We're more than halfway through with this year's Finger Lakes Cider Week, and I'm both very happy and very tired at this point. We've had wonderful activities that range from the educational to the indulgent and most everything in between. Tomorrow night is my last big event. I'll be pairing ciders and cheeses with the fine folks at The Cellar D'Or on State Street on the Ithaca Commons from 5-8pm. We'll have New York, regional, and international selections in both cheeses and ciders, and the whole event is completely free. Come by and taste a few things and mingle with your fellow cider lovers. I've been doing my cheese research for the event, and I'm pretty stoked to share some wild and funky cheeses. Delightful!
Anyhow, I'm blogging tonight to review another local Finger Lakes Cider by Redbyrd Orchard Cider. This is a relatively young company, but one of the founders, Eric Shatt, has been fermenting various beverages since his teenage years and came to cider professionally after several years in the local wine industry. Last year this company was one of the founding members of the Finger Lakes Cider Alliance along with 7 other cideries. I think this statement found on their website tells me the most about their goals as cidermakers, "We grow heirloom, wild seedling and European cider apples to produce unique and complex artisanal ciders."You can check out the rest of their website here: http://redbyrdorchardcider.com/.
Tonight, I'm reviewing their oaked cider, the Starblossom 2012. This is what the folks at Redbyrd Orchard say about their Starblossom cider: "Bottle conditioned and barrel aged in french oak, Starblossom is a heavy
yet elegant cider with a nose of spice and vanilla, smokey cloves and
dried fruit. Exquisite with a fine ring of bubbles in your glass and a
warming creaminess of effervescence in your mouth. An excellent pairing
with a spicy lamb tangine, pasta nestled in a delicate cream sauce,
roasted pork loin, or even on it’s own as a celebratory drink." I've not had many oaked ciders, so I'm extra curious about how dramatic the oak's effects will be on the cider and what that will be like. Those I've had a few; Some use highly flavorful boozed-up barrels for strong notes of the previous barrel occupants like bourbon or whiskey. Others use more subtle neutral barrels to up their tannins, using the wood as one more way to give their ciders structure. Two very different directions.
Appearance: Brilliant, pale, creamed honey
This looks to be a petillant or lightly sparking cider from the pours I'm seeing. Not very many visible bubbles. Beautiful brilliance and very pale color. It has the barely off white color of creamed honey through the cider looks anything but opaque.
Aromas: fresh apples, a bit of warm vanilla, perhaps some more tropical fruits
Luscious notes of fresh apples just open right up as soon as I smelled this cider. The other notes aren't as strong, but I did smell some warm vanilla and tropical fruits, mostly banana.
The Starblossom isn't very sweet, but the fruits on the mid-palate definitely translate into some sweetness for me. When listening to others respond to the sweetness or dryness of this cider, I've heard a range of opinions, everything from noting it as pleasantly almost sweet to extremely dry. Palates vary.
Flavors and drinking experience: crisp, mildly fruity, wood on the finish
Well now I can definitely tell that Redbyrd uses their oak more for structure than for intense flavors. The cider makes its impression primarily on its crispness and firm structure. This cider drinks well and enjoyably for me, but my husband found it a bit rough and imperfectly balanced. The fruits only really come into play in the mid-palate but enjoyably so. The wood from the oak is most noticable in terms of flavor in the finish for the Starblossom.
I had this with a blue cheese and then again later with a hearty fall grain salad. It worked with both but I think the creaminess and intensity of the blue cheese made for an especially fun pairing. The zesty outspoken cheese relied a bit on the stability of the cider and the cider benefited from the excitement.