Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Very Perry May with Windfall Orchards Perry and Champlain Orchards Cranberry Cider + GLINTCAP Results

How can it feel like summer so soon after cold nights and chilly mornings? We worried about apple blossoms so recently that it scarcely feels real to be mowing, weeding, and grilling already. This is the magic of May. Today marks my last official entry into 2019’s Very Perry May (though I do have a couple more interesting perries up my sleeve that I’ll be reviewing soon).

I was able to get a bottle from a very small run of perry from Windfall Orchards over the winter, so I’ve been waiting on break this open. This past week, I had the perfect opportunity when doing pescatarian hot pot with some dear friends.

Cornwall, Vermont is the home of Windfall Orchards.I’m not finding out a lot about this small cidery online, save that the company has been making cider, perry, and ice cider since 2009. Windfall Orachards grows a large number of apple and other fruit varieties on a small Vermont farm.

Visit the website to learn about the products Windfall Orchards makes: https://windfallorchardvt.com

The run was small, but the labelling makes clear that the perry is 9% ABV. Elsewhere online, I was able to see that the Farm House Perry uses 12 types of pear to create this perry.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, warm straw

Like many American perries, the Farmhouse Perry has a mild warm straw color and just a hint of haze. I could see lots of bubbles in the glass when it was poured.

Aromas: pear flesh, dust, hay, flowers, salt
Windfall Orchards’ Farmhouse perry smells enticing and delicate at once. I get notes of pear flesh, dust, hay, Daffodils, and salt. I cannot quote predict what this perry will taste like based on such a range of aromas, and that’s exciting to me!

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The Farmhouse Perry tastes off dry but only just. The sweetness that’s there is very directly like pear.

Flavors and drinking experience: burstingly bubbly, green tea, fresh pear, grippy

Oh wow! This is such a delightful perry. It’s bubbles are so plentiful and active that it splashes into your face when you are sniffing it. I love that this perry reminds me of delicate herbal notes like green tea and lemongrass while also tasting like fresh pears and a bit of squash.

This off dry Perry is high acid with medium tannins and a tiny bit of funk. I relish it’s delightful big fruit flavors. It’s most rewarding in large sips that show off it’s good grippy toothsome texture and fruity finish. This is a complete delight! I loved having this with hot pot too!

Champlain Orchards Cranberry  Cider

I want to stay with Vermont beverages this week and share my experience with Champlain Cranberry Semi-Dry. I’ve tasted a few ciders by Champlain Orchard but not nearly as many as I’d like based on how much I’ve enjoyed those I’ve tried. 

I reviewed (and loved) the Heirloom (it made it to my #5 favorite cider that year): http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/cider-review-champlain-orchards-cidery.html

I included Champlain Orchard’s Single-Varietal Honeycrisp Ice Cider Library Edition in a pairing dinner last year with dessert: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-dear-friend-el-just-had-birthday.html

My first encounter with Champlain Orchards was when I visited on the 2nd day of my Vermont cider trip: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-great-vermont-cider-tour-day-2.html

I recommend Champlain Cidery’s website to learn  more about all the different ciders Champlain Orchards makes: http://www.champlainorchardscidery.com

Champlain keeps the official description short and sweet, "Delicious and refreshing, our Apple Cranberry Hard Cider balances the sweetness of apples with the tartness of Vermont cranberries. ABV 5.6%"

Appearance: brilliant, true ruby, no visible bubbles

I love the look of many fruit ciders, and the Cranberry Semi-Dry is no exception. It’s too pretty to be sold in a can! I’d call the color true ruby and it appears brilliant.

Aromas: dusty, cranberries, almonds

Oooh! I can smell that dusty, mineral aroma that I find on lots of tannic ciders. This one also smells very directly of cranberries. The last note I get reminds me of granola with almonds.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry
This semi-dry cider needs both the dry and sweet elements to keep it well rounded and balanced. I’ll explain more below. 

