Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Cider Review: The Cider Lab's Empire Royale and Uncle John's Cider's Baldwin

Good morning Cider Fans! I’m guess many many many of you are in Chicago this morning for Cider Con or gearing up to get there. If you love cider and don’t know about Cider Con, it’s the industry education, networking, business, and social center of the American cider world brought to us by the United States Association of Cider Makers. And it’s sold out!

Learn more at: https://ciderassociation.org/cidercon2019/

I’m sad to say that I won’t be there this year; I need to rotate my big cider events so I can see different people and taste different ciders, while seeing folks at my day job often enough that they don’t forget I work there. Have fun without me, cider friends. I miss you!

I want to start with my first ever review of cider by The Cider Lab. This is way overdue, and it’s only the first review of a few that are coming. I’ll let the brand/enterprise introduce itself,

"The Empire Cider Company LLC (“ECC”) was founded in New York State in 2013 by Jacob Israelow and James Chuck with the mission of integrating family-owned orchards into the hard cider market for the benefit of New York State apple growers and hard cider consumers." And it’s not just one brand; this is a Geneva, New York project that aims to connect fruit growers and cider makers as well as create its own cider; that followed in 2016.

This is such and interesting project, I want to link to both homepages for The Cider Lab and for Empire Cider. 

The official description for the Empire Royale reads:
EMPIRE ROYALE ABV: 6.3%. Robust, juicy FLX and Hudson Valley blackcurrants set this cider on fire. The Cider Lab’s Empire Royale is reminiscent of the iconic French cocktail Kir Royale: beautifully balanced, elegant and refreshing. With a luscious deep purple hue and a fruit-forward nose that tempts the senses, Royale is a regal cider experience, pure pleasure from start to finish. Available from September – March in bottle

Appearance: brilliant, deep cherry color, few bubbles

I know I’m a sucker for richly colorful ciders. Whether it’s the umbre, ochre, orange of a West Country style cider or a delicate salmon shade of pink, I like lots of color. This cider delivers that in spades. This is a terrifically pretty cider with brilliance and not a lot of visible bubbles. I love the deep cherry hue.

Aromas: Bing cherries, ripe apples minerality

On the nose, I get darkly sweet Bing cherries, minerals, ripe apples, and a hint of black currant.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This a semi-sweet cider whose sweetness is all fruit and in great balance with its acidity. The Empire Royale sparkles with lots of black currant flavor. I can tastes all sorts of red fruit fruit notes: raspberry, cherry, currant, strawberry. There are ripe apples notes as well, though the apples are behind the other flavors in intensity.

This cider offers a pleasingly hefty body and some tannic presence. The high acidity is just enough to balance both the sweetness and the tannins. Lower acidity could have left the cider feeling flabby or sticky; this is neither! I love the long subtle finish. It’s just so pleasant all around.

I had this at a birthday party for my friend, Jill. We enjoyed it with lasagna, herbed crackers, and the most intense dark chocolate lavender birthday cake. Remarkably, especially with the cake.

Uncle John's Cider's Baldwin

To give a really short brand introduction, if you love cider, please find a way to try something by Uncle John’s Cider and take a moment to raise your glass to a person and a company who had done more for the American cider world than almost anyone else: Mike Beck. He’s worked for decades to help the cider world at every stage from orcharding to cider legislation.

Here are my previous reviews of Uncle John's Cider.

I quite enjoyed Uncle John’s Draught Apple Cider in a can: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/06/cider-review-uncle-johns-cider-draught.html

I tried the Rosé back in 2015, years before the trend took off: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/01/cider-review-uncle-johns-cider-rose.html

Here's a link to my review of Uncle John’s American 150: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2014/04/uncle-johns-cider-american-150.html

To read more about this Michigan cidery, winery, and distillery at the website: http://www.fruithousewinery.com/

Uncle John's Baldwin is introduced on it’s bottle with the following,
Baldwin is made from 100% Baldwin apples grown near the Lake Michigan shore. Baldwin is a favorite apple of cider makers both past and present. It’s crisp and fruity flavor makes a very fresh and enjoyable cider. First introduced in our tasting room in 2009, Baldwin has become a consumer favorite. This cider is limited be sure to try it now. 6.8%ABV
I'm always curious about a single varietal cider, especially a heritage apple like Baldwin.

Appearance: warm straw, almost no visible bubbles, brilliant

This cider looks nearly still in the glass, but not seeing bubbles doesn’t prove their absence. I’d describe the color as warm straw and the transparency as brilliant. This is a classic cider in appearance.

Aromas: ripe apples, rock candy, leather, salt

What an enticing array of smells: ripe apples, rock candy, salt, a little phenolic funk, and leather. The apples and rock candy are far more forward than the savory and funky notes, but it’s enough to give me high expectations for a complex cider.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

Hooray for a dry cider! Yes, I love ciders at most points in the dryness to sweetness spectrum, but I never get enough dry, bubbly, high acid ciders.

Flavors and drinking experience: tropical, strongly sparkling, high acid

The Baldwin tastes very fruity with notes that remind me of pineapple, melon, tropical notes, and lush green leaves. Like many single-varietals, this cider has complexity! There’s even a gentle hint of fresh carrots. I really enjoy this dry super tart cider. The cider has a pleasing mineral finish. Though the cider is on the whole far more clean tasting than funky, I can sense a little phenolic funk in big sips.

In terms of mouthfeel, this cider is highly carbonated. I adore that strong sparkle. The high acidity and bubble add to an overall feeling of lightness. I had this cider at home with a chipotle cheddar grilled cheese and some red bell pepper strips. The meal was simple; all the better to show off this gorgeous cider.