Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Cider Review: Mountain West Cider's Sweet Alice and Black Diamond Cider's Shin-Hollow Sparkling Cider

I’m ready for Fall. That might sound crazy, especially to all of those who love Summer and sunshine. It’s just been dry and hot here for long enough that I crave something different. More than anything, I crave circumstances that would allow for seeing friends and enjoying life like we did before the pandemic. That’s not happening anytime soon, so I’ll crave the crisp nights of late summer and early fall. I’ll think about harvests, especially the upcoming apple harvest.

I’m starting today with a cider that combines elements that I associate with both Summer and Fall. I was able to make a cider trade and get Mountain West Cider’s Sweet Alice (Sweet Peach and Turmeric).

Mountain West Cider comes from Utah. The cidery is owned by Jennifer and Jeff Carleton, and the cider maker is the both wine and cider experienced Jeff Goodwillie. I have just a couple earlier reviews of Mountain West Ciders:

Here’s where to find Mountain West online:   

Mountain West Cider’s official description really makes their goal for this cider clear,
If you're looking for a hard cider that’s as sophisticated as our other ciders but just a little sweeter, this is it. We took our sweet time experimenting to create what we think is the perfect blend of apples, peaches, and a hint of turmeric - which is what’s made Sweet Alice the unapologetic sweet and spicy lady she is. Pairs well with upscale parties, laid-back gatherings, outdoor adventures, and everything in between. 6.9% ABV
Very helpful! I only wish it said more about the apple varieties included.

Appearance: nectarine color, brilliant, few bubbles

This vivid cider is totally brilliant with color that reminds me of ripe nectarine flesh. It does look almost peachy, which makes a great deal of sense for a peach blended cider. There are just a few visible bubbles but not a dramatic show of them.

Aromas: vivid aroma, peach, apple, banana, spice and tea

Yum! What a range of intense and enticing smells I get lots of aromas from this cider the moment I crack the can. Drifts of peach notes reach out! They are more like like fizzy peach cocktail or a dessert that uses peaches rather than orchard fresh fruit. I also get plenty of apple, banana, tea and spice notes. It’a a very clean and fruity medley.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

This was my moment of surprise with this cider. From both the description and the aromas I was expecting something pronouncedly sweet. It actually is not that way at all. Yes, it’s sweet but not too much at all. Everything is in balance, but not necessarily in the direction I expected.

Flavors and drinking experience: tea, tannins, high acid, peachy, spicy

The Sweet Alice tastes more of turmeric than I thought it would. The spice contributes some tea notes and flattens the acidity.  The cider tastes sweet, but not troublingly so. I’m surprised and pleased by the high tannins and medium-high acid—like a rich fermented peach. Something about the acidity communicates as a dark rich flavor not like citric or malic acid. 

This cider brings tots of fruit flavor too: thick with peach nectar. The whole drinking experience is pleasantly substantial. I appreciate how the apple and peach notes are always accompanied by  cinnamon, turmeric, and spicy notes. I think the cider tastes best from the can.  

The whole experience is lovely.

And now for Black Diamond’s Shin-Hollow!

I am so sorry for sharing notes on a cider that can no longer be purchased! I bought mine a long while ago and saved it for a couple of years before finally cracking it open. What I will say though is that everything that Black Diamond produces is interesting. If this whets your appetite, order one of their current dry sparklers. 

At Black Diamond, Ian Merwin and Chris Negronida make the ciders. I encourage you to read back into my earliest reviews of the cidery for more background information.

Here is the rundown of all earlier reviews for Black Diamond!



Here’s how Black Diamond’s Shin-Hollow is described by the makers.

Shin Hollow Cider is a naturally effervescent blend of our last picked tree-ripened apples each year. Its made from Porters Perfection - an old English bittersweet apple cherished for its velvety tannins -, Albemarle Pippin, Winesap, Arkansas Black, GoldRush, Golden Russet and Ashmeads Kernel. It is off-dry, with aromas of russet apples, vanilla and other spices. Since this cider is bottle conditioned, some yeast lees sediment is expected. Decanting the chilled cider will keep those lees undisturbed while serving. ABV 7.5%

Reading online also clued me in to the fact that Shin-Hollow was made with apples harvested in 2015. 

Appearance: hazy, bubbly warm straw

This cider looks utterly beguiling with it’s soft haze and plethora of bubbles. The color reminds me of sun-bleached grasses at the end of summer.

Aromas: overripe apples, warm, mellow, hay

I am simply gobsmacked by these aromas. Black Diamond knows how to bring rich, mellow, overripe apple smells to the forefront! Oh this is luscious! It’s fermented but not funky, mellow, and reminds me just a bit of warm hay.

Dryness/Sweetness: Dry!

As promised, this is a dry cider, just like I prefer.

Flavors and drinking experience:  bubbly, tannic, super high acid, grassy 

The Shin-Hollow is zingy, sappy, and super high acid. I love how pointed the acid tastes. It drives the flavor along with the generous tannins and concentrated golden fruit notes with floral, herbal, and grassy hints all playing around the edges.

This naturally sparkling cider has super strong bubbles. I love that. I’ll call it clean but complex. Shin-hollow has great mouthfeel with both bubbly lightness and cider intensity. The whole experience is beautifully balanced with a lingering finish that gives me hints of all sorts of autumnal smells to come.