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, astringent, good body, balanced

The Cranberry Semi-Dry tastes almost alarmingly tart, but because it’s semi-dry, the overall experience balanced out into pleasant tartness, sweetness, fruit, and astringence.  I apprecaite the heft to this cider’s body, the clean fermentation and the tannins from the cranberry. The whole drinking experience feels admirably balanced and hangs together nicely. 

I had the Cranberry Semi-Dry with black bean burritos and found it delightfully refreshing.  The cider has medium-rich mouthfeel and a good strong sparkle. I appreciate that it has just the right amount of sweetness—not so much that it loses interest.

This lovely cranberry cider also tastes more appealing when poured into a glass.  The cranberry in the can, without being aerated, tastes a bit more like juice. I know canning is totally practical, but when you can pour your cider into a class to access all of it’s delicious aromas!

And for those who have been following GLINTCAP, the full medal results are up! Check them out here: https://glintcap.org/

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Very Perry May with Vandermill's Ice Ice Perry, Black Diamond's Somerset Jersey & GLINTCAP Best in Class

I write on a nearly quiet evening after a full and busy few days in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve been here to judge at GLINTCAP, take my CCP Level 2 exam, and I ended up volunteering with for the Great Lakes International Cider Festival as a fun bonus. It’s been a whirlwind of training, judging,and  getting to see cider friends from all over the country. But I knew it would be a chance for me to find new treats to continue Very Perry May.

That’s how I was able to sample Vandermill’s Ice Ice Perry at the Great Lakes International Cider Festival.

Vandermill is key to GLINTCAP and the Michigan Cider Alliance. The company started as a cider mill just over 10 years ago in Grand Rapids in 2006. Now, Vandermill Cider sells cider in seven states and operates two taprooms open to the public: Grand Rapids and Spring Lake. And that’s not even scratching the surface of all that this cider has going on!

Visit the website to learn more here: http://vandermill.com/.

I’ve reviewed one Vandermill Cider before, the Totally Roasted: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/07/cider-review-vander-mills-totally.html

The company also features in my CiderCon coverage from 2017: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/02/cider-con-2017-part-1-industry-growing.html

I wasn’t able to find an official description of the Ice Ice Perry online, but I found some notes and I got some info when the perry was poured today. The Ice Ice Perry uses Bartlett pears and gets blended with 9% heritage apple ice cider. At some point some or all of the perry or cider spends time in barrels. 6.33% ABV.

Appearance: butterscotch, hazy, bubbly

The cider’s color reminds me of butterscotch. It’s hazy and when poured from draft, visibly bubbly.

Aromas: acidity, citrus, vanilla, cooked apples

This is a complex set of smells! This perry smells like citrus, vanilla, and cooked apples. But that’s not all that’s going on. I also detect a hint of wild tart tanginess. I can definitely tell that this spent some time in a barrel!

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-dry

This comes out feeling semi-dry, but based on other characteristics, I wonder if it doesn’t have more residual sugar than it tastes like.
Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, low tannins, lots of barrel

While the methods used to reach this effect were anything but traditional, this perry actually reminds me of a few of the English perries I’ve enjoyed over the years. It’s soft, a little sweet, fairly tart, a little tannic, and quite funky.

The barrel aging I could detect in the aromas remains present in the flavors in that it tastes like vanilla and oak. It also has such pleasant soft rounded fruit character at the same time as it’s bright and zesty acidity. There’s a lot going on here!

Black Diamond's Somerset Jersey

You’ll have to read through to the end to see exactly why I’m sharing my notes on the Somerset Jersey by Black Diamond this week, but I’m always happy to review any cider by Black Diamond. This rural orchard-based cidery has been part of my cider landscape since it officially opened in 2014, not long after I moved to the Finger Lakes regions. The cidery and orchard are run by Ian and Jackie Merwin, two long-time contributors to the cider world. For more background information on the cidery, check out some of my earlier reviews of Black Diamond Ciders.

You can also learn more by visiting Black Diamond Cider online: https://www.blackdiamondcider.com

Earlier this spring (when it still felt like winter) I enjoyed the Geneva Tremlett’s: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/03/cider-review-black-diamonds-geneva.html

I reviewed the Slatestone last year:

I have reviewed a few Black Diamond ciders previously. 

The Solstice cider was my second favorite cider in 2017. It’s still one of the most delightful still ciders I’ve ever encountered:

The Hickster was my third favorite cider in 2016:

Black Diamond’s award-winning Porter’s Pommeau made an appearance at the 2017 Locavore pairing dinner in 2017:

My first Black Diamond review is the Rabblerouser: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/09/cider-review-black-diamonds.html

Somerset Jersey’s label description is pleasingly complete.

Black Diamond Farm is a family-owned cidery in Seneca County, New York-the heart of the Iroquois People’s ‘Land Between the Lakes.’ Our Ciders are handcrafted from home-grown fruit, using traditional methods that express the fertile soils and unique climate of our lakes region. Somerset Jersey cider is a small-batch varietal blend of heritage apples, dominated by the English bittersweet called Harry Master’s Jersey, a scion of the ‘Somerset Jersey’ clan of apples that originated in southwest England during the late 1800s. This cider is semi-dry, with notes of vanilla and passionfruit, light acidity, and soft tannins that create its long astringent finish. Best when served slightly chilled. ABV 7.7%.

Appearance: hazy, bubbly, apricot

Somerset Jersey looks like the glowing color of dried apricots. The cider is hazy and bubbly. 

Aromas: ripe apples, vanilla buttercream, tropical fruit

This is what keeps me coming back to Black Diamond ciders so eagerly. These folks know how to bring out strong and pleasing aromas in a cider! This one smells like ripe tart apples and vanilla buttercream. I also get plenty of tropical fruit notes. It makes my mouth water. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry-to-semi-sweet

This feels just a hint dryer than a semi-sweet and almost too sweet to be a semi-dry. It’s a delicate spot with only very natural fruit sweetness coming through. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Citrus, minerality, tropical fruit, and astringence

This is so lovely! The Somerset Jersey tastes astringent and fruity at the same time. It has lots of minerality and citrus, plus a showering of tropical fruit. I often enjoy ciders that are high acid and high tannin; this fits that profile exceptionally well.

I love the Somerset Jersey’s rich mouthfeel and strong bubbles. Everything going on from first sip to lingering finish works together and works beautifully. I love it, and I’m not the only one. Keep reading to see who else does...

And, saving some excitement for the end of this week’s post, I want to share a link to GLINTCAP’s Best in Glass results!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Very Perry May with Left Foot Charley's Perry and Stoic Cider's The First Batch

Welcome back to Very Perry May, Cider Lovers! It’s a fabulously cider and perry filled week for me. I’m travelling today to the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (https://glintcap.org/), my Pommelier exam (https://ciderassociation.org/certification/), and Grand Rapids Cider week(https://www.experiencegr.com/cider-week/). If you’ll be at any of these great events, please come say hi! 

Starting with the Perry from Left Foot Charley today. This Traverse City Winery and Cidery  was founded in 2004. Now it’s an urban winery and cidery that purchases fruit and juice from a number of Northern Michigan fruit growers. 

I previously reviewed Henry’s Pippin (and it was made my top 10 for 2016: https://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/12/cider-review-left-foot-charleys-henrys.html

You can visit the Left Foot Charley website to learn more about the wines and ciders: http://www.leftfootcharley.com

Here’s the description from the bottle for this perry, “Perry is hard cider made exclusively from fermented pear juice. We harvested Bartlett pears from Northern Michigan and fermented the juice in small steel barrels for 10 months. After this rest, we bottled the perry with a slight bubble. It’s fresh pear aromas and aged yeast tones add complexity to this dry perry. Only 800 botttles were produced.” ABV 6%

Appearance: brilliant, no visible bubble, pale green glow

This perry has a nearly green pale glow in it’s still brilliance. It looks more like a white wine than many of the ciders and perries 

Aromas: tropical fruit, citrus, ginger, flowers

I smell concentrated fruitness from this perry like something tropical, I also get ginger and citrus. It includes floral and wild notes but it’s also just a little bit creamy.

