As we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving, I want to mention how grateful I am for my friends. I’m grateful for so many things, but friends make every part of life better. Without them, I certainly couldn’t run this blog, but there are so many things that wouldn’t be the same without the shared knowledge, experience, and support of good friends. And dear friends saved this very special cider to share with me.
South Hill Cider has to be one of my local favorites. Founder Steve Selin helps to anchor the Finger Lakes cider scene with a beautiful lineup of ciders and a full calendar of events that keep the cidery hopping. If you’re curious about South Hill Cider and don’t live locally, South Hill has a cider club!
Here’s how South Hill introduces the cidery’s home orchard.
LOCATED ON A BUCOLIC HILLTOP, OUR ORCHARD IS PART OF A HARMONIOUS ECOSYSTEM THAT RELIES ON DIVERSITY AND FERTILITY AS ITS FOUNDATION.
Our home orchard started out as a collaboration with an adjoining landowner who permitted us to plow his fallow fields and to plant it to apple trees. This land, being only 4 miles from downtown Ithaca, is under intense development pressure. So, in an effort to protect it from subdivision and development in perpetuity, we successfully have it protected by a conservation easement. We have never applied synthetic chemicals to the farm and use only organic certified inputs.
Here’s the rundown of all of my earlier reviews for South Hill Ciders.
South Hill Cider’s Tasting Room: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2019/09/south-hill-ciders-tasting-room-and.html
Finger Lakes Cider pairing dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html
My top cider of 2016, the Stone Fence Farm: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-stone.html
And my first review for them was the hyper-limited Hypothesis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html
I recommend visiting the South Hill cider website to learn all about the cidery, the ciders, and fun upcoming events: https://www.southhillcider.com/
Today’s review is the super-limited club selection: Sunlight Transformed. One of my dear friends is a member of South Hill’s club, and she held it back for a few weeks until we could get together to enjoy a special cider with snacks.
Here’s the description,
This co-ferment is a blend of Dabinett apples and Cab Franc grape skins. The grape skins were from Bloomer Creek in Hector and the apples from Bob Norris in Wolcott. After the grapes were pressed we added them to some fresh pressed Dabinett juice. The result is a rich and textured pet-nat with a lot of natural pectin. The artwork is by Erika Medina, a neighbor who shares a fascination of fruit, cycles, and nature. Tasting notes: clove, nutmeg, watermelon, rich, full-bodied, earthy, sweet tobacco, cola, negroni
And for a little bit of background, I want to link to a definition of petillant naturel: https://www.foodandwine.com/wine/what-exactly-is-a-pet-nat
There aren’t that many Petillant Naturel ciders for sale, relative to the size of the cider market, which makes finding each one extra exciting! Let’s see how this wild and bubbly cider tastes.
Appearance: cloudy, mulberry, bubbles
This cider looks unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s extremely cloudy and a deep mulberry color. There are just a few visible bubbles at the rim of the glass. There could be more bubbles deep in the glass, but the cider is so dark and opaque it’s hard to tell.
Aromas: malt, cinnamon, grape, baking spice, VA
The wildness of this cider is the first impression it gives. Sunlight Transformed flowers with just a little bit of volatile acidity. Other prominent notes include malt, overripe apples, cinnamon, grape, and baking spices. It’s funky and not necessarily in a familiar way. The cider doesn’t smell just like a spanish-style funky cider or a UK funky cider. Sunlight Transformed smells fresh, fruity, and tangy.
This cider has almost more flavors than can be counted or identified, but none of them come from perceivable sweetness. It's difficult to know how much sugar is chemically present because the acidity and bitterness complicate tasting any sweetness.
Flavors and drinking experience: bitter, rich, fruity, funky, tannic
Sunlight Transformed cast a spell over everyone gathered at our table. We loved its bitterness, richness, and complexity. This cider is fascinating! Waves of fruit and velvety tannins and high acidity just wash over the palate. It brings spices, full body, and complexity. The funkiness that I sensed in the cider’s aromas are mellow in its flavors. There are so many flavors!
Sunlight Transformed is off the charts good! I think it's the combination of intense apple and grape fruitiness with bracing bitterness.