Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cider Review: Good Life Cider's Cazenovia Plus their Call to the Barrel Dinner

 Now that we're so close to the start of Finger Lakes Cider Week, I'm reviewing ciders by local participants. This will be my first year living here when I can really participate in cider week as a cider drinker and not just a cider pourer. Though I'll miss getting to see hundreds and hundreds of reactions to quality craft cider in one cider week, I'm excited to experience it more for myself. This leads us to...Good Life Cider!

Good Life Cider hosts and anchors the new Finger Lakes Cider House along with a handful of other Finger Lakes Cideries. Garrett and Jimmy Miller and Melissa Madden create the cider and care for their larger farm enterprises. 

You can read a bit more about their cider here:

I found only a limited amount of information on this cider online, cobbled together from beer review sites and stores selling the bottles. I do know that it is named for a soil type: one present on the Good Life Farm.
Dry. Champagne style. Austere acidity backed with soft round tannins, coming from European bittersweets; Dabinett and Chisel Jersey. Aromas of ripe pear and caraway. Rich, creamy mouthfeel with a long sparkling finish. (8.3% ABV, 0.3%RS) Secondary fermentation lasted three months in bottle
Aromas of Bosc pear and red apple skin float alongside citrus fruit and distinct minerality.  The palate shows a pleasant tartness with round and rich mouthfeel and persistent sparkling finish.

Appearance: pale lemon, visible bubbles, brilliant

The most striking thing about the appearance of this cider is how the bubbles both gather at the bottom of the glass and race upwards. It's beautifully exciting!

Aroma: spicy, cooked apple, caramel

From the smell, I would expect some inclusion of Russet varieties or Northern Spy or Greenings, but that's far from precise. This cider smells lovely and like it will have both tannic and acidic activity in pleasing levels. That edge of soft spiciness is often a good sign.

Dryness/sweetness: dry to off dry

There's almost no percievable sugar or sweetness in this cider. In my book that makes it dry. What I do get though is enough various fruit notes to round it out and make it more lush than austere. There are dry ciders that feel more aggressive or severe than this. There's so much more to a cider like this than its level of sweetness OR dryness.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium tannins, strong sparkle,

The high acidity comes across as a bright punch of citrus and pineapple in the mid palate. I'm also getting a lot of cherries and raspberries. The whole experience is taut with acid. Bottle conditioning leads to a high level of sparkle, but not a lot of additional body in this case. Like the smell, the flavors include some on the subtly appley spicy side. 

It's not very yeasty or funky when cold, but hints of farminess became apparent when the cider reaches a cellar temperature rather than the more chilled white wine temperature. When reviewing, I like to taste a cider at both just to see what differences emerge. 

I paired this cider with an evening of relaxing conversation and a Mexico-inspired soup with beans, chickpeas, tortillas, peppers, tomatoes, rice, and avocado. I'd recommend this pairing, or taking it with you on a last picnic before this beautiful mellow fall gets too cool. Enjoy!

And don't forget! Finger Lakes Cider Week is coming up!

This event: Call to the Barrel Dinner will feature Good Life Ciders among others along with tapas inspired dishes and lots of cider toasts! Happening soon: October 6th at 6:30pm. Tickets available online for $50 and include food and drink the whole night through.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cider Review: Black Diamond's Rabblerouser plus Finger Lakes Cider Week Coming Soon

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I taste a really good cider and yet it takes me far too long to actually turn those notes into a review and post it. I won't make any excuse other than there are far more ciders worth covering than I have time to write. Alas.
One of the cideries that has deserved my attention long before now is Black Diamond Cider. Ian and Jackie Merwin, long-term home cidermakers, orchardists, and farmers, founded this company in 2014. They grow their own fruit in the finger lakes region, near Trumansburg, New York.
You can read much more about them and their ciders at Black Diamond Cider's Website:

Tonight's review is their Rabble Rouser. 
I gleaned this fabulously complete information about their ciders on the website:
RabbleRouser Cider is a unique blend of American heirloom apples, old English bittersweets, and rare red-fleshed apples -Pink Pearl and Redfield -that create its sunset aura and tropical fruit aromas. With a touch of tannins, light carbonation and off-dry sweetness, RabbleRouser is perfect for parties or festive dinners. It tastes best when chilled before serving.                                                                            
Tasting Notes: Tropical fruit, passion fruit, lively warm tannins.  Long lasting slightly sweet finish.

Alcohol: 7.4%   Residual Sugar: 0%    PH: 3.51  TA: 9.1 g/l

European Bittersweets  – 35%  Heirloom Sharps – 55% Red-fleshed – 10%

Do you see how cool this is? Not only do they describe how it will taste and what apples they used, but they even know the cider-making groupings into which those apples fit, giving us a more precise set of expectations for how this cider will taste.

 For a quick bit of context. I enjoyed this cider on draft at The Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg on a cold spring evening a few months ago. 

