Monday, December 4, 2023

Cider Review: Seminary Hill Cider's Delaware Dry

It’s wet, chilly, and blustery outside. I am so glad to be home and warm. Not only that, I have a plate of delicious pizza and a cider that I’m very excited to review. Tonight, I’m sharing my thoughts on Seminary Hill Cider's Delaware Dry. I can feel the number of times I’ve ensconced myself and whatever writing machine I’m using for exactly this sort of evening. What a familiar sort of contentment. I love the nights when I know that I’ll be opening a very tasty cider indeed. 

Seminary Hill Cider comes to us from the Catskills region of New York. The cidery was founded in 2012, but I only got to experience the place and the cider for the first time earlier this year. 

Round up of several Seminary Hill ciders including, 2021 Beechwoods, Nicksen,  2020 Semi-Sweet Cackling Hen, Tom’s Beard,  Spy Who Came in From the Cold:

Here’s how to find the cidery, restaurant, and hotel online:

Tonight I’m sharing about the Delaware Dry. Here’s all the info about this cider available from Seminary Hill’s website. 

2020 Delaware Dry

Silver Medal GLINTCAP

Alcohol 8.2%

pH 3.76

Titratable Acidity (TA) 7.47 g/L

Bottling Date 6.22.21

Bone dry, floral, spice, mild bitterness, medium body, good acid

Blend: Chisel Jersey 42%, Baldwin 26% Golden Russet 20% Northern Spy 12%

Appearance: brilliant, intense popcorn yellow, few visible bubbles

This cider brings absolute ferocity of color. It reminds me of popcorn kernels tonight, but the warm toned yellow can be found all over autumn.

Aromas: Lemon peel, candied orange, minerals

The Delaware Dry smells amazing and delectable. I get notes of lemon peel, candied orange, and minerals. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is absolutely a dry cider. It needs no sweetness to be absolutely flavorful and completely itself. 

Flavors and drinking experience: Dry, bubbly, tannic, high acid, vivid, citrus and minerals

Whoa. The Delaware Dry tastes so vivid and minerally, it’s almost savory. Specifically I get notes of slate. This dry cider has a clean edge of bitterness, but the bubbly high acid carry it. I find it totally delicious. I’m so grateful for the clean fermentation. The fruitiness is present but restrained; I’m reminded of beautifully ripe grapefruit.

I had this tonight with pineapple pizza, but I remember enjoying with the ripest of late-season tomatoes and perfect sourdough bread. Both are incredible. I'd also serve it with a creamy chowder. There are so many good options for such a delightful food-friendly cider. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Cider Review: Portland Cider Co.'s Imperial Abbey Apple Cider

Another whirlwind of holiday and birthday fun has come and gone. This past week has been full of movies, food, friends, family, dice rolling, and yes, cider. When a mysterious cider package arrives when your house is filled with family, of course you have to open up it up and show everything off. Portland Cider Co. was kind enough to surprise me with a cider arrival just before Thanksgiving! 

What I know about Portland Cider Co. is that this company is wild for flavor combinations and experimentation. The company uses Northwest apples but a whole slew of additional flavor elements. Over the years, I’ve tasted their take on peach, pineapple, pumpkin, and more.

I’ve reviewed a slew of Portland Cider Co.’s offering in the past decade. Here’s the rundown.

Bloody Hell:

Lemon-Lime Ciderade:



Peach Berry:

Kinda Dry:



Pumpkin Spice:

Pineapple Rose:

Get the full scoop online from Portland Cider Co. directly. Here’s a link to the cidery website:

My review today is for Portland Cider Co.’s Imperial Abbey Apple. Here’s how the cidery describes this release.

Juicy & bright Belgian-inspired Northwest Apple Cider

Expertly crafted by our cider makers in a unique Belgian-style cider, Abbey Apple showcases Northwest apples fermented with Belgian ale yeast. The result is a smooth, full-bodied cider with a bright, juicy finish. 8.4% ABV

Tasting Notes

Juicy, bright, subtle banana and clove, tropical aromas, unique finish.

Food Pairings

Shepherd’s pie, dark chocolate cake, spicy thai basil chicken, roasted vegetables


NW apples

Belgian ale yeast 

Always Gluten Free

Appearance: shining, mild warm straw, no visible bubbles

This is a lovely cider with a gentle warm straw hue. I don’t see any haze or bubbles. It’s brilliant and almost still in appearance. I do expect that I’ll find bubbles once I taste the cider.

Aromas: yeast, cheddar, bread, candied sugar, apple

The Imperial Abbey Apple Cider smells yeasty a little cheddar funk. This is undoubtedly the Belgian Beer style coming through. The aroma initially reminds me of bread but also of dark candied sugar. It’s fascinating! I do get some apple notes, but the are secondary to the yeast character.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-sweet

This cider is semi-sweet, but it’s also got some bitterness that add complexity.

Flavors and drinking experience: Bittersweet, belgian-beer influenced, full bodied, high acid

This is a cider for beer lovers, specifically for Belgian beer lovers! The Imperial Abbey Ale’s taste is notably bittersweet with a fun balance of these two elements. The Belgian ale yeast profile is prominent. The cider comes across petilliant and full bodied with that heavy imperial ABV.

There’s plenty of malic acid and apple present, but neither are as powerful as the yeast flavors. I find it pleasingly complex. This would be a perfect pairing for a hot plate of fish and chips. 

As we head into the darker days and longer nights approaching the northern hemisphere’s Winter Solstice, don’t forget to give yourself quiet cozy time to hibernate! 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Cider Review: Wilson Orchard's Late Harvest

What a scare! Life without much of a sense of smell really felt different for me. I didn’t like that difference either. Thankfully, it’s back. I couldn’t be happier about it. We have guests and holidays arriving imminently. It’s just so much more fun to enjoy the scents of every meal and every moment. On this last evening before the happy chaos begins, I took a moment for a quiet asian meal with my tall companion and a cider that I suspected will be delicious.  I chose Wilson Orchard and Farm’s - Late Harvest.

