Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Cider Reviews: Castle Hill's Levity and Treasury Cider's Burr Knot

Last week, I shared two ciders with extra seasonal ingredients. But I can’t leave heritage orchard-based cider out in the cold. As much as I love experimentation, my fondness for this cider style cannot be matched. Apple only ciders can be so much more than the familiar flavor of the fresh fruit. Often these ciders are the most wine like in the cider world, and like many wines, one cider will offer up dozens of aromas, flavors, and scintillating nuances.

Let’s start today with Castle Hill’s Levity. Castle Hill is an orchard-based Cidery in Keswick, Virginia. This cidery was founded in 2011, but many of the trees that grow its apples are more than eighty years old. It’s history is closely connected with the Albemarle Pippin apple. Many of the apple choices and fermentation techniques at this cidery appear to be inspired both by history but also by technical exploration, seeking traditions from around the world and local apples to make their cider.

Read about Castle Hill on the cidery website: https://www.castlehillcider.com/

I’ve had a few Castle Hill ciders before.

Most recently, the Terrestrial had a place on the table for my friend Elizabeth’s pairing birthday dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first review of Castle Hill was their Celestial in 2015: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-castle-hll-ciders-celestial.html
That cider made it to #5 of my favorites list of that year.

And I did get to taste the Levity at CiderCon this past winter as part of the Heritage Cider track: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html

This bottle was shared with me as a sample. Here’s the official description:

“A feral yeast fermentation of traditional high-tannin cider apples, high-tannin and high-acid crabs, and heirloom varieties --some gathered from 80+ year old trees. Levity is fermented in buried beeswax lined terra cotta fermenters called Qvevri-the world’s oldest known fermentation vessels. We draw Levity out of its earthen womb and place in bottles before fermentation completes, allowing the yeast to naturally produce a sparkling cider. Enjoy at cellar temperature.”

Appearance: very bubbly, rich butternut color, brilliant

Thought this cider is super bubbly, it’s also brilliant. One could easily read straight through that rich butternut color. What a lovely sight.

Aromas: cinnamon, cooked apple, Baking spice

I have to make known that glorious intensity of the Levity’s aroma. Wow! It smells just divine. I love the cooked apple, baking spice, and cinnamon notes. What’s harder to describe is the warm clean fermentation character I’m also picking up on.

Sweentess/dryness: Dry

This is a dry cider. Yes, it’s rich and lucious and fruity, but it’s also dry.

Flavors and drinking experience: Golden, tiny bubbles, high acid, tannins

Ooh! I get shivers just thinking about how good this cider is. Wow! The baking spice notes I detected as aromas also approach as flavors, but they aren’t alone. The Levity also tastes of fall flowers, cooked fruit, and quince. I don’t know how to say it exactly but there’s something light and silvery to the flavors also.

Dry, yes. High acidity and medium high tannins, yes but fresh and fruity. No one characteristic can fully describe this cider. It’s light and playful yet rich and complex. The bubbles are so fine and numerous. Of any individual note, quince probably comes through the most clearly. It’s just such a lovely cider.

From Virginia to New York, I want to share my thoughts on Treasury Cider’s Burr Knot next. Fishkill Farms is the home orchard for this relatively young cidery. They use heritage, crab, and eating apple varieties. I love the simple yet sophisticate sense of graphic design I get from both their labels and website.

Visit Treasury Cider online: http://www.treasurycider.com/

I have talked about this cider briefly in February when I wrote about the Gathering of the Farm Cideries: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/gathering-of-new-york-farm-cideries.html

The Burr Knot’s official description reads:

A careful mix of apples from our family orchard, Fishkill Farms, was selected to make the hard cider in this bottle. Heirloom varieties, proper harvest timing, ecological farming, and traditional wine-making methods all come together in our cider. Our name is an homage to the farm's founder Henry Morenthau Jr., who served as Secretary of the Treasury under FDR. It also celebrates the revival of hard cider in America. 8.4% ABV

Other descriptors include, “Dry and unfiltered / orchard cider / traditional method” and a list of apples, “Hyslop crab / Granny Smith / Pink Lady / Old-Growth Golden Delicious / Jonamac”

If you have the chance I do recommend looking at the cider descriptions online because you can click on any variety and get some incredibly rich detail on the orchard and the cider making info.

Appearance: hazy, no visible bubbles, goldenrod

This unfiltered cider has a harvest glow about it, as it’s hazy and warm hued. I love the goldenrod color. I didn’t see any bubbles when I poured.

Aromas: Stony, melon, quince

The cider smells like apple juice splashed onto limestone; it’s all fruit and minerals. Those gorgeously stony smells appear at the same time as fruit notes, but they never compete. I get tons of quince and melon with a delicate creamy background of velvety yogurt.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

I love how dry dry dry this cider is.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, funky, milk chocolate

Even though I expected relatively high acidity, this tartness was striking! But I also got some of the creaminess I smelled in a new rich milk chocolate note. What a fun and surprising facet.

This intensely flavorful is fruity and funky! There’s peach and strawberry but also savory notes like sesame seeds and toasted grain. The Burr Knot goes everywhere, powered by that zesty acid and structured by medium tannins. Needless to say, I adore this one.