Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cider Review: Whitewood Cider Co’s Olivia and Virtue Cider’s The Mitten Reserve

As I pen this review, still sleepy from the weekend's time change, I'm watching snow falling out the window. It feels like a near weekly tradition this time of year. I check in on the weather and realize that winter is still here. Its still time for big bold flavors, hearty food pairings, and nestling under a blanket. I know it can't last forever, so I'm sharing another double review this week of ciders better for now than when spring finally peeks her head over the window sill.

Whitewood Cider Co.'s Olivia Newton-Jonathan Cider Blend

Long time cider community contributors (seriously, look up what all they've done) Dave White and Heather Ringwood founded Whitewood Cider Co. in South Puget Sound. They are a very small, apple-centric cidery with an eye toward traditional methods. Whitewood Cider Co received a Good Food award in 2017. For those unfamiliar with Good Food Awards, this prestigious competition has stringent requirements both for standards of production, sustainability, and business practices as well as a delicious final product.

Read all about the company on the website: http://whitewoodcider.com/

This is my previous review from 2014 of their Northland Traditional Blend:


And the Olivia is a punny cider. It's named after both a pop singer and an apple blend because the cider is a blend of Newtown Pippins and Jonathans. Very clever indeed!

Appearance: nearly brilliant, apricot tinted gold, bubbles

This cider came to me in a clear bottle. That's exceedingly unusual in the cider world. But, to look at this lovely cider, I can see why. It has a soft and warmly tinted color, it's yellow but with just a hair's breadth of apricot. I can see bubbles around the time of the glass when the cider is freshly poured.

Aromas: Ripe apple, fresh fruit and leaves, tannic

The Olivia smells richly of apple and green leaves. Everything about this is zingy and fresh and a bit sweet to my nose. The apple notes are somewhere between ripe and cooked apple. There's also just a hint of the dustiness that tells me to expect some tannins.

Dryness/sweetness: semi dry

The Olivia is semi-dry with lots of acidity and fruit flavors.
Flavors and drinking experience: medium high acid, balanced, some tannins

This cider is fun, it lives up to having an apple pun for a name. Though its very drinkable and balanced, this cider isn't too smooth and easy to be interesting. I found the acidity medium high acid and a medium low level of tannins, but they were present. This is actually pretty unusual for a cider. Folks often either go all in for tannins and make something strongly tannic or they work with fruit that have no tannins at all. Lightly tannic is actually pretty neat and super tasty.

In terms of texture, I found the cider petilliant or lightly sparkling. The flavor notes were very fresh and almost springy. The Olivia offers up blueberry, tropical fruit, as well as greenly woody branchy notes.
One thing I especially appreciated is how clean the fermentation is on this cider. The Olivia has a long finish, but its not cloying. Instead I found this cider refreshing in each sip.

I really enjoyed this cider, pairing it with a corn chowder was easy and perfect. The acidity of the cider and the creamy weight of corn chowder were a natural fit. I look forward to tasting the rest of what Whitewood shared with me.

Virtue Cider's The Mitten Limited Reserve

Virtue Cider is a major player in the excellent Michigan cider scene. They have a beautiful tasting room in Fentonville, and this cider could only ever be purchased there. Luckily, a friend and fellow cider judge who works at Virtue was able to share a bottle with me after CiderCon.

Find out all about Virtue's ciders on the website, including their newly released rosé: http://www.virtuecider.com

All of my previous reviews for Virtue ciders are listed below. These go back for the history of the blog.

Percheron: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/10/cider-review-virtue-ciders-percheron.html

Ledbury: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-roundup-virtue-slyboro.html

Red Streak: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

The Mitten: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/05/cider-review-virtue-ciders-mitten-and.html

The official description on the bottle is brief, “The Mitten Reserve is a special blend of our very best cider from the first use barrels of the season. The cider that came out of these barrels is very balanced and soft with huge caramel notes.” ABV 8.4% I did see that someone from Virtue confirmed online that the cider is bottled still rather than sparkling.

Appearance: popcorn yellow, still, brilliant

The Mitten reserve looks like a cheerful popcorn yellow with nary a hint of haze. This brilliant cider also looks still as it doesn't show any visible bubbles.
Aromas: barrel, cooked apple, caramel,

Winter friendly, indeed! All of the aromas of this cider just say cozy. It smells like barrel, cooked apples, caramel, toasted breadcrumbs, and vanilla pudding.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Lots of the flavor descriptors down below are words usually associated with sweetness, but do not be fooled. This is a dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: cooked apples, barrel, vanilla, marshmallow

Virtue wasn't kidding about the power and difference in a first use barrel. This cider has a lot of bourbon barrel aging on display. The characteristics of the booze soaked wood speak loudly, though the cider and apple presence isn't totally overwhelmed. I get so much flavor here, including notes like cooked apples, honey, vanilla, and burnt marshmallows.

But that's not all there is to it. The cider is also challenging. It's still, boozy, heavy and a bit bitter. I like how much it tastes both like wood and slowly-cooked apples. The Mitten Reserve has a long finish that stays boozy and perfumed for several beats after the last swallow. In some ways the after tastes are even nicer than the flavors directly.

The Mitten Reserve isn't subtle. It's bold. As such, it deserves to be paired with other strong flavors. Otherwise, it can come across as overwhelming. I'd have it with vegetarian shepherd's pie and a classic film, maybe something you've been meaning to watch for years and somehow haven't quite gotten to yet.