This is the first time any Iowa cider has made it onto the blog, and I’m so excited to taste another place. When investigating Wilson’s Orchard and Farm, I noticed the strong emphasis not only on local produce but on communicating the larger environmental and economic reasoning behind their investment in the local. The site made succinct points about their goals. I’ll quote one section because I liked it so much. 

Giving Back

The strength of our food supply chain relies on farmers providing reasonable access to locally-grown food and beverages to the entire community. Each season we partner with various local food pantries and community programs that support our neighborhoods and make our products easily available to as many as possible.

Here’s a link to Wilson’s Orchard’s page about the cidery’s beverages:

Here is the full description of this seasonal release.

Late Harvest

Spontaneously Fermented hard cider rested on oak

With a chill in the air, even sometimes snow on the branches, late harvest is a time for our orchard staff to exhale and start to unwind. Only a few more varieties to pick - one of which is our favorite apple, Gold Rush. The perfect time to slow down and celebrate a season of hard work, a fruitful harvest, and of course plan the coming winter’s Wassail. 

Tasting notes: Light, fruity with hints of plum, melon, and subtle toffee.

Sugar at harvest: 14.6 degrees brix

Residual Sugar: 0 degrees brix

Appearance: shining trumpet brass, brilliant, fine bubbles

The color is just so strikingly shiny. I’m reminded of my years playing in band and seeing all of the brass instruments with their shining gold hue. I see just a few little bubbles in the glass.

Aromas: white wine, lemon, minerals, tropical fruit, dust, and cedar

The Late Harvest smells immediately like a white wine in a wonderfully appealing way. I also get notes of lemon, dust, minerals, cedar wood and tropical fruit. Somewhere in the mix, you can find a deep note of dark ripeness.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

This is a perfectly dry cider, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Flavors and drinking experience: petillant, barrel character, candied orange peel, butterscotch, paper tannins

What I notice first about the late harvest is its petillance. The bubbles are present but not intense. The cider uses its barrel aging beautifully. I’d say that barrel character creates the headline for the cider’s flavors: candied orange peel, butterscotch, dried pineapple, and ripe apple. The cider brings high acid and slight papery tannins as well. I appreciate its full body with some zesty tartness.

The overall impression I gather is that the cider is robust and vigorous but not too boozy. There’s just a hint of warmth on the finish. It manages to simultaneously be stony and yet pervasively apple-y.  The cider’s spontaneous fermentation is a tertiary quality that doesn’t overshadow the apples or the time on oak. Instead the fermentation feels clean and straightforward. This is a lovely cider that I’m so glad to enjoy peacefully with all of my senses returned. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

There's more to Fall than Thanksgiving! : )

Hey cider lovers. My nose is alternately running and completely stuffy, so I cannot bring a new cider review to the blog this week. It’s such a key time for cider, so I hate to skip out entirely. Everyone is talking about Thanksgiving. It’s a big food holiday. The menu is tremendously cider compatible. That’s wonderful. I feel like I’ve helped contribute to the thinking about cider and Thanksgiving already. I don’t have much that’s new to say about it. 

Here are a few Thanksgiving and Cider resources for those who want them!

My traditional Thanksgiving food and cider pairing guide:

Vegetarian dressing with cider and my 2018 Thanksgiving cider choice:

Pairing at my house for Thanksgiving and my birthday back in 2016.

The plan:

The results:

Cider Culture’s Plant Based Thanksgiving Cider Guide (by the awesome Emily Kovach):

Thanksgiving isn’t the only big event of Fall in my house. I’m pretty fond of my birthday. 

It’s not the easiest birthday to love, since it falls in the shadow of a holiday that’s both major and controversial. The weather isn’t often inviting; the time isn’t easy to schedule; people are often recovering from a very heavy and traditional meal. But the beauty of a birthday is that we get to make its style of celebration and its meaning. 

I don’t need a giant feast the day after Thanksgiving, but I do want to enjoy something other than leftovers for my birthday. Here’s the plan and the cider.

Dinner will be a Delicata squash salad with arugula, baby spinach, fresh apples, dried cranberries, pecans, a crumbly blue cheese, shredded carrots, radish, roasted quarter rings of Delicata squash. I figure we’ll make a big salad and then an array of different protein options to go on top: marinated tofu, dijon salmon, and chicken breast for the meat eaters. The dressing will be a homemade maple dijon vinaigrette. 

To pair with this, I want a bone dry super sparkly cider with only apples. I prefer something twice twice fermented so either a method ancestral or a methode champenoise. I’m planning on looking through my cellars for options by cideries really committed to aromatic bubbly ciders. I haven’t chosen yet, but don’t be surprised if it’s from Eve’s Cidery, Snowdrift Cider,  Eden Specialty Ciders, Albemarle, Haykin Family Cider, or Seminary Hill. Then again, my cider sometimes surprises me. There’s at least one bottle I’ve been saving since a friend sourced it for me a few months ago. Only time will tell.   

Dessert has to be cheesecake. I love most kinds of cake. It’s seriously one of the best parts of being a human. I truly want a maple cheesecake with mini chocolate chips. We’re going to try a Cabot Creamery recipe:

It’s my birthday, so I get a dessert pairing as well. If you know me, you know it’s going to be pommeau. But which sweet, rich, layered, fiery pommeau will it be? I’ll probably decide next week. 

I hope everyone gets to celebrate their special days with delicious food, cider, and loved ones!

Monday, November 6, 2023

Cider Review: Black Diamond Cider's 2021 Redfield/Wickson Crab

This weