Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cider Review: Farnum Hill Extra Dry and my experience thus far with Protocol Wine Studio

As summer has turned from balmy to doggedly hot, I've been grateful to have a cool evening activity to look forward to once a week. I've been participating in the Protocol Wine Studio ( conversation on cider. Every Tuesday evening, several folks from the curious to the extremely knowledgeable chat about cider using the hashtag #winestudio.

The neatest part for me is that this whole month of August is not only cider themed but further focused on Farnum Hill Cider. When I agreed to participate, I was sent a box of four of Farnum Hill's Ciders, two of which we cracked open last week. The remaining two will likely have to wait until the last night, August 25th. The actual name of the event series is:

 Drop that Axe! Cider Then, Now and Future –
A Cider Comprehensive with Farnum Hill Ciders

You can read more about the ongoing event here:

We talked so far about terroir, cider apples, minimal use of sugar , bold embrace of high tannin, high acid, super dry, slightly funky ciders and many many larger questions about the current world of cider. I'm really enjoying it. Please join in the conversation and check out what's going on with the hashtag #winestudio this Tuesday and next Tuesday at 9pm EDT.

Beyond wanting to share the cider conversation on Twitter, I wanted to share my more in-depth review of the 2013 Crop Extra Dry Cider.

As always you can go visit Farnum Hill's website and learn about their farm, their history and their ciders here:

As far as my own history with Farnum Hill, I've enjoyed their ciders since 2002 and reviewed a few of them.

Here's the Farmhouse:

And the Summer Cider:

And they frequently make my 10 Favorite Ciders list for any given year:

 Here's the description that I received along with my sample bottle (it's different from what appears on the website):
Unlike wine language, our "extra dry" means this cider contains zero sugar,  residual or returned. But it sports mad fruit from citrus to mango, a real example of the different between 'fruit' and 'sweetness.' Many apple varieties combine in this blend, principally Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Chisel Jersey, Harry Masters' Jersey, Wickson, and Golden Russet.
I love this description. It gives me apple names, sweetness/dryness level, and some expectation of what to look out for in terms of flavor. And it isn't over inflated. Perfect. 

There were some great aroma and flavor notes noticed by different folks. I'm definitely going to benefit from tasting in a group of several folks rather than my usual experience of tasting mostly by myself.

Appearance: deep butterscotch gold

Everyone noticed how rich a color this cider has. Most ciders look much paler in the glass. When asked, Farnum Hill's cider blender Nicole Leibon, attributed the color to oxidation of the fruit. Interesting! 

Aromas: Spice, orange peel, summer flowers

Different folks noticed a huge range of aromas everything from sweet floral aromas, to baking spice, other variations on spiciness, lemon, citrus, other fruits including both stone and tropical fruit.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

We agreed on the dryness of the cider but it came across differently to different drinkers.

Flavors and drinking experience: bottle conditioned, slightly funky, high acid, high tannin

Aside from those broader descriptions all manner of more specific notes stuck out to diffent people. Lot of fruits were noticed, mostly citrus. I tastes lots of orange and orange peel. For me, what stood out the most (and in a very positive way) was the balance of both high acid and high tannins.  For folks perhaps more surprised by cider's funky side, people noted cheese, leather, butter, mushrooms, yoghurt and earthy flavors. I can taste them, but they don't stand out to me. I find the Extra Dry beautifully balanced.

We also talked about mouthfeel. You have to when a cider does mouthfeel this perfectly. Seriously. The cider is taut, sharp, but also velvety and rich. I'd call all of that relevant to the high acid plus high tannin factor. We also discussed the bubbles and bottle conditioning of this cider. What was interesing to me were the more abstract words that came up like intense or focused.

I had my ciders with an heirloom tomato pie with a cheese crust followed up by a dark chocolate bar. Both pairings worked with not only this cider but also Farnum Hill's Farmhouse cider. 

Needless to say, I love this cider. I also really enjoyed talking about it with a wide variety of other interested folks. Please join us next week and learn more about cider and Farnum Hill!