Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Cider Review Whitewood Cider Company Bitterroot Valley McIntosh and Big Fish Cider Co.'s Allegheny Gold

My week was significantly impacted by winter weather, as folks were all over the country. I missed a dear friend’s wedding and spent most of the last 72 hours in my house. It’s not a long time to be snowed in, but I’ve lost four games of Bananagrams. What I’ll in favor of Winter Storm Harper, is that it gave me a great reason to bring out two very special ciders. I had high expectations for both of these ciders (which were shared with me for review) because I know the companies and have liked other ciders by them before. 

I’m starting with a single varietal cider from Whitewood Cider Company.

Whitewood Cider Company makes cider primarily in South Puget Sound, Washington. I still get  fewer chances to try west coast ciders than I’d like, so I am always excited to get one from a cidermaker I trust and respect. Not to forget, David White (Oldtimeydave), is giant in the cider world and a wonderful person. He’s the primary vision behind Whitewood Cider. 

I’ve reviewed a couple ciders from Whitewood before. 

I loved the Northland Traditional Blend in 2014(#8 of 2014): https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/01/cider-review-whitewood-cider-company.html

And the Olivia last spring: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-whitewood-cider-cos-olivia.html

But the Whitewood Cider Company’s Kingston Black and Wickson Apple made my 2018 top ten list in the #4 spot: 


Visit the company online at: http://whitewoodcider.com

Today I’m sharing my notes on the Bitterroot Valley McIntosh Single Varietal. This is how Whitewood describes it, “Mcintosh Cider Single Varietal Cider - 6.9% ABV fermented from McIntosh apples grown, harvested, and pressed in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Strawberry and rhubarb on the nose, touch of toffee sweetness,followed by raspberry and tangerine acidity, finishes crisp and dry”

Appearance: warm sunrise amber, mousse, brilliant

This cider looks positively bewitching. It pours with a little mousse and lots of bubbly activiity. I'd call the color the warm glowing amber of a golden/orange sunrise, but I've not seen the sun in a while, so I could be misremembering. It's undeniably brilliant.

Aromas: Overripe apples, Dusty, sweet, spices

This is an inspiring set of aromas. My just went through the roof as soon as I caught wind of the luscious ovrripe apples that waft from the McIntosh. Yes there are other notes like baking spices, mineral dust, and fruity sweetness. But, for me, it has to be about those soft and blooming notes of overripe apples. 

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

This cider is semi-dry, meaning there is just enough sweetness to allow other flavors to have a full range of motion, but the McIntosh is not notably sweet.

Flavors and drinking experience: Balanced, bubbly, medium acidity, good body

The McIntosh tastes Semi dry and shockingly well balanced. I never expect or even ask balance of a single-varietal cider, but somehow this has it. It’s bubbly with medium rounded acidity, plenty of aroma, and loads of apple character. 

I love that this single varietal is so tastefully balanced. It doesn’t have biting acidity, but enough for the flavors to remain firm and crisp. I don’t get  much in the way of tannins, but it manages to have good body without them. The lovely cooked apple notes are decidedly pleasing and not at all harsh. The finish reminds me of juicy golden raisins. Mmm! I had this with poached salmon, honey butter carrots, and toothsome wheaty bread, and I loved every sip. 

And now for Big Fish Cider Company!

Big Fish Cider Company is a Virginia cidery with a significant number of awards to show for the line up of ciders. This small Monterey company sources local apples including many cider specific varietals and heritage apples grown by the folks who make the cider: Kirk Billingsly, Sarah Collins-Simmons, and Doyle Stone. The company has a tasting room which means you can go visit and taste the ciders yourself, or if Virginia is too much of a trek, Big Fish can now ship to 30 states in America.

Read more about the company on the web: https://www.bigfishcider.com/

Big Fish Highland Scrumpy was also a high ranking cider for me last year with the Highland Scrumpy taking 3rd place: 


And the Church Hill Blush this past May:

The Description for Allegheny Gold comes in a few parts, starting with, “Sparkling gold clear Semi-Dry cider featuring locally grown Arkansas Black, Ashmead’s Kernel, Gold Rush, and Jonagold apples, 8.2% abv.”

And the body of the description reads, 
Allegheny Gold is complex due to its slow, cold fermentation, which retains more of the cider’s fruity esters. While fruity, it is not sweet. A combination of brightness and true apple flavors makes this cider stand out among others. 
The additional sweetness in this full body cider gives a more well balanced profile to most people, with the sweetness offsetting the astringency. The tannins from the Arkansas Black and Ashmead’s Kernel apples give nice structure to this cider. On the nose there is a nice balanced fruitiness to this cider with the apple being the featured aroma. As you taste, you may notice notes of citrus, caramel, honey, pear and some minerality to this cider which is common for ciders made with Highland County fruit. A truly wonderful cider for those that enjoy the fruitiness that is accented by the slightly higher residual sweetness. 
Allegheny Gold goes with a wide variety of dishes but particularly spicy dishes, such as asian or Tex-Mex, also with white sauces such as Alfredo or Carbonara.

Appearance: Bright gold, brilliant, bubbly

This cider looks like a bubbly party in the glass. The sparkle action is intense! The color looks to me like bright gold and it's brilliant.

Aromas: Ripe apples, intense, caramel, oaty

Oh my goodness, the intensity of this aroma is arresting! I got amazing whiffs of big ripe apples just as soon as I opened the bottle It didn’t even wait to be poured. But fruit was just the start to this parade of enticing notes.

I could smell Golden raisins, carrots, and caramel soon after lifting my glass. All of that was followed by a gentle roll of toasted oats. I’ve rarely smelled a cider that speaks so clearly before I take my first sip. Wow!

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

Though sweetness isn’t the primary language of this cider, there’s enough there to notice. I’ll call it a semi-dry. It supports the fruity characteristics of the cider and isn’t ostentatious.

Flavors and drinking experience: Rounded acidity, strong bubble, apple, tangerine

For a bubble lover like me, this cider is like turning on the radio to hear a DJ playing my favorite song. I just have to dance whether I’m in my kitchen, car, or an aisle in the grocery store. The Allegheny Gold has a strong and irresistible sparkle.  

This Virginia cider promised me many things with it’s delightful aromas, and I’m happy to say that it delivered magnificently. I love the rounded acidity; it’s enough to be lively but not austere or pointed. The primary fruit note is ripe apple, but there’s plenty of tangerine and pineapple along for the ride. What a fun cider!