Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week is Less Than Two Weeks Away!

The time is nearly here for Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week!

Cider Week is a growing way for groups of cider makers and enthusiasts to get together and celebrate the finest of all libations, hard cider! There are a number of Cider Weeks in the United States now and some of them having been going on for a few years now. This will be the third Finger Lakes Cider Week!

The actual dates are October 3rd through 12th, 2014. There will be cider events galore all over the region. Find out more at or on Facebook at

So, to help get people as excited as I am for the upcoming festivities, I thought I'd mention a few of the upcoming events and link back to my coverage both of last year's Cider Week and of the participating cideries that I've featured or reviewed in the past. That way you'll know a bit more about what you could be drinking soon at Cider Week!

My Participation Last Year

In 2013, I was lucky enough to be invited to help run a cheese and cider pairing event at The Cellar D'Or which is still a huge favorite of mine. We paired ciders and cheeses from the local to the international and had a great time. I know they're doing tons for Cider Week again this year.

Here's just a bit of link roundup for reviews I've done in the past on ciders from cideries that will be participating in Cider Week again this year. 

Highlights of Cider Week 2014

• Friday- Sunday October 3-5: Apple Harvest Festival with cider sampling, apple tasting, pies, rides, and more, Ithaca 

• Friday October 3 (5-8pm):  Cider Week Kickoff Tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Eve's Cidery, Bellwether Cidery, and Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Ithaca
• Tuesday. October 7 (7pm): Science Cabaret with Dr. Gavin Sacks @ Lot 10, Ithaca

• Wed. October 8 Free Cider Tasting at Seneca Falls Farmer's Market, Seneca Falls
• Wed. October 8: Cider Flights and Tasting Event @ Microclimate Wine Bar, Geneva

• Thu. October 9: Cider Party for the Library’s 40th! @ Durland Alternatives Library, Ithaca

• Fri. October 10 (5-8pm) Local and International Cider tasting at The Cellar D'Or with Blackbird Cider Works, Ithaca 

• Fri. October 10 (8-11pm): Cider Stomp @ the Chanticleer Loft, Ithaca
• Sat. October 11 (11am, 1pm): Orchard and Cidery Tours @ Black Diamond Farms, Trumansburg

• Sat. October 11 (3-7pm): Gifts of the Apple family event @ the Good Life Farm, Interlaken

 • Sat. October 11 (5-8pm): Free Cider Tasting at Greenstar Coop with Bellwether Ciders
• Sun. October 12 (8am-5pm): Build Your Own Cider Press and Cider Making Workshop @ Hammerstone School, Trumansburg (requires pre-registration) 
 This is just a smattering of events from the week. Restaurants, bars, groceries, farms, and more will be featuring hard cider in all kinds of ways.

Cider Week Cideries I've Reviewed

Harvest Moon Cidery

Eve's Cidery

Redbyrd Orchard Cider

Beak and Skiff's 1911 Hard Cider

Bellwether Cidery

Cider Week Cideries I Still Need to Review

Black Diamond Farm Ciders
Steampunk Cider
Black Bird Cider Works
South Hill Cider
Hazlitt's Cider Tree
Three Bros. Winery

How many of those can I get good notes on before the end of cider week? Do you think I can collect all six? I might just try.

(Full Disclosure: I'm a volunteer for Cider Week. I'm part of the team that's trying to bring you free cider and fun.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cider Review: Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King

Today feels like fall. Though the season doesn't officially start until the equinox on Sunday, the mornings are crisply cool, leaves are changing color, and apple harvest has started for the year.  I love these earlier cooler nights, for that that it means that winter and real cold cannot be too far behind. It is a season for visitors here in Ithaca, and today's review is for a cider I shared with dear visiting friends recently. They like dry challenging ciders, so I pulled out something I thought might be a bit special, Whetstone Ciderworks' Orchard King.

Here's a bit of background on Whetsone Ciderworks that I found on their website. The company has been around since 2010. Jason and Lauren MacArthur started Whetstone Ciderworks in Marlboro, Vermont. They appear to have a few really interesting identifying features as a cidery.

They do focus on local fruit. This what they have to say about that, "All of the apples we use are grown locally- this past year, most were from Scott Farm in Dummerston, some from Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH, and even a few from our own small orchard."

This, plus the description of Jason MacArthur's winemaking influence make me really excited to try their ciders. I love it when cidermakers show a genuine focus on apples, climate, and the under-realized similarities of cider and wine making. Anyhow, that's my own bias talking.

You can find out plenty more on their actual site or their Facebook page.

In looking at a few Whetstone Ciders, I though I'd start by sharing and reviewing their Orchard King. It sounds complex and truly expressive of their cider-making goals.

Here's what Whetsone has to say about their Orchard King, "This extra-dry, bottle-conditioned cider is effervescent and refreshing. Yarlington Mill, Orleans Reinette, and Major are among the apples that impart tastes of citrus and apple, leading to a delicate, smoky finish. A fabulous 'cocktail hour' cider."

This cider is sold in 750ml bottles and has an ABV of 7.5%.

Appearance: cloudy, deep creamy color, very little visible bubbling

I can see a ring of very fine bubbles around the edge of the glass and a few tiny islands of bubbles, but not much more. This cider is hazy to cloudy and shows signs of being bottle conditioned. This matches the official description, so that's good. The cider is a creamy rich gold in color.

Aromas: Leather, Ripe Apples, Clay

The Orchard King smells fascinating, rather like leather and limestone and deliciously ripe apples. I also detect notes that remind me of wood and clay. One of my fellow tasters got hint of lily aromas, and I think she's spot on. I get some phenols but not to a distracting or negative degree. I really enjoy how rich and complex this cider smells.

Sweetness or dryness: Dry

Definitely at dry cider! This doesn't taste the least bit sweet until the finish, but then some hints of warm sweet oats and breadiness kick in. I love the dryness and the shift just at the last moment. Very interesting.

Flavors and drinking experience: high tannins, medium high acid, some degree of farminess

The Orchard King tastes monstrously tannic and fabulous. This cider comes across as lightly fizzy more than deeply bubbly. It shows a bit of farm funk with some hints of metallic flavors. The Orchard King balances that weight of tannins and funk with some intense acidity, making this a complex and bombastic cider. It tastes very rustic, even a bit medieval.

I enjoyed this with grapes, cheese, cookies, and wonderful friends. I think they were the most important accompaniment to this cider. It doesn't need lot in the way of foods. The Orchard King offers enough interest and flavor to stand on its own, but it could also easily pair with hearty foods. I would not enjoy this cider so much with anything super spicy or acidity, but balance it out with non-competing flavors like farmhouse bread, cheese, and fruits.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cider Review: Appeltreow Kinglet Bitter

Tonight, I am finally able to post my review of Appeltreow's Kinglet Bitter. I say finally because I tasted this cider weeks ago. Spoiler alert: I loved it. But I temporarily misplaced the photos I took of it, so I didn't want to post a review with no pictures. Tonight, I found them, so no more waiting!

First things first. You can find out plenty about AeppelTreow Winery and Distillery at their website:

I have reviewed one AeppelTreow cider before, their Barnswallow. Interested parties can read that review here:

The briefest version of AeppelTreow's description of their Kinglet Bitter reads, "Semi-dry, medium tannic traditional English and French cider apples."

While mouthwatering, that doesn't go as deep as I would like in terms of information, and, luckily for us cider nerds, AeppelTreow gives us more. Here's the full rundown of what they say about the Kinglet Bitter.
English and French traditional cider apples. Complex and tannic.
Fermented to highlight cultivars and terroir.
Subtle apple and tannins, tart, slightly bubbly.
  • Body: Medium
  • Sweetness: 1
  • Tartness: 4
  • Alcohol: 6
  • Apples: Dabinette, Domaine, Frequin Rouge, White Jersey, Muscadet Deippe and other bittersweet cider apples of English and French heritage.
Kinglet Bitter is one of our proud ‘estate’ ciders.  It’s all grown at Brightonwoods, within sight of the Winery.   It’s more subtle and complex than Barn Swallow – being fermented from 100% bitter English and French cider apples.  It differs from an authentic European cider by being ‘immature’.  Kinglet has very little post-ferment changes made by wild Lactic Acid Bacteria.  Instead, we ferment it with a Sangiovese yeast that we think really brings out the tannin characters of the cider-specific cultivars.  These apples are rare, and not easy to grow.  When we get the question "Then why use them?", we pour a glass of Kinglet.
I've had a fair number of ciders that use only cider apples, and it changes the landscape of flavors tremendously. What excites me especially is that this list goes beyond the ten or so cider apples I've tasted most often and includes totally unfamiliar apples! The comment about relative 'immaturity' caused by post-fermentation changes makes me curious. What does that really mean? How will that translate into taste?

Appearance: marigold, few visible bubbles, brilliant

This is a deeply colored cider. Its marigold hue bespeaks tannins; this is not a surprise given the description.

Aromas: Tons of overripe apple aroma, some minerals, spicy.

 Wow! I feel completely entranced by the aromas here. This smells sweetly spicy but oh-so appley. Laying atop this balance, I pick up a subtle drift of minerality. Gosh, this is going to be good.

Sweetness: semi-dry

This has some sweetness, but not too much. Definitely not enough to call it semi-sweet. The thing about this sweetness that I notice most is its depth. This is a real rich apple taste that expresses itself partly with sweetness.

Flavors: high tannins, medium sweetness, rich, creamy, yet a bit tart

This cider tastes highly tannic but not too dry. I'll chalk that up not only to deep fruits in the mid palate but also no overkill in terms of acidity. The Kinglet Bitter offers rich flavor without being heavy. Instead the mouthfeel is more creamy but with hints of zest. The flavor is one that you can fall into but that just bounces you back up. It really is tannic and sweet but still refreshing; I just cannot get over how well those two elements are balanced.

I just absolutely adore this cider.

The level of sparkle is more one of spritz or petillance. My one complaint is that it did lose its sparkle fairly quickly in the glass. This is not a sincere critique. We need ciders at all levels of bubble and stillness. I just happen to like sparkle a lot.

Thinking about pairings for AeppelTreow's Kinglet Bitter, I'd like to pair it with foods that play up its tannins well. I think a totally smooth sherried mushroom soup, a salad with big herby croutons, and gruyere would taste amazing. Mind you, I enjoyed my own glasses of this cider with a good book instead of food. I assure you, it delights the senses either way. I just like tasty cider more than I like cooking, so I don't always prepare the meals that I think the ciders deserve.

Thanks so much to AeppelTreow for making the Kinglet Bitter. Yes, it is worth growing the difficult cider apples. Keep up the great work.