Appearance: mellow applesauce color, brilliant, few bubbles
This color surprised me; its so gentle. I also noticed tiny ring of visible bubbles around the rim of the glass. Beautifully briliant.
Aromas: caramel, stone, banana
Wow, what an interesting set of aromas. I got plenty of yummy stuff to sniff from this glass. The caramel and stone tell me to expect some tannins. I cannot wait.

Dryness/sweetness: dry
0 residual sugar tells the whole story here. This cider is gorgeously dry, yet full of intense flavors.

Flavors and drinking experience: Fruity, high acid, mid tannins, lovely texture

First off, I get some nice high acid balanced by medium tannins. In terms of more specific flavor notes, I taste: leather, grapefruit, and other tropical fruits This cider strikes me as wildly zesty with great bubble. I think Black Diamond used some fruit oxidation to nice effect to add richness to the cider as well. Overall, it's simply wonderful. I love the mouthfeel and the complexity.
I heartily recommend this cider. Because of the nature of Black Diamond's cidermaking, this will vary year to year, but based on everything I've tasted so far that's only going to bring pleasant changes and variations! I had this glass with a fellow cidermaker, vegetarian poutine, and crazy good salad. If you can manage all of those pairings, you're in for a special treat, but generally I'd pair this with rich foods that don't skrimp on the salt. This is a cider that can stand up to that deliciously.
The other thing I'd like to talk about in this post: Finger Lakes Cider week! This has to be the best part of fall in the region, and we do fall really really well here. Cider week brings cider sampling, talks, tasting, pairings. But also: orchard tours! Bowling! Cider dinners galore!  
You can read about everything FLX Cider Week here:
A few links to some highlights of the upcoming Finger Lakes Cider Week:

Science Cabaret- The Cream and The Crop; Cider, Cheese, and the Perfect Pairing to be held at the classroom space at Greenstar in Ithaca on Tuesday October 6th at 7pm.
Cider Dinner with Black Diamond Cider & Good Life Cider on Tuesday, October 13
at 6:30pm. This dinner is being held by Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.
Cider Dinner at Argos Inn on October 11th at 7pm at the Argos Inn in Ithaca

Cider Creek Hard Cider Tasting Room Grand Opening at
6497 Cunningham Creek Road Canisteo, NY 14823 Saturday October 10th 1-10pm

Cider Dinner with Black Diamond Cider & Good Life Cider on Tuesday, October 13
at 6:30pm. This dinner is being held by Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.

More updates coming soon!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cider Review: AppelTreow Winery's Appley Brut Sparkling Cider

Finally the hot spell has broken! Today I'm celebrating the imminent arrival of autumn with something tremendously champage like. Since autumn is my favorite of all of the seasons, I wanted to choose something that I had great faith would be as delicious as this crisp cool air. I choose Aeppeltreow's Appely Brut.

Appeltreow Winery and Distillery makes very specialized fruit ciders, perries, and spirits from apples and pears. They use their own fruit grown in Wisconsin, including some very special varietals. This is orchard cider, artisan cider, and very clean cider.

Visit the website to learn about all of their ciders, perries, spirits, the tasting room and inventory level of some beverages:

This isn't my first bottle by AeppelTreow. Here you can find my previous reviews with more background information on Aeppeltreow:

My first encounter with a cider by AeppelTreow was their Barnswallow

But my favorite to this point has been the richly complex Kinglet Bitter (we'll see if this bottle changes that):

Here's the information I found in a few places about the Appely Brut Sparkling Cider. From the Appeltreow website, there's some very helpful facts, measurements, and suggestions:
Champagne Method ‘Hard’ Cider
Really dry, crisp, mineral, austere

  • Body: Medium
  • Sweetness: 0
  • Tartness: 4
  • Alcohol: 7
  • Apples: Gold Del, Jonathan, Russets
  • Pairings: Grilled Shrimp, Regiano, Gorgonzola
 On another ratings website, I found another official description: "Appely Brut it is just off-dry, floral, with earthy tannins. It is inspired by French Country Ciders, and crafted from a blend of modern and heirloom apple varieties." 7.5% ABV

Finally, time to break out the Aeppeltreow Appely Brut! 
Appearance: brilliant, warm shimmering gold, bubbly

This pours with a delicate and quickly vanishing mousse. The color is warmer than many ciders but still delicately gold. I see no haze or cloudiness. What I can see though is the fabulous level of sparkle implied by the number of bubbles everywhere!

Aromas: sweet soft smell, crisp, but warm

I am surprised by how soft and sweet this cider smells! It really has some characteristics of a keeved French style cider in its aromas. I find the applesauce aroma really nice. This also offers far more intense aroma than many many ciders.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry 

Do not be fooled by the aromas, this is distinctly dry! At the same time, this cider remains fruity and rich. This dryness isn't harsh, but rather warm and bright.
Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, very clean, medium tannins; surprisingly fruity

The fruit notes abound right after sipping, but they fade quickly—for a brut. This cider offers warmth, and tastes almost oaky in the mid-palate. VERY sparkling! It's called brut and fermened in champgne style, so this is not a surprise. The sparkle pushes some of the boozier notes into seeming brightness.  This cider is not farmy at all; the fermentation tastes notably  clean and balanced. I'm tremendously impressed.

