Week Events

Richmond Cider Celebration, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Virginia Cider Smackdown, North Garden, Nov. 18, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Old Town Alexandria Cider Festival, Nov. 18, 2 – 6 p.m.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum