Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cider Review: Blake’s Hard Cider's Santa Rosa, Virtue Cider's Mezzo Spritz, Plus NY state's First Cider Competition

This week, I’m doing something a little different. I’ve got one cider review as usual, and then I’m sharing news on a statewide New York cider competition and a cider spritz. I need a little something different from time to time, particularly when the winter has hit pause on a run of gray days that are going on forever. I’m dreaming of all things fun and fruity.

That’s why I want to start with Blake’s Cider’s Santa Rosa.

Blake’s Hard Cider ferments many different ciders. They are organized into different lines, including a year-round selection, seasonal releases, and two high-end specialty cider lines. You can visit Blake’s Hard Cider’s tasting and tap room in Armada, Michigan. One of the coolest things Blake’s Hard Cider does is the Kinder Cider line that releases a special cider tied to a particular cause for which it raises money. Most recently, the company created Great Blakes coffee-infused cider to raise money for Freshwater Future program. 

Read more about all of the ciders and other projects at: http://www.blakeshardcider.com

I’ve reviewed several ciders by Blake’s before. And for full disclosure, this bottle was sent to me for review. 

I used the Beard Bender to make my signature Thanksgiving dish Hard Cider Dressing: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/thanksgiving-ciders-eves-ciderys.html

And I did indulge in a pumpkin cider with the Apple Lantern: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/10/cider-reviews-blakes-hard-ciders-apple.html

To go with a special homemade dinner, I paired The Tonic with cucumber and ginger: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

One of my favorites is the El Chavo with habanero and mango: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-cider-companys.html

I had a can of the Wakefire with orange peel and cherries:

In the winter of 2017, I shared the Snapdragon with rum raisins: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/11/cider-review-blakes-hard-ciders.html

Today, I’m sharing my impressions of the Santa Rosa from the Forager line. Here’s the official description, “Bold yet refined. Hard cider fermented on Santa Rosa plum skins.The extended contact with the plum skins and the long cold fermentation produces a cider of complex depth. 5% ABV” The label includes lots of into that’s more difficult to pass along including fun orchard pictures, other descriptions of the cider and some neat neo-victorian collage art.  

Appearance: brilliant, apricot, bubbly

This cider has such a pleasing warm apricot color. No wonder it’s bottled in clear glass. Once poured the cider looks bubbly and brilliant.

Aromas: dried apples, raisins, caramel, sun-dried tomato

These smell are everywhere and so exciting. I get notes of caramel, dried apple, raisin, even some great savory notes of salt and sun-dried tomato. There is a connecting factor that makes it make sense. These smells associate with umami-rich foods. I expect a rich and hearty cider. 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

As the graphic on the label indicates this is a semi-sweet to sweet cider.   

Flavors and drinking experience: raisiny, plummy, rich

There are as many tastes to this cider as there were smells, but in this sense they are milder and warmly sweet. The first note I taste is how raisiny the cider is. Yes to plums, but this is full of rich dried flavors. Everyone who tasted it got more than just plums, and they match the aroma profile. We tasted apricot, caramel, and cooked apple. There’s even one tiny note of mushroom in the finish

As I hope with a richer sweeter cider, the Santa Rosa has a big mouthfeel. It’s Good to roll around in your mouth. Medium tannins from the plum skin. Though it’s more than petillant, the Santa Rosa’s sparkle is on the lighter side. 

I love how it manages to be sweet but not cloying. I think that’s due to the Santa Rosa’s medium to high acidity that lingers with citrus notes. This cider isn’t a profile I choose everyday, but Blake’s clearly gets it right! Fantastic!

The announcement: I’m super excited about judging for a new cider competition. This is the first state-wide competition for New York ciders! it’s being held in Rochester in May; that just sounds dreamy to me right now. It’s being run as a non-profit fundraiser. If you are a NY cider producer, I encourage you to submit your very best cider or two! More about the competition in the coming weeks!

I’m sticking with the theme of different to review a spritz. I know. It’s not a cider. I was curious when I heard about it. Lots of cider makers are making beverages of this type in the past year or so. I even brought a few of them into my Cider Culture article about low ABV ciders and cider related beverages: https://www.ciderculture.com/low-abv-ciders/.

This isn’t going to be a regular feature, but if I happen to find one or try one that’s cider related, it may show up here. 

I have reviewed several ciders from Virtue in Michigan.

The Percheron:

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

The Mitten Reserve: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/03/cider-review-whitewood-cider-cos-olivia.html

The Ledbury:

Virtue Cider Seedling Orchard With Schaerbeek Cherries made it into Elizabeth’s birthday dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first taste was the Red Streak back in 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/06/trying-virtue-and-olivers-ciders-at.html

Product information straight from Virtue includes: 
Product Details: Mezzo Spritz Blood OrangeMade with Virtue Cider, sparkling water, and botanicals including blood orange oil, sage, and spearmintTasting Notes: hazy orange-rose appearance, bright fresh-squeezed blood orange with light floral aromas, juicy blood orange up-front, dry, soft middle, and a crisp, complex bitter orange peel, cocktail bitters-type finish3.5% ABV, 80 calories

So when I read about Virtue Cider’s Mezzo Spritz it sounded like a cider-based low alcohol version of an Aperol Spritz or something like it. And I love an Aperol Spritz, plus having lower ABV options is often a really desirable thing. 

Appearance: deep orange, hazy, bubbly

What a fun color to be hiding in a can! This looks a lot like an Aperol Spritz! It’s deep orange, bubbly and mildly hazy. It does not look like a cider.

Aromas: blood orange, botantical, herby

This smells strongly of blood orange and secondarily like some botanical herbs. 

Dryness/sweetness: off dry

This was the biggest surprise of the whole experience. The Mezzo Spritz tastes significantly drier than I expected.

Flavors and drinking experience: apple, orange, bitter herbs

The Mezzo Spritz tastes like apple, orange and botantical herbs. It’s a lot less soda like than I rather expected. It’s not that the spritze doesn’t have a high bubble level- it does. This is an intense sparkler. The Spritz was just so much less sweet than I expected. This was a thrill for me, but I’m actually not sure how well that will serve it in the market. 

It has a light body, and I enjoy the relatively high acidity. I’d prefer Virtue’s ciders, but this spritz achieves its own identity. It’s tasty, bubbly, light, dry, and zesty.