Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cider Review: Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider and Finnriver's Honey Meadow

West Coast ciders don’t get enough love on this blog. It’s not that I don’t feel the love, it’s just that I can’t get my hands on as many west coast ciders easily! Some wonderful companies share their releases with me regularly, but I don’t see many available in stores. Luckily, I took a brief vacation to Seattle with the Tall One last week. Of course, I tasted ciders everywhere I could! Here are my first two reviews from my explorations!  

I saw Dragon's Head Wild Fermented Cider in a fancy grocery store, and it came back with me to the AirBnb post haste. I’ve not gotten to try too many Dragon’s Head ciders, but what I’ve had, I’ve loved. The cidery is run by Wes and Laura Cherry on Vachon Island, off the coast of Washington State. They have a 3000 + tree orchard and a focus on apples and tradition cider making. 

This link will take you to the website where you can read more about Dragon's Head: http://www.dragonsheadcider.com/

Here’s the only previous mention in my blog, in a write up of CiderCon: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/02/cidercon-part-2-including-heritage.html 

Dragon's Head's official description is helpfully full with a few different sections. I’ll quote it in full. 

This is the Dragon’s Head Cider version of a farmhouse cider. Rather than carefully selecting a yeast strain for the fermentation, we allowed the wild yeast present on the skin of the apples to ferment the cider. It’s a bit of a fun gamble, but one we believe is worth taking.
2018 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, BRONZE MEDAL 
Tasting Notes 
Appearance – hazy, straw color, some sediment may be presentAroma – pineapple, green tea, apple blossomTaste – lemon and young pineapple flavors are followed by mild spice and lingering grapefruit notesMouthfeel – medium body with mild astringency; lightly effervescent

Appearance: warm straw, brilliant, big bubbles

My glass looks filled with large motionless bubbles. I know this cider will sparkle. The color of the Wild Fermented Cider reminds me of warm straw and the clarity is brilliant. A very good looking cider.

Aromas: lemon, pears, sugar, apples 

Oooh golly. The Wild Fermented cider smells like apples and sugar dusted on a lemon slices. It’s fresh, sweet smelling, fruity and sharp. I love how balanced and enticing it smells. I get notes of citrus, pears, and most of all mellow overripe apples.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The Wild Fermented cider is barely off dry. There’s just enough sweetness to expand my ability to perceive the cider’s nuances. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, balanced, bubbly, wine like

This has to be one of the cleanest and most balanced wild ferments I’ve ever tasted. I’m completely impressed. The cider tastes like cool fresh apples with quite high acidity, and plenty of yeast character.  I love that it’s super balanced and controlled. Tasting this cider creates a strong salivary reaction due to both intense sparkle and high acidity. 

The overall experience is very wine like; it reminds me of a very green appley Sauvignon Blanc. I can  definitely taste the apple in this cider, but the fermentation speaks impressively too. It’s delicious in big and small sips.The fruity notes include lots of citrus. The cider doesn't change much over the course of the sip: it hits with the apple and citrus, and stays constant through the finish. What it offers is excellent. The cider’s  mouthfeel is light and zippy. This is remarkably good. 

Finnriver’s Honey Meadow 

Finnriver Farm and Cidery is an organic cidery and winery, farm and event space in Washington State. I love this introduction from the website as a way to understand this cidery’s identity, “While our farm is remote, we're honored to be on the forefront of the Pacific Northwest hard cider revival and to craft ciders that both honor historic hard cider traditions and offer fresh perspectives on the possibilities of the fermented apple. We grow and source organic and seasonal ingredients to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the earth.”

Read more about Finnriver online: https://www.finnriver.com

I have previously reviewed only one cider by Finnriver, the Dry Hopped: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-roundup-common-cider-co.html

I enjoyed the Lavender Black Currant this past November: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/11/cider-reviews-finnrivers-lavender-black.html

The Honey Meadow's official description comes in a few parts. 

Describing the aromas and flavors of the cider, we can read, “This floral, earthy nectar sips like a fine, fermented spring tonic. Distinct floral notes with wandering hints of greenery. Light and crisp, herbal body with notes of artichoke and earth, and finishing with honeyed out-breath and a cream soda sprig of chamomile.”

I’m grateful to get some insight into the apple, herb, and honey choices, “Fermented on the farm with a select blend of Certified Organic Washington apples, organic Midori Farm burdock root, organic dandelion root, organic Finnriver lemon balm, organic chamomile blossom and Sequim Bee Farm blackberry honey.”

The ABV of this cider is 6.5%.

Appearance: brilliant, bubbly bright gold

This color just shouts spring sunshine. I didn’t see much of that in Seattle, but I know it when I see it. The cider is brilliant and obviously bubbly.

Aromas: honey, ripe apples, white flowers, yeast, vanilla

I am so glad that this cider smells of apples first and that the floral and honey notes do not dominate. The Honey Meadow does smell like all sorts of fruits, flowers, and herbs, including honeysuckle, vanilla, light honey, and Meyer lemons. I also get just a little yeast bread buried deep in the aroma. It smells so very pleasant! 

Sweetness/dryness: sweet

The Honey Meadow is a sweet cider. The character of the sweetness is honeyed, rich, and vanilla tinged.

Flavors and drinking experience: herbed, honeyed, rich, funky

What a trip! The Honey Meadow tastes sweetly of creamed honey, while also being funky, herbal, appley and powdery. The floral notes remind me of daisies, queen anne's lace, and tiny white spring flowers that make the air smell like May. I get strong hints of vanilla frosting, notably that could be connected to the creamy, thick mouthfeel. The honey is fairly strong, it even hints at being like a cyser. 

The cider has medium acidity and medium bubble that fades fast. There are no tannins to speak of.  I appreciate the clean and bready funk, because it adds a needed second dimension, and a note to the finish.  The cider pairs very well with a salty snack. It’s fun, drinkable, friendly and extroverted.