It is mid-summer and apple season is upon is. Within a day or two, several apple farmers will begin picking the first apple to ripen, our beloved Gravenstein. 

Stan DeVoto, who has farmed apples on Gold Ridge Rd. in west Sebastopol since 1976, expects to pick his first Gravensteins this Friday. The season will last about three-and-a-half weeks, with five other varieties–Burgundy, Pink Pearl, Arkane, Honeycrisp and Hubbardston Nonesuch–overlapping with the ripe Gravensteins.

Devoto specializes in heirloom apples and currently grows more than 50 varieties. At a time when apple orchards are being torn out to make room for more wine grapes, this farm is adding apples. Currently they have 26 acres and this year added 500 new trees, to which they grafted 45 different varieties, including Hidden Rose, a rare red-flesh apple that ripens in October. It will be four or five years before the new trees produce a first crop.

Devoto attends ten Bay Area farmers markets, though none in Sonoma County. You’ll find them at farmers markets in Napa on Tuesday and Saturday, in St. Helena on Friday and at the San Rafael Civic Center on Thursday and Sunday. Devoto apples are available at Whole Foods in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa and are distributed to restaurants throughout the Bay Area by FEED Sonoma. For anyone who prefers to get apples directly from the farm, it is open by appointment.

Devoto Gardens is nearly as well known for its extraordinary flowers as for its apples. Currently, they’re picking sunflowers, caleopsis, agrostemma, cosmos, hydrangeas, zinnias, Purple Majesty millet, statice –CQ–, Neon Series dianthus and many other varieties.

The farm also grows grapes, eight acres of pinot noir and one acre of chardonnay. Three wineries–Wait Cellars of San Francisco, Suacci Carciere and Zepaltas Wines, both located in Sonoma County–make vineyard-designate wines from the grapes. Two other vineyards use the grapes, as well.

Last year, Stan Devoto’s daughter, Jolie Devoto Wade, and her husband,  Hunter Wade, launched a new endeavor, Apple Sauced Cider, using the family’s apples to make “Save the Gravenstein” cider. It’s a true cider, the kind that was ubiquitous in the United States before Prohibition. Last year’s vintage came in at 6 percent alcohol and was fermented until nearly completely dry. It’s as food friendly a drink as I’ve tasted and may be the perfect quaffer with a huge array of cheeses. Currently, the cider isn’t available at farmers markets, as quantities are low and they are keeping restaurant and retail accounts supplied. This year’s vintage–which will include a few new ciders, in addition to Save the Gravenstein–should be available in September. For now, you’ll find the 2012 cider at Gypsy Cafe, Peter Lowell’s and Andy’s Market, all in Sebastopol, and a few other locations.

Apple Sauced Cider, along with Tilted Shed Ciderworks of Forestville, will be poured at the Gravenstein Apple Fair, taking place on August 10 and 11, in the newly-designated Cider and Wine Tent.

Devoto Gardens apple orchards are certified organic and dry farmed, a technique that produces true, concentrated flavors and appealing textures. The vineyards currently are undergoing the required steps that will lead to organic certification sometime soon.

Devoto Gardens was founded in 1976 by Stan Devoto. It is open by appointment; to visit, call 823-6650. For more information, including directions, a list of apple varieties and information about Apple Sauced Cider, visit devotogardens.com.