An Afternoon at Millstone Cellars

As you know, dear readers, Jon and I love exploring the many vineyards within a two-hour drive of DC. When Martha Stewart Living featured a story on Millstone Cellars in Monkton, Maryland last fall, I tucked the name away for a fun twist on our local adventuring - neither of us had ever been to a cidery/meadery before! I thought autumn would be the best time to visit, and so back in September I emailed my friend Emily, who recently moved to Philadelphia with her boyfriend, and suggested we meet for a double-date halfway between our respective cities. (Full disclosure: Millstone Cellars is about 90 minutes away from Washington and 20 more from Philly. Thank you for going the extra 25 miles, Emily and Chuck!) November 5 was the earliest date that worked for all of us and I didn't dare hope for leaves to still be on the trees, but the weather's been so strange over the past couple of months that we hit peak foliage this weekend in the mid-Atlantic. It was absolutely gorgeous!

Pro tip: Millstone Cellars opens at noon on the weekends, so aim to arrive then. We four made up 50% of the first tour, which means we had a really intimate experience. (By 1pm the place was packed and at 3, when we left, there was a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot.) Half of the tour is about the building, which was a water-powered grist mill in the 19th century before being restored over the last decade by the family that now owns it and runs the cidery. The other half is about the cider-making process itself. The apples all come from within 50 miles of Monkton and Millstone doesn't add anything extra to their cider besides organics - my word, not theirs - like other fruit, honey, roots, and/or herbs. That means there's no extra sugar in their cider and all the fermentation occurs due to the wild yeast naturally present on the apple skins. Beyond their traditional ciders, which they offer annually, they make a lot of one-off small batches, which are the result of their experiments. You can tell that the people who work there and make the cider have such fun with their craft!

The tour ends with a tasting, and our favorites were the cyser, which is actually a blend of cider and mead, and the cider that had been fermented in bourbon barrels. I loved the strawberry/rhubarb cider that I had with lunch, too, which they offered on draft but weren't selling by the bottle. Because there's no added sugar, the ciders are much drier than I'm used to, but it also means that you can easily taste a variety of flavors in the cider that I think would be lost in a sweeter drink. Every one we tasted was super complex and it was really interesting to try to identify different scents or flavors!

Millstone Cellars sells some snacks but no proper food, so do bring a picnic. Be warned that the cider is strong - about 8%, if I remember correctly - so you'll want bread and cheese at the very least to soak up the alcohol before you drive home!

Last but certainly not least, Millstone Cellars is very dog-friendly. Charlie was allowed on the whole tour, and lots of people stopped to say hello to him while we were at our table. The cidery is just a few minutes from an entrance to the Torrey C Brown Trail, one of the oldest rail-trails in America, which runs through Gunpowder Falls State Park, so you could go for a hike first if you wanted to tire your puppy out before settling in at Millstone!

We had a super fun afternoon out - I highly recommend a visit to Millstone Cellars if you're in DC, Maryland, or Pennsylvania!

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