Sweetness/dryness: off dry

The off-dry sweetness level doesn’t really communicate even the tip of the iceberg for this perry.

Flavors and drinking experience: intense acid, phenols,

There are some aggressive phenols in the flavor that weren’t hinted at in the aroma. This perry has twisty funky dance moves to show off. I scarcely know what to say because I was so surprised at the jolt from this perry’s aromas to it’s flavors. I enjoy the rich mouthfeel. It has a little bit of tannin and spice that grows on me as I sip it more. I like the notes of tea and lemongrass. I had this after dinner while sitting down to be cozy with cats, and that was very pleasant indeed.

Stoic Cider The First Batch

And I’m thrilled to finally share my thoughts on the first Stoic cider I’ve tried. This company makes cider in Prescott, Arizona. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to know the cidery owners at cider events around the country, and I’ve watched their progress with great curiousity. And now I’m so glad to finally review The First Batch. 

Visit the company online: http://stoiccider.com/

Here’s the official description, “The first release of Stoic Cider! Artfully crafted from a blend of heritage apples in a small batch. A slow cold fermentation preserves the fruit-forward character. The cider matures to develop balance and complexity, yielding a delicate and rustic charisma. Shockingly drinkable. Created and bottled by hand, this rich golden cider is nearly dry and perfectly light and crisp. Pairs well with good friends and good food. Enjoy!” ABV of 6.5%

Appearance: butternut squash, transparent, few visible bubbles

This looks like a very tannic cider based on its deep squash color, but we’ll see how it tastes. It’s transparent with a small number of visible bubbles

Aromas:hay, lots of apple, oak, pollen 

Ooh this cider smells like so many things! I enjoy how the First Batch brings lots of apple, hay, oak and pollen to the forefront. It really melds some funky farmy notes with fruity ones. There are other scents in the background like caramel and dust.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-dry

This cider falls on the dry side of semi-dry for sure. 

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, tropical fruit notes, banana

Wowzas! This cider is almost off the charts with it’s high acid. The First Batch offers up all sorts of nice tropical fruit and some fun zingy mouthfeel. It’s light and just a little bubbly. I get some banana notes as well. I had this cider with a porch picnic and it was an excellent accompaniment to sweet potato hummus, sharp cheddar, bell peppers, cashews, grapes and strawberries.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cider Review Very Perry May with Woodchuck Bubbly Pearsecco & Sandford Orchards Straw & Oak

Happy May, Cider Lovers! It has become something of a tradition for me to share my perry reviews in a series called Very Perry May every year. I don’t find as many perries or pear ciders as I’d like, so finding a new one is always a treat. 

For any who don’t know, Perry is the beverage made from fermented pear juice. Here are a few of the most delicious or unusual from my last two years of Very Perry May.

Tieton Ciderworks Tieton Cider Works Sparkling Perry, Stem Ciders Perry

Two Towns Pearadise: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-2-towns-ciderhouses.html

And an international perry roundup with Argus, Viuda De Angelon, Cidrerie Daufresne:

And I cannot mention perry without thinking about Oriole Perry by AeppelTreow’s Orchard Oriole Perry: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2018/05/very-perry-may-aeppeltreows-orchard.html

This year I’m starting with a Woodchuck Cider’s Bubbly Pearsecco. This is a pear and apple blend rather than a perry. I want to distinguish between them, but include both this month. There’s a fair bit of crossover with the two terms, but the label on this cider does make the inclusion of apples clear. 

