New York is the second largest producer of apples in the nation. The Lake Champlain Region, of course, is responsible for that ranking. Our Adirondack Coast provides ideal growing conditions and cold enough winters for the required apple tree dormant period. Actually the trees really enjoy being a part of our breathtaking scenic beauty. During this month you can find them posing with their red, green and gold ornaments. This is a fantastic time to visit. Catch one of those crisp, crystal clear September days, where visibility is unlimited. Colors are magnified and often reflected in Lake Champlain’s flat water, commonly found this time of year. Naturally you will want a take-home treasure; the farm-fresh, and flavorful apples from the Champlain Valley. You will find none better, anywhere.
Yes, September is the time of year when my craving for apple pie peaks and I head for an exceptional orchard. Along Route 9N & 22, just north of the hamlet of Crown Point, is one that raises the best of the best. Gunnison's Orchard, a member of the New York State Apple Growers Association, has been in existence forever it seems. The skills and knowledge of growing perfect apples has been passed down among many generations. Old trees have gone, new have come in, but the years of hard work and experience is evident in the products offered. About a mile south from the turn to the Lake Champlain Bridge, north of the Crown Point Town Center, you will pass by their acres of apple trees and then see the warehouse and sign for Gunnison’s Olde Farmhouse Bakery and Gift Shop.
The parking lot is seeing a great deal of activity the afternoon I stop by. The air smells clean and "apple-green" as I make my way to the door. I find honey, jams, jellies, and locally made Adirondack-style gifts as I enter.The aroma of fresh baked goods and hot apple cider is more than welcoming and attempts to grab my immediate attention. However, I am on a mission so I make my way to the cold apple storage first. Oh my....too many choices. I see unfamiliar names like “Zestar”, but I also find my favorite varieties, McIntosh and Empire along with a myriad of other choices. All have their own personality and distinction but, the pecks and half-pecks of bagged apples have convenient little labels to guide you for the perfect pie, sauce, or whatever!
Peck in hand, I now let myself succumb to the aroma filling the store and find Fitzgerald, Chief Baker, busy at work in the bakery section. Today's tasty treat samples are pumpkin spiced cider donuts. YUM! Bite-sized pieces are offered on top of a display case brimming with pies, tarts, muffins, cookies and donuts. Everything is baked fresh daily and the cider donuts sell fast promising to enhance that next cup of coffee and bring smiles to the family at home. I grab all I will allow myself.
Plan a visit and treat your palate. Tasting these farm-fresh beauties grown mere steps away from where you find them is a flavor sensation you won't regret.Open 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM, seven days a week until after Thanksgiving, Gunnison's Orchard and Farmhouse Bakery and Gift Shop (3208 NYS Route 9N & 22, 518-597-9222) would love to have you visit.
To further your Lake Champlain Region "Apple Experience" plan on attending Penfield Homestead Museum's Apple-Folk-Fest on Sunday, October 13th. It's a day-long event filled with activities and focused on the apple. There you will be able to taste, and take home, every apple dessert imaginable; all hand crafted by the region's top bakers. Hot homemade chili will be available to ward off any October chill. You will have the opportunity to watch and learn how cider is pressed and touring the museum is free that day! A farmer's market, craft fair, flea market and live entertainment offer something for everyone.