Seminary Hill Cidery Pours Cider With Heritage in the Southern Catskills

Photo by Bryan Gardner

Discover Callicoon’s Seminary Hill, a Hudson Valley cidery complete with bountiful orchards, farm-fresh menus, and homey accommodations.

A comeback is brewing in the Southern Catskills. Sullivan County was once a part of the iconic Borscht Belt, a colloquial term for the 1950s resorts boom that attracted vacationing Jewish-American families from NYC. Come the ‘70s, the hype fizzled out.

But now in the 21st century, towns like Narrowsburg and Livingston Manor are experiencing a second wind — a resurrection, if you will — from city dwellers looking for a change of pace. Callicoon, a quaint town tucked along the Delaware River, has experienced a revitalization that combines both historic roots and aesthetic values.

Seminary Hill Cidery and Orchard, Callicoon. Photo by Bryan Gardner.
Seminary Hill Cidery and Orchard, Callicoon. Photo by Bryan Gardner.

In the town’s foothills is Seminary Hill, a blossoming cidery and orchard that hopes to honor ancestry and bolster local economy with flavorful concoctions and design-forward accommodations.

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Seminary Hill is the brainchild of Doug Doetsch, whose ancestry in Callicoon dates to the 1800s. Doetsch, an international finance lawyer, returned to his fifth-generation homestead with wife Susan Manning, a professor at Northwestern University, a few years back.

For eight springs, trees were planted in an orchard with sweeping views of the Upper Delaware River and a brick steeple of a former Franciscan seminary (which inspired the cidery’s name). Over 1,500 trees and 2,500 gallons of cider later, Seminary Hill opened its doors in June.

The Boarding House

As you creep up the incline of Upper Main to Hospital Road (only minutes from downtown Callicoon), you’ll see Seminary Hill’s first stop: the Boarding House, designed by Livingston Manor-based company, Homestedt. Two century-old white buildings — one of which was a local hospital in the early 20th century — have been converted into eight apartments featuring Shaker design and Scandinavian minimalism.

Seminary Hill Cidery Photo by Peter Crosby
Photo by Peter Crosby

Seventeen bedrooms with neutral tones, natural wood paneling, and historical references are spread across the Upper and Lower houses. Over 500 Shaker pegs adorn the Boarding House’s spaces, from individual bedrooms to the communal kitchenettes, living rooms, and corner libraries.

Homestedt, run by husband-and-wife duo Tom Roberts and Anna Aberg, believes in a core ethos of sustainability and natural living — a theme you’ll find throughout the Seminary Hill properties. Roberts and Aberg are also behind the widely publicized Livingston Manor Fly Fishing Club, 30 minutes northeast of Callicoon.

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Don’t expect to find plastic or single-use items on the property: Homestedt’s Zero Waste Home line is implemented throughout the communal spaces; water from a well is always flowing; cow’s milk from a local farm is stocked in the fridges; and provided body care products are refilled as needed.

The entirety of the Boarding House’s furniture and accent pieces have been repurposed, either from Doetsch’s family or local vintage warehouses. Most of the books in the Lower House were once a part of a former ambassador to Italy’s private collection. Pages from The Apples of New York serve as wall art, and a nod to the orchard. A downed tree from the orchard wasn’t even scrapped for firewood — it becvame the parlor kitchen’s dining table. As you’ll discover on your stay, everything has a purpose.

The Cidery

Sitting on 62 acres of land and just north of the Boarding House, Seminary Hill is comprised of a cidery, an orchard, and tented event space.

Built into the hill of the apple orchard, a two-story building is packed with all things cider and sustainability. The cidery was designed by Cold Spring-based River Architects and built by Poughkeepsie-based Baxter Building Corporation. It’s the world’s first Passive House-certified cidery: low-impact energy and a carbon zero approach were implemented in its construction.

Parlor kitchen. Photo by Lawrence Braun.
Parlor kitchen. Photo by Lawrence Braun.

On the second floor is the Tasting Room. Cathedral-style wooden beams and floor-to-ceiling windows adorn the 3,500-sq-ft space along with warm-toned wood and eclectic furniture. The larch wood finishing was reclaimed from underwater pilings of the former Tappan Zee Bridge.

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Outside, visitors can revel in its bank barn-style exterior, local bluestone, and a wrap-around patio. Of course, the balcony provides stunning panoramas of the Delaware River Valley and the fruit orchard below.

The orchard is lined with 60 varieties of apple and pear trees; they were planted holistically under watch of orchardist Michael Phillips and are free of pesticides and herbicides. These American, English, and French trees produce 10,000 bottles worth of cider. By 2026, Seminary Hill hopes to meet a quota of 60,000 bottles annually.

Photo by Bryan Gardner
Photo by Bryan Gardner

Seminary Hill has created five ciders: Baldwin Pippin, Beechwoods, Delaware Dry, Northern Spy, and Susan’s Semi-Dry. Each one is over 7% ABV and contains little-to-no residual sugar; the deep gold and peachy semi-dry still brings some sweetness (it was named after Manning).

The Delaware Dry (citrus and creamy notes) and Beechwoods (stone fruit and melon) are packed with a variety of apples, like Tremlett’s Bitter and Chisel Jersey. On the other hand, Northern Spy (apple and caramel) and Baldwin Pippin (apple and acidic finish) highlight just one or two apples, respectively.

Bedroom in Apartment 8, Lower House. Photo by Lawrence Braun.
Bedroom in Apartment 8, Lower House. Photo by Lawrence Braun.

The tasting room also features 100% New York craft beer, wine, and spirits. There’s an eclectic menu of farm-to-table small plates, always changing to highlight peak-season ingredients and produce. In the fall, the culinary team offers local venison, baked breads like za’atar focaccia, and seasonal vegetables on its Argentinian wood-fire grill. Notable offerings include black cherry tamarind ribs with pistachio dukkah and fennel slaw, duck BLTs, and a colorful beet hummus.

For an in-depth look at the orchard and cidery, guests can tour the grounds and enjoy a cider tasting (Sundays, $45 per person). The ciders are available for tastings year-round (Thurs–Sun, $25 per person).

Related: Callicoon Hills Is a Modern Take on an Old-School Catskills Resort

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