For the Lost Apple Project, two artisans are risking life and limb in pursuit of amazing cider

By Chelsea Morse
Updated May 23, 2017
© Dylan Ladds

In the tiny town of Shoreham, Vermont, the founders of Shacksbury Cider have set out on a journey into New England's distant past.

For their new Lost Apple Project, David Dolginow and Colin Davis hunt down apple trees planted by colonial settlers in private and public spaces across the state. Their aim is to find the fruit that makes the best cider and graft cuttings from those trees to propagate, with the goal of saving worthy heirlooms from extinction.

Along the way their team has chanced encounters with bears ("Once, Colin found fresh claw marks where something had been scratching up against a tree," Dolginow recalls) and treacherous mountain conditions ("The road along the cliff was washed out, but Colin couldn't turn the truck around, so he kept driving"), all in search of the bitter, tannic apples that yield their preferred style of cider: dry, effervescent and slightly funky. Occasionally they'll spy a promising orchard and approach the landowner.

"New Englanders can be skeptical—that's putting it mildly—when I knock on their doors midday on a Tuesday," says Dolginow. "But the minute I say 'apple trees,' it's as if a song we both know just came on and we start singing along. We're strangers, but we're immediately connected."