Friday, October 24, 2014

Cider Review: Blackbird Ciders' Orchardist's Reserve

So, one of my goals for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week was to try as many of the unfamiliar cideries as I could. While I didn't make it out to all of the Cider Week events, I did what I could to try new things and this is my first review from that process. I got my hands on some Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve. But before I dive right into the cider, let's learn a bit about the folks who make it.

This is how Black Bird Cider Works introduces themselves on their website (which you can visit here http://blackbirdciders.com):
BlackBird Cider Works is proud to be Niagara County’s sole craft hard cider producer. Nestled on a beautiful farm overlooking Lake Ontario, we produce hard ciders made from apples grown in our own orchard. We boast a variety of ciders ranging from dry to sweet, including some made from certified organic apples. Our on-property tasting room is open seven days a week, offering samples of our current craft cider selection, as well as bottle sales. Stop by the cidery for a tasting, grab some BlackBird merchandise, and discover why we’re Western New York’s premier craft cider producer.
 Their exact location is Barker, New York and one of the really cool things about Black Bird Cider Works is that the cidery and orchard are all part of one location. Black Bird grows all of their own fruit, including both cider varieties of apples and organic apples. Both fairly rare situations and quite special.

I love that Black Bird Cider Works has a tasting room. Perhaps I've become partial over the months I've been involved with one, but there's really something wonderful to say about both seeing the premises for the beverage you are trying and about seeing how customers respond to your ciders.

Now onto Black Bird Cider Works' Orchardist's Reserve!

As I often do, I think it is useful to begin with the cidermaker's official description: "A Blend of six varieties of apples including New York State favorites like the Empire, Cortland & Jonagold apples. With an apple essence on the nose & a light refreshing taste, this cider has a clean finish." To me, this just gives me a good baseline for what to expect so that I approach the cider on its own terms.



Appearance: lots of color, no visible  bubbles, brilliant

This cider shows great color, a deep autumnal gold with hidden hints of green. As the photo shows, there are simply no visible bubbles or haze. It looks so unbubbly that there might not be any sparkle in this cider at all. We'll see.

Aromas: warmed apples, wood, booze

This smells immediately of warm overripe apples, yum. I can get notes of wood shavings, things that remind me of both beer and wine, so I guess I'm just smelling a more notable than usual booziness to the bouquet. Somehow the smell also makes me think of dusty hot slow afternoons in an attic or a barn. Perhaps thats more memory than smell though.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

I know the bottle tells me that this cider will be semi-dry, but I don't get that at all. Semi-sweet is my official recommendation even taking into account that my personal palate is calibrated with some real sensitivity to sweetness. 

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, fruity, green, sweet finish

As the appearance suggested, this cider is just slightly petillant. In terms of flavor, what I notice most is the fruity mid-palate. At that moment, I can taste tangerines, cucumber, all kinds of summer fruit backed with hints of green ultrafresh bitterness. Pleasantly complex. Somehow this just tastes so much like summer. Perhaps it is the hits of lake water minerality. Or somehow the combination of tannins and a sweet powdered sugar finish. I'm not entirely sure. My only real critique has to be in mouthfeel. I prefer a crisper feel with real acid but the Orchardist's Reserve offers more of a soft giving mouthfeel, especially after the initial burst of texture and flavor.

As for pairing, I'd put this with one last summery salad. Even up here in upstate New York, I can still get really good bell peppers and greens. So, I'd chop up every fresh crisp vegetable in the house into a grand finale of a salad, add a good splash of lemon and feta dressing, then drink up this cider right with it.

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