Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cider Review: South Hill Cider's 2014 Pack Basket

My thoughts lately keep going to all of the worried apple growers and cidermakers I know. These last crazy bursts of winter after what seemed like a mild year and early spring are putting the 2015 apple crop at significant risk right now. Spare a good though if you can for the apple buds and blossoms that we need for our favorite beverage. 

Among these local cider companies facing late freezes is South Hill Cider. So, while I root for our apples, I want to review one of these ciders. You can read about the ciders, the orchard, and the process right on South Hill Cider's website: http://www.southhillcider.com/

or get updates on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SouthHillCider

My only previous review of South Hill Cider is one of the hyper-limited Hypothesis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html

My review for today is South Hill Cider's 2014 Pack Basket. Here's how the official website describes it.


2014 yielded a very light crop for wild apples and pears across Central New York. However, with a bit of luck we found one stand of wild trees in a high valley with a good crop. These hidden trees were far enough from the dirt road that we could only retrieve the fruit by hauling it out on our backs. Hence the name, Pack Basket.
Naturally Sparkling. Complex, fruity, toasty, bone dry
100% wild pippin apples and pears
Bottle conditioned sur lie and undisgorged
28 cases produced
500 mL, 8.3% ABV.

Appearance: brilliant, few visible bubbles

This is a pale brilliant cider; I'd call the color green-tinted gold. There are just a few visible bubbles, and those I can see are very very small. 

Aromas: overripe apple, pear, stony, and spicy

I love how this cider smell spicy sweet. The Pack Basket definitely smells like pear. I also get some of the stony dusty notes that somestimes come with a rich tannic cider.

Dryness/sweetness: dry

Ooooh! What a true dry cider this is. This is so exciting! It has tons and tons of flavor (keep reading) but no residual sweetness at all.

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, spicy, balanced, fine bubbles

What defines this cider for me is that it manages to offer Eextremely high acid, dry and yet remain fruity. The balance is quite frankly amazing. I love the mouthfeel with its super fine bubbles. I think the presence of the pears keeps the fruitiness going because not all sugars in pears can fully ferment away. 
The apple varieties make the cider softly spicy with medium tannins. I cannot say enough about how decadent the Pack Basket tastes. Its amazing!

Yes, I'm a sucker for dual presence of tannins and acids. And yes, I tend to love ciders that include a fair number of crabs. This cider fits those elements of my profile really well, but its the richness and balance that wows me. This cider is special. 

I paired this with a yellow cake with dried cranberries and caramel frosting. Yes, it was a very sweet cake. I'd absolutely pair this with dessert again. But that's far from the only possibility. One could also enjoy it with soft cheese and berries or some toasted nuts. I'd keep the food flavors simple to better showcase the cider's complexity. Glorious!

I also paired the Pack Basket with warm and relaxed conversation with a visiting friend. And that part was absolutely right. Definitely try that if you can. Also, next year's packbasket blend is coming soon, and I heard from Steve Selin himself that this one is going to be sill and 100% apples, no pears. Something nice to look forward to.

Speaking of looking forward! GLINTCAP is coming up! We're less than 2 weeks away! I'm thinking about doing a few bottle trades. Let me know if you're interested. Also, I'll be driving back, so if you'll be there and want your ciders reviewed, its a great time and place to pass on a review bottle and avoid paying for shipping...just a thought.