Woodchuck’s Bubbly Pearsecco variety is a dry, bubbly pear cider with a crisp clean finish, taking inspiration from sparkling wine, which is also experiencing exceptional growth. Both Bubbly Rosé and Bubbly Pearsecco have an ABV of 6.1%.

“So often when you speak to people unfamiliar with the cider category there is a lot of confusion about how cider is made and what it tastes like.” said Bridget Blacklock, Vice President of Marketing. “We believe by introducing ciders that have similar profiles to wine and deliver drier taste characteristics we can expand the consumer cider experience and showcase hard ciders’ ability to offer varieties to fit every drinkers palette.”

Learn more about all of Woodchuck’s ciders here: http://www.woodchuck.com/

Appearance: pale straw, brilliant, bubbly

This pear cider looks like spring honey or pale straw. It’s a gentle hue that shows off the ciders brilliant clarity and plentiful bubbles

Aromas: Vanilla yogurt, white flowers, mild cheese, pear

Though the aromas aren’t particularly strong, they are all springy and pleasant. I get notes of creaminess like a vanilla yogurt, mild white cheese, and pear. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I didn’t expect it to taste dry. Pears have sorbitol: a non-fermentable sugar. But Woodchuck as a producer tends to stick to the sweeter cider, even in the ciders listed or described as being closer to dry. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Lots of sparkle, bright acidity, light pear and apple flavors

This pear cider is  strongly bubbly; that’s something I like about it a lot! The Pearsecco offers up light fresh pear and apple flavors. It’s  semi sweet and relatively well balanced with it’s medium-high acidity but no tannins. The overall impression is bright and pleasant. The light mouthfeel is zippy and fresh. 

And for my cider review of the week, I’m excited to finally crack open my bottle of Sandford Orchards’ Straw & Oak. This United Kingdom cidery is based in Devon. This is my first review of anything by Sandford Orchards. 

Visit the cider company online: https://www.sandfordorchards.co.uk/

Here’s how the cider is described online: “An amazing insight into how Devon cider would have tasted in bygone centuries. Straw pressed on a traditional single screw press and fermented to dryness, resulting in crisp cider with great structure and pure apple and citrus flavours.” Other facts are given like a Specific Gravity of 1.000, 6.7% ABV, and apple varieties including Northwood, Brown’s Apple, Kirton Fair, and Ellis Bitter.

Appearance: transparent, rusty, scant bubble

This is a totally transparent cider with just a few bubbles hanging around. I’m so tempted by what I see in it’s color. The rusty shade is almost reddish. I often associate strongly colorful ciders with more tannic presence, so I’m hopeful.

Aromas: hay, overripe apples, tin and tea,  

Oh yum. This cider smells so characteristic of English cider making traditions. There’s a hint of slight sourness (smells lactic, not acetic), but more than that I smell hay and ridiculously soft apples mushing into sauce. The gentle tones hum in the background of tin and tea. It just smells so good, like sun on dried grass. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a dry cider with lots of tannins, whoa!

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, medium acidity, twiggy, medium bubbles

I know what want to say first about how the Straw and Oak tastes: tannins ahoy! This cider is decidedly dry and tannic, with medium acidity. The first notes are overripe apples and red grape skins. The cider is almost brutally refreshing—partly due to a pleasant and complex finish that comes a full second after each swallow.  I also taste tropical fruit, torched pineapple. The astringence has persimmon-like effects.  

I do taste both elements in the name: oak and straw. The oak comes across like twigs and tea; it’s lightly oaked but still woody. The straw is because the juice was pressed through wheat and barley—and you can smell the wheat in the cider’s aroma, and taste the barley.  The cider has a medium level of sparkle and hearty body. I loved it.

And one last link before the end of this week’s reviews. I’d like to point folks to the best thing I’ve read in the wider cider world lately. Malus Zine is a thoughtful and critical zine dedicated to cider. In the most recent issue, Olivia Maki challenges all of us to think about how cider deals with the past. It’s called “Whose Heritage?”: https://www.maluszine.com/essays/whose-heritage