Great cider, fun cocktails, friendly staff, and not a cheese board in sight at Star Cider in Canandaigua, NY.
By Amy Quan
Opened in summer of 2019, Star Cider’s tasting room just off the northeastern shore of Canandaigua Lake, is well worth a visit. And go hungry too because, thanks to a partnership with Neno’s of Rochester, they have a taqueria on site.
The day I visited Star, the on-tap offerings—there were 8— ranged from a bone dry, champagne style cider to a seasonal “Apple Crisp” inspired blend which did indeed have a scent of cinnamon in the glass but was also surprisingly not sweet.
My favorite two sips, however, were “Frisky Whisky” and “Five Point.” The former, as you might expect, is a barrel-aged, hint of oak and vanilla cider that is magically both deeply flavored and refreshingly light. Unlike so many of the other barrel-aged drinks out there, “Frisky Whisky” is beautifully balanced, not a bit overpowered by the flavors of the barrel.
“Five Point” is Star’s flagship cider. Its blend of five traditional New York apples—most from nearby Seneca Orchards—create a layered depth of flavor. Both of these ciders paired exceptionally well with Neno’s special of the day, pork belly tacos.
So the cider and the food are great. But the folks behind the wheel here are exceptional too. Tasting Room Manager, Kevin Lewis, says the goal of Star is to “make connections and support the local community” in multiple ways. In addition to sourcing apples locally, they also partner with Gansz Farm to press the apples that eventually become the 14,000 gallons of cider that Star is bottling this year. Similarly, they work with Honeoye Distilling to help produce an apple brandy that had no trace of cloying sweetness.
While partnering with local businesses is an important part of Star’s community focus, they are also clearly focused on the people of our region. When I asked Kevin what makes Star, well, Star, his first response wasn’t the cider. Above all, “we are a family-friendly, welcoming space,” he answered.
It shows. From the shelves of games inside, to the picnic tables and fire pits outside, it’s easy to see spending a long afternoon there. Add the great Mexican food, a Saturday Farmers Market, a locals “Mug Club” with 400 members, regional ceramics and other goodies, and you can see the web of community Star is spinning.
A quick Covid era postscript: In addition to ample, well-spaced, seating options outside, Star Cider has a dozen indoor tables, mostly set up for a maximum of 6 people. But they take socially distancing very seriously and these tables are spaced farther apart than any place I’ve been in the past year. Additionally, the 25-foot ceiling with multiple ceiling fans made for an airy, well-ventilated main room.
Amy Quan lives, writes and drinks cider in Covert, NY. When not outside with her husband planting food and trying to restore the old orchard on their farmland, she teaches writing at Ithaca College.