Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cider Review: West County Cider, Reine de Pomme

West County Ciders hail from Colrain, Massachusetts where they have been made by cidermaker Judith Maloney and her family since 1984. They mention hailing previously from California’s wine making traditions which they have blended with New England cider making and blending techniques. They only use pressed apples and no concentrate. Their website has much more information.

As a varietal intro I mostly want to share what West County says about their own cider. The story comes from their discovery of “a classic French bittersweet apple” described as having strong tannins, complexity, a note of iron. Their blurb says, “Reine de Pomme is an archaic French Apple. We found it in the Geneva Reference Orchard. In 1987, in France, the only reference to it we found was a listing in a nursery catalog from the 1920’s at an apple museum in Normandy.” And this is just the apple. When described the cider as they have created, cellared, and blended it, they say, “As a cider it has a deep, dark-fruit, honeyed taste. We blended it with our Dabinet to round out the tannins, and Redfield to add bright fruit and to balance the bitter-sweets. Though blended, Reine de Pomme leads the taste, and the Dabinet and Redfield fall in nicely as supports. It is the fullest-bodied cider we have made. And the closest in taste to a French Cider.”

ABV: 7.3%

Color and appearance: Deep glowing apricot

The appearance of this cider is truly unique. Its color is glorious. When we cannot stand a moment more of grey winter, pouring a glass of the Reine de Pomme can temporarily transport us to sunnier days. This cider also shows tremendous levels  of bubbles. So many active bubbles. A bright white head formed when I poured my first glass, and then vanished quickly.

Aroma:  candied citrus, nectarine, and dusty granite?

As crazy as this may sound, the end of the each sniff of this cider brought strong grey rock in the sun to my mind. As an inveterate basker and lounger who would always prefer to sit or lay on the ground, I’ve smelled rocks aplenty and the Reine de Pomme smells like a sun-warmed rock. It also smells like fruit and sugar with a citrus pinch.

Sweet to dry: Off dry

The bottle describes the cider as dry, and for many cider drinkers it would be quite dry. For those more attuned to independent, small-batch ciders though, the range is wider and dryer than that made up only of more widely available ciders, making the Reine de Pomme a very pleasant off dry. This an ideal level of sweetness and dryness in my mind.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, heavy, creamy mouthfeel,

The citrus from the scent develops fully when I taste this cider. I can taste the mineral element from the smell also, but it fuses with the fruit notes more, almost adding a shadow of depth behind the brighter notes.

Finish:  slow but still creamy with residual flavors of lemon

The finish is luscious, less dry than the initial taste. It dallies and gives a second impression of creaminess united with lemon or sweetish citrus.    

Pairs with: a full meal with strong flavors, maybe a risotto or shepherd’s pie.

The unusual mouthfeel would allow drinkers to pair this with something usually less available for cider pairings. Maybe even something with more than a hint of spiciness. Alternately, the cider drinkly beautifully on its own. I’d take this particular drink sunbathing, maybe because of the aroma. Still, I think the Reine de Pomme would be a lovely companion for unwinding in the out of doors. Quite a fascinating cider, especially for one so drinkable.