On my way through the lush farmland of the Olympic Peninsula to Port Townsend, signs at the Chimacum intersection pointed me in the direction of the Olympic Peninsula Cider Route. I followed the sign, stopping at the beautiful Finnriver Farm & Cidery. I had heard of Finnriver Cider but had not yet tried it. As a dedicated wine drinker, I was soon to change my less than enthusiastic, and uneducated, opinion of ciders.
Olympic Peninsula Cider Route
The Cider Route makes for an ideal day excursion from the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend.
You’ll drive through beautiful countryside of Port Townsend and the Chimacum Valley and have the opportunity to visit three cideries, all part of the hard cider revival. Cider is in vogue today partly because it’s a gluten free alternative to beer. Also, its popularity is due to the quality of the ciders being produced in craft cideries. The three craft cider tasting rooms on the route offer you a wide range of contemporary and traditional cider styles, along with wines, vinegars and more.
Visiting The Home of Finnriver Cider
I drove past the gate into the parking lot at Finnriver Cider, home to their organic orchard and cider garden. It was a welcoming, laid back place with covered outdoor seating, several funky buildings, a fun tasting room and Adirondack chairs positioned to take advantage of the valley orchard view. I was early for my appointment with Crystie Kisler, one of the founders of the farm, so I strolled down into the orchards following a marked path.
There were informational signs about the orchards, the many varieties of heirloom apples and about salmon stream restoration. I was beginning to see that many hands were involved with many projects at the farm.
Finnriver is not just an orchard and cidery. Finnriver is dedicated to developing a sense of community, creating partnerships and ensuring good stewardship of the land. There’s a lot happening there.
Learning About Finnriver Cider
Finriver Farm & Cidery is known for their award-winning craft cider, local food, entertainment and special events.
But what amazed me the most is learning that cider making is very similar to wine making. Instead of grapes, it is usually made with apples. But that isn’t the only differentiating factor. The government classifies a hard cider as having less than 7% alcohol by volume. Cider has less alcohol than wine and so you can enjoy it in a different way.
Crystie Kisler sat down with me in the shade of the large covered patio to share a flight of ciders with me. She was determined to convert me from my previous rejection of cider and I was determined to find out why my initial foray into the land of hard cider was met with bitterness and a quick exit.
Finnriver is a feel-good place and Crystie and the Finnriver crew have worked to create the sense of community that you feel there and to promote their mission to reconnect people to the land that sustains us. But beyond that, the Finnriver Cider makers are dedicated to quality. They source Certified Organic fruit from around the Pacific Northwest. Nothing artificial goes into the process. They craft ciders from a foundation of fermented organic apple juice—from their own farm or carefully selected partner farms. Mass produced ciders I tasted previously included artificial flavorings and copious amounts of sweeteners. I really do prefer the good taste of pure fruit juice.
Tasting Finnriver Cider
In the past, cider—to me—tasted like beer. That was probably due, in part, to the carbonation. Carbonation can mask bad flavors but also gives you the mouth feel of beer. So combine artificial flavors and sweeteners with carbonation and my previous bad experience with cider is understandable. But tasting a quality craft Finnriver cider changed all that for me.
To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the flight of Finnriver cider. In fact, the tasting quickly converted me. I decided to purchase a lovely bottle of Finnriver’s Golden Russet, in their Orchard Series.
The taste of the homegrown heirloom russeted apples came through strongly… a nice pure apple juice taste. I could also taste hints of citrus. It was light, pure-tasting and would be enjoyable for an evening on the deck or paired with something spicy.
I found cider to be refreshing and the varieties offered at Finnriver pretty impressive. The tasting room housed ciders that were available in stores but also estate ciders only available right there. There was a great variety of creative ciders. You’ll find much more than hard apple cider. I liked the Black Current cider for something different.
Family Fun at Finnriver Farm & Cidery
Summer at Finnriver Cidery is a fun time. They have food carts on the weekends, you can enjoy wood fired pizza and, of course, cider for adults and other beverages for all ages.
Children can play lawn games while their parents relax nearby. There is live music on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons—year-round.
Take the children for a walk in the orchard so they can see what the 50-acre organic farm looks like close-up.
Exploring the Rest of the Chimacum Valley
Within a half-mile of the Chimacum intersection where I saw the Cider Route sign, you can find Finnriver Orchard and Cider Garden, Chimacum Corner Farmstand, Red Dog Farmstand, Spring Rain Farmstand and some local cafés such as Chimacum Café and Farm’s Reach Café. Some of these farms also sell at the seasonal Farmer’s Market in Port Townsend.
When You Go to the Home of Finnriver Cider
The Cider Route is located on the north Olympic Peninsula of Washington, just south of the seaport and arts community of Port Townsend. It’s a scenic area with mountain vistas and lazy winding roads. All three cideries are within 10 miles of each other and you can visit the Cider Route in one afternoon, or bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it. I found Finnriver Farm & Cidery, especially, to be a wonderful place to relax, taste Finnriver Cider and enjoy the country experience.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.