Beyond fruit, I can taste walnut skin and almonds. The cider is lively and medium bodied, with a fair bit of apple in the fruit notes, no berry, only a tiny bit of tropical fruit. One really nice part of the experience is coming back to the smell while drinking it. The smell is so sweet and contributes a pronounced counterpoint to all the flavors. Lovely lovely lovely!

How do I recommend this cider? So long as its cold and you have a glass that allows you to enjoy the aroma, I don't want to place many limitations. It's that wonderful. I had it with my husband and best friend and simple good food. 

I can also see enjoying it with a porch and a book. 

If I were planning my next bottle to be enjoyed ideally though, I'd pair this with a slice of dark dark chocolate cake with milkier hazelnut chocolate icing. The dry plus fruity plus nutty combination would make it the perfect dry cider to go with a ridiculously rich but not too sweet dessert.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cider Review: Square Mile's Spur and Vine Hopped Apple Cider

I can see fall around me, but I can only feel summer because of the heat. Leaves are falling to nearly dry creek beds. Every morning, I can sit on my porch reminded of the cool humid mornings of summer camp in the mountains. I suppose I should press that luck while I have it and keep reviewing the ciders that have some connection to summer and warm weather. It won't last forever.

Square Mile's slogan is the bold imperative, "Stake your claim" which strikes a rustic, frontiersman, note. This makes sense to me because of their identity as an Oregon cider company whose frontier days are not as historically distant as those nearer here. The packaging, brand name and product names create a more understated image, though not one that necessarily undercuts the slogan.

This is the bulk of the introductory copy on their website.
Inspired by the pioneering spirit of those who traveled the Oregon Trail in the pursuit of a dream, we offer Square Mile Hard Cider.  We set out to reinvigorate an enduringly classic American beverage with a blend of apples hand-selected for the perfect balance of sweet and tart.  Our hard cider pays homage to the fortitude and perseverance of the original pioneers.
You can see their ciders, find where they are sold (mostly west coast), and see the brands' Tumblr all on their website:

It's a visually appealing website with great photo imagery and clean design. It's both very modern and very nostalgic with that Instagram photo filter vibe.

Square Mile sent me a sampling of both of their ciders, and tonight I'm reviewing the Spur and Vine Hopped Apple Cider. Many thanks to them for these! Since I'm sticking with summery ciders while the warm weather holds, I thought starting with a hopped cider makes sense.

Here's how Square Mile introduces their Spur and Vine:
Spur & Vine puts a Northwest twist on our classic American hard cider.  Starting with the same apples and yeast as The Original, we added a generous amount of Galaxy hops during cold conditioning.  Since no heat is applied to the hops, our cider takes on flavors and aromas of peach, melon and honeysuckle but none of the traditional hop bitterness.  Spur & Vine is best served straight up to allow the complexities of this cider to shine.
Looking to their Original's description, those apples are eating apples: Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonagolds, all from Oregon. The yeast is a beer lager yeast, which is going to affect the flavor in a major way. 6.7% ABV for the Spur and Vine, making it stand out from the vast vast majority of ciders sold in 12oz bottles.

Appearance: Dark popcorn gold, brilliant, very few visible bubbles

As the photo shows, this has tons and tons of color. I like how the warm depths of color remind me of smooth kernels of unpopped popping corn. This cider shows brilliance and very few visible bubbles with no mousse at all when poured.

Aromas: hoppy in a very cool green herbal way, soapy. stony, grassy

Yum! Though they sell you this cider in a bottle, please pour in a glass to enjoy it! The smells are too good to lose. I like how green it smells, how soapy, piney, and grassy come together.

Sweet/dry: off dry

Here's where the beer yeast comes in! This cider has bitter notes that change the perception of sweetness. I cannot tell exactly where this falls in terms of its residual sugar in the semi-dry to off dry range, but it tastes off dry. This is a very neat thing to be doing in a hopped cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: hoppy, beery, balanced, not too bubbly

Summery! I'm glad that this timing worked out so well. This cider presents a beautifully balanced drinking experience that really doubles down on exploring the similar possibilities available to beer and cider. I like the hoppy aroma, gently bitter notes, dryness, and mild carbonation. Although if you want it to taste more fruity and cidery and less beer like, consume in a glass rather than straight from the bottle. I tried one each way, and I can see the benefits to both.

This is a genuinely enjoyable off dry cider sold in a 12 oz bottle. This is a nearly unique combination of taste and packaging. I wish this was sold in New York state, though we have cideries a plenty there really isn't anything filling this particular niche. Great job, Square Mile!