Rockfish Valley Inn owner prepares for new cidery on 151 and more local restaurant news

Todd Rath plans to open the Blue Toad Hard Cider tasting room on Route 151 in time for The Festy in October. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Todd Rath plans to open the Blue Toad Hard Cider tasting room on Route 151 in time for The Festy in October. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Rockfish Valley Inn owner prepares for new cidery on 151

For those of you determined to hit every boozy spot on Route 151 in one day (one weekend might be more realistic, though still ambitious), that goal is about to be even more challenging. Todd Rath, who may be familiar to anyone who frequents the area, recently announced his plan to open a new cidery on the old Wintergreen Winery property that he purchased this summer, the day before it was supposed to go to auction. Rath is no stranger to the Afton area, and no stranger to the cider industry—this will be the third business he’s launched on Route 151 and his second iteration of Blue Toad Hard Cider.

The original Blue Toad Hard Cider opened in January in his hometown of Rochester, New York. The New York location has expanded to include tasting rooms around the state, and Rath plans to start producing and distributing cider down here under the same name.

One of his New York ciders was on tap at Blue Mountain Brewery for about a month, and it’s been making appearances at Oceanwide Seafood and Rockfish 151 Pub. So if you can’t wait until the October opening (his goal is to be up and running in time for The Festy), you can sample some of what he’s been making up north. The New York cider may be similar to what he’ll produce here, but it won’t be exactly the same.

Unlike some of the bigger guys in the cider industry, Rath promises that every bottle will contain 100 percent local cider; he won’t use concentrate or ship apples in from anywhere outside the commonwealth. The New York cider is made with New York apples, and the Virginia cider is made with Virginia apples, specifically from Silver Creek Orchard in Tyro, about 12 miles southwest of the property.

“I can look people straight in the face and say that our apples are naturally grown and fermented,” Rath says, adding that Central Virginia has a long history of apple orchards and hard cider. “I want to take advantage of what we have and make great products.”

Speaking of the products, Rath says he’s planning on rolling out four different flavors of six-pack apple-based ciders: Blue Ridge Blonde, Roc (for both Rochester and Rockfish Valley) Hard Amber, Hard Cherry and Hard Pineapple.

Rath also plans to plant his own orchard —he says to expect about 20 trees on the property once it opens next month—of “higher-end cider apples,” which will end up in dryer, wine-bottle ciders.

Farm winery regulations don’t allow the cidery to feature a restaurant with a full kitchen, but meats, cheeses and breads will be available. So you won’t be able to stop in for a full-on meal in the middle of your booze cruise down Route 151, but you can at least order a charcuterie platter to soak up some of that cider (and wine and beer and gin…).

From the horse’s mouth

Horse & Hound Gastropub quietly closed its doors last week after eight years in business. On September 16 a for-rent sign went up outside the restaurant, and owners Brooke and Luther Fedora posted a press release on Facebook announcing the restaurant has closed permanently due to major flood damage in August. According to the press release, repairs would have cost “tens of thousands of dollars,” and reopening would have resulted in a “serious loss of income.”

“We were committed to reopening our doors as quickly as possible after the severe water damage that the building sustained,” the press release reads. “Unfortunately, circumstances have prevented us from doing so.”

The owners say they have no plans to relocate the restaurant “or start any new projects in Charlottesville,” but they do promise to honor any catering commitments that are already on the calendar.

“Luther and I are looking forward to spending some more family time with our amazing son and taking some much-needed time off,” reads the final line of the owners’ farewell.

Eat your veggies

For the 19th year in a row, local veg-heads will gather for a day to celebrate all things vegetable. The annual C’ville Vegetarian Festival begins at 11am in Lee Park on September 26 and runs to 5pm—just in time to get home and try out one of the recipes you learned for dinner.

The festival will feature live music and local vendors showcasing their vegetarian/vegan dishes and animal-friendly products, plus a lineup of presentations and cooking demos. Topics on the docket include genetically modified food (“the good, the bad and the ugly”), impacts of the poultry industry and “Why fish don’t belong on your dish.” For those of you (vegetarians, vegans or otherwise) wanting to expand your meatless cooking repertoire, the demonstrations include cooking with quinoa, Italian family recipes and DIY granola.

For more information, visit www.cville vegfest.org.

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