Long before Nassau County became a patchwork of highways and development, it was a breadbasket of sorts for New York City, a bucolic landscape dense with farms and orchards.
Among its bounty were apples. Erik Longabardi, a teacher by day and a cidermaker by night, knew some of those trees had to still exist, possibly hidden away in preserves and estates. A few years ago, the Roslyn resident began driving around with his eyes peeled. “I would drive along the North Shore and western Suffolk, looking for apple trees,” said Longabardi. When he spotted some, “I would leave messages in people’s mailboxes.”
One day in 2015, he happened across a Syosset home with piles of apples outside, free for the taking. Longabardi knocked on the homeowner’s door — and she led him to trees that had been planted in the 1940s and 1950s.
It was one of many such finds: Eight apple trees at the former Roslyn home of William Cullen Bryant. Trees at St. Josaphat’s Monastery in Glen Cove, at Youngs Farm in Old Brookville, at Restoration Farm in Old Bethpage and Banbury Farm on the grounds of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “These were trees planted in their heyday and forgotten about, and some were mangled and unpruned,” Longabardi said. They produced apples without familiar names, but enough juice, tannin and acid to make the ciders Longabardi envisioned. “Ciders from a specific place on Long Island that speak of that place,” he said. That the trees were untended, and hence unsprayed, was a boon.
Longabardi got his commercial cidermaking license just in time for last fall’s banner harvest (“Last year was a pretty big apple year,” he said) then pressed that fruit in the garage of the 18th-century home he shares with his wife, Julie Soltz. Fermented with natural yeasts and unfiltered before bottling, the ciders — bottled under the name Floral Terranes — are cloudy, still and full of character.
His first commercial batch of 2,300 bottles have already become hard to find. I tracked down a slender bottle at the Cold Spring Harbor Wine Shoppe — a cider called Rosemary Farm and made from apples that grew on the grounds of a seminary in Lloyd Harbor. It’s tart and alive, with pronounced saltiness and hints of grapefruit.
Floral Terranes, Roslyn; Instagram: @floralterranes. Available at select wine stores on Long Island and in New York City.