Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cider Review: Whitewood Cider Company Northland Traditional Blend

This is a cider I've been excited to try for a long time. For one reason, Whitewood Cider Company makes their stuff in Olympia, Washington, and I get very few chances to try any west coast ciders. This is a rare treat for my curious tastebuds. Even more importantly, David White (Oldtimeydave), hero of the cider blogging world and a really nice guy, is the main dude behind Whitewood Cider. I've followed Dave online for long while, so I've been eager to try his cider. This was a also given to me back at Cider Days in Massachusetts. Pretty thrilling.

You can check out Whitewood Cider Company's website at It uses gorgeous graphic design which is no surprise since White has worked in graphic design for more than a decade. Other interesting information I gleaned online has to include Whitewood's cider CSA. I've now found a handful of examples of this creative way to both fund exciting small scale cideries and insure cider fans good access to a highly seasonal product. Cider made from real juice and real apples is a fairly seasonal affair after all.

Here's what Whitewood says about the particular cider I tried, The Northland Traditional Blend:
"Our Northland Traditional Blend is traditional as it gets. European cider apple varieties blended at the press, fermented through the winter, racked, blended again and matured into early Summer. Lightly back-sweetened for balance and bring out fruitiness. 
Floral spicy sweet nose, with strong characteristics of sweet apple, stone fruit, ripe orange and a tropical fruit acidity and wine-like tannic/bitter notes balanced with a crisp clean finish."
The apples are all cider varieties grown in Washington state. The Northland Traditional Blend cider stays just under the limit that means more regulation and taxation at 6.8% ABV.

Appearance: deep apricot, plenty of visible bubbles, brilliant

You can just see the cider apples in here. Cider apples give more rich color than many larger dessert apples. The same intensity of flavor also communicates in terms of color, making this an intense apricot color. Sadly, my photo doesn't do it justice. The bubbles are all over the interior of the glass making it hard to appreciate how brilliant it looks in the bottle.

Aromas: fresh apples, mineral, sharp cheddar

What strikes me most about the aromas on the Northland Traditional Blend is that the smell is so minerally; it really just smells like apples and stones in a straw basket. A hint of Sharpness that is both alcohol and cheddar. All of these together give me the impression that this will be a highly tannic cider on the dry side, but we'll see how it actually tastes.

Sweetness: off dry

This is dryer than what I frequently call a semi-dry, but not fully dry. I think Whitewood is spot on to call their cider a medium dry, and I'm happy to consider it off dry. There are fruit flavors, but the Northland Traditional Blend is truly not sweet.

Flavors and Drinking Experience: high tannins, medium fruit, medium-high acidity, great structure

Wow, the Northland Traditional blend tastes really tannic. Again, that's the choice of apples at work here. Balancing out those tannice, I can also taste lots of acid. This cider offers a note of extremely sharp cheddar in a wonderful way.

To zoom out a little and describe the cider more generally, this cider has a slow unfolding of multiple deep rich flavours.  It takes about 4 or 5 seconds to go through its full taste.  Again, dry, but not bone dry.  Deliciously bitter. The cider is heavily sparkling and structured with a full mouthful but no hint of syrupyness. It is not sticky or heavy, but full and ripe.  It has the elusive "body" everyone is after.

It reminded me husband slightly of ricewine or sake with a hint of yeast and tanginess. It warms the tummy as you drink. Overall, I'd say it is  wweet enough to be drinkable (and not just sippable) while still being mostly dry and quite complex.  Goes fast and very pleasantly.

I enjoyed my cider as a celebration of the new semester than just started for me. It is my return to teaching after about 5 months away. My Northland Traditional Blend complemented my radish and goat cheese pizza beautifully. Both were so warming and hearty. Full flavors are what I need in the winter and Whitewood Cider Company's Northland Traditional Blend fit the bill amazingly well.