So tonight I'm reviewing my first Sonoma Cider out of Healdsburg, California. This is the only cider company I've ever seen with a nod from Forbes Magazine as a particularly promising start up company. Here's the link: http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emjl45himd/sonoma-cider/. Sonoma's homepage and their whole graphic presence is very bold and clear. It is a clean look with a lot of appeal. You can find out a lot more information on the brand and its founders on the website: http://sonomacider.com. I'm also definitely noticing the amount of emphasis I see that these guys are putting on the organic certification of the cider. That is a pretty unusual claim, I can imagine why they are proud of it.
On a recent visit to Kentucky, I scoured several bottle shops in Lousville to check out their cider selections. It has become almost a tradition by this point. This is also why when I saw a new cider brand, Sonoma I had to try their bourbon offering first. When in Kentucky, I simply must honor my home state's patron beverage in some small way. So bourbon cider it will be.
In this highly unusual promotional description, Sonoma Cider owns up to using flavor instead of other more traditional methods give their organic apple cider an aura of bourbon. See for yourself exactly how they spin it.
David and Robert both love bourbon. We mean love bourbon. Maybe that’s why they didn’t beat around the bush here. Sure, you can age subtly in bourbon barrels. And subtlety is sometimes enough. But, with the Anvil, the real spark ignited when we tossed nuance aside and added a healthy measure of our proprietary barrel-proof bourbon flavor. Suddenly, something intense, alive and memorable happened. To our palates, it offers a clean, lively, aromatic presence with a layered smoky finish. It’s truly integrated and rounded, yet vitally distinct. Enjoy.I actually really appreciate the honesty, but I'm still not sure that I'm on board for this particular method of producing cider. I'll see how it tastes though and let that be my guide.
Appearance: caramel, brilliant, no bubbles
Sonoma's Anvil Cider has a deep dark color, unlike most ciders. It really looks the color of caramel candy or butterscotch. I see no visible bubbles of note either rising through the cider or clinging to the rim of the glass. The clarity is absolutely brilliant; I can read text through it easily though it is an unusually intense color for a cider.
Aromas: ripe ripe apples,
This cider smells so luscious. I really enjoy how much I can smell apples distinctly. Secondarily, The Anvil smells like stones and caramel. I can also just barely find notes that remind me of freshly cut lumber and underripe blueberries. Really neat smells.
This definitely qualifies as semi-sweet. I can taste a few different sweet elements within The Anvil but they are never overwhelming. I think the level of sweetness actually puts this in a more moderate spot than many many ciders which can either veer very sweet or bone dry. Not a bad position at all.
Flavors and drinking experience: faceted, some facets good others weird
Wow! This is totally distinct and oddly faceted. I experience three distinct phases of taste each time I take a drink of this cider. My first impression is immediately of fruit and carbonation. This is the most typical of cider. The second taste is a bit weirder; I can taste more bourbon, smoke and candy. This is where the "bourbon flavor" comes through. Then after the big show, I can taste a slow finish of limestone. The tastes never truly meld; it is always a parade of three impressions. Overall the Anvil is not overly bourbony. I sincerely enjoy the beautiful long finish of minerality. Sadly, the weird second phase actually reminds me of Grape Nerds.
Okay, the jury is still out on an openly flavored cider. It did certainly exceed my expectations. There are some ciders that use or invoke bourbons much too strongly, and this is not one of them. On the other hand, I do enjoy a more holistic experience rather than three distinct tastes that never come together. I really wasn't into the mid-palate of that experience either. Interesing. I can certainly say that this cider is interesting.
Make up your own mind. But I'd suggest making it up by trying it rather than just guessing. That's the lesson I learned from this cider.