Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cider Review: Kite and String Cider's King of Hector and Star Cider Wild Child Rhubarb


Welcome to July! The month of fireworks, fresh tomatoes, and sweet corn is here. There are heat waves and cool lakes here in the heights of upstate New York summer. Even though I know I could cover dozens more canned ciders, I can’t neglect other formats. This matters to me especially because I know of some really special ciders never see the inside of a can. I promise to visit to the most summery format soon and often, after a whole month of cans, I do want to review two ciders I tasted in big beautiful 750ml bottles.

Quick geeky aside! Formats aren’t just an issue of convenience. Formats often imply serving size. A lot of folks don’t look at ABV when choosing a cider or pouring a drink. And cider ABVs vary wildly. One can often turns into one serving, whereas a 750ml bottle is more often treated as 4 distinct glasses of cider no matter the ABV. I think it’s awesomely strategy to be cognizant as either a drinker or host when dealing with a beverage that doesn’t have a standardized pour size, glassware, format, or consistent ABV. Read those labels, friends!

Kite and String’s King of Hector

Kite and String is the local cider at the heart of the Finger Lakes Cider House in Ovid, New York. They are also known as Good Life Farm as that's the umbrella farm that makes everything possible. The big news around her is that the Cider House made it into USA Today’s list of the the top 10 Cider Bars in America! That’s huge for a farm-based destination in rural New York. The place really is beautiful, fantastic, delicious, and worth a trip.

I've enjoyed Kite and String Ciders before. 

The Barrel Rye: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/cider-review-good-life-ciders-barrel-rye.html

The Cazenovia: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-good-life-ciders-cazenovia.html

I've enjoyed the Hickok at a few special dinners including:

Thanksgiving: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-to-pickcider-for-thanksgiving.html

and a Finger Lakes Locavore Birthday Dinner:  

Read about both the Finger Lakes Cider House and Kite and String Cider on the website: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com

Or see what the company (and the farm animals) are up to on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KiteandStringCider/

Today I’m reviewing a cider that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get because the King of Hector was a special release for a pairing dinner and the Kite and String Cider Club. Luckily for me, dear friends of mine are in the club, and they were generous enough to bring this bottle over to share. 

Read the full write up with tons of background information here: http://www.fingerlake

I’ll share just an excerpt
Tasting and Cider Maker Notes: Gripping acidity typical of wild seedlings and crab varieties. Slow fermentation (2 months). Hands off approach with little intervention. High acid cider aged well over the winter with beautiful aromas and unique flavor. We were excited to keep this extremely small lot separate that  season and this cider was filtered and bottled as our last traditional method product of the year. 8.4% ABV
And the pairing suggestions:
We think this cider drinks like a dry, Spanish champagne style. It is crisp, long lasting, and acidic, and embodies the heat of 2016. Drink it as a starter to open up your guests’ palates and imaginations, with light appetizers like dried fruit or with lightly fried fish or potatoes.

Appearance: straw, translucent, no bubble 

This cider looks beautifully translucent, though not brilliant. I’ll call the color straw but it warmth and golden hue are more inspiring than the name strictly denotes. I don’t see any bubbles when I pour a glass, but I’m sure they’ll there once I taste the cider. 

Aromas: riple apples, bitter orange, meyer lemon, limestone

I smell citrus and apples, but having seen a few mentions of Spanish stylings (although of sparkling wine rather than Sidra), I did expect some sour notes or even volatile acidity in the smells. They weren’t there. The aromas were more fruity and restrained which suits my preferences well. I did get some fun salivary response.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Other features that I’ll describe later only enhance the perception of dryness. Super duper dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: dry, high acid, medium tannins, citrusy

The cider tastes dry and acid driven, but it’s not sour. The acid flavors I taste are more fruity and less funky. The cider doesn’t show volatile acidity or acetic acid. Instead, and more to my personal tastes, I get tons of citrus notes from the King of Hector. It tastes like Meyer lemons, Seville orange, and just a little bit of tropical fruit. 

The King of Hector does have some tannic presence. That’s notable and enjoyable. As the notes on my phone say, “Drrrryyyyy.” The combination of medium tannins, very high acidity, and a dry cider come together to emphasize a dry, zesty, tasting experience. The King of Hector tastes lithe and a little light. I didn’t necessarily expect that because of the 8.4% ABV, but it was seasonally perfect and very refreshing. 

This is a cider for wine and cider lovers. It’s definitely sophisticated and austere. It’s precisely the kind of cider that I like to have even before I put food on the table. The King of Hector has enough to say on its own to be a delightful conversation starter. 

Star Cider's Wild Child Rhubarb 

Confession time, I’ve had these tasting notes for too long! I tasted Star Cidery’s Wild Child Rhubarb for the first time in October of 2016 at a Finger Lakes Cider Week event. I met folks from Star Cidery and learned what I could about the operation. I liked it so much that I got a bottle for later. I consumed that with friends later that winter, taking tasting notes and squirreling them away. I must have hidden them too well, as I’ve just rediscovered them. 

Star Cider makes and sells cider in the greater Rochester, New York area. The company was founded in 2014, but the founders were home cider makers long before. Reading about Star Cider’s approach, I am struck by the focus on process. Cider gets described as a journey with an expectation of change and evolution. That’s appealing  in that’s both grounded in the realities of learning a new business but also in that openness to changes is how improvements happen.  This is my first review of anything by Star Cider.

Read all about the company and the ciders on the web: http://www.starcidery.com

Or check in with the Star Cider Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StarCidery/

Today’s review is of one of Star Cider’s seasonal releases, the Wild Child  Rhubarb.

Let’s start with the official description, “Rhubarb: Fresh heirloom rhubarb is hand-picked at its peak ripeness and blended with cider made from a mix of dessert apples. This cider is crisp, tart, and tastes like biting into fresh rhubarb.”  6.9% ABV

Unofficially I learned that this cider uses 1.5 lb of rhubarb per gallon of juice. The finished cider is back sweetened with sweet cider after being fermented to dryness. The flavor was inspired by the cidermaker’s grandmother and grandfather’s recipes.

Appearance: brilliant, warm canteloupe color, visible bubbles

I wish I had better pictures of this cider. The color really is lovely with a shade that reminds me of canteloupe and beauitful clarity. 

aromas: strawberry, celery, and candy dust

Oh my goodness wow! These aromas are so neat! I definitely smell strawberry, rhubarb and apple, but also celery! There’s also so sweet and powdery candy dust lurking in the background!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This might be on the slightly sweeter side of semi-dry, but it has a powerful acidity that keeps all sweetness in check. 

Flavors and drinking experience: rhubarb zing, herby, strong sparkle

Like many of my favorite ciders both in the region and more generally, acidity orchestrates the whole experience. The Wild Child Rhubarb just vibrates with zingy acidity. But that’s not all that’s going on. I’m also completely sold on the herbaceous and vegetal notes. They integrate beautifully and really cement that rhubarb plus apple combination. This cider really works.

Part of what I enjoy about the Wild Child Rhubarb is the mouthfeel. Part of that owes to it’s powerful tartness. The cider feels fresh and medium bodied with strong bubbles. There’s also a nice backbone of apple behind everything. And I relish the long cold finish. My first tasting was in a varied set of ciders, and it really stood out. My second experience with this cider was with vegetarian chili, wheat crackers, and sharp cheddar. Both worked, but I’d love to try it with summery foods when I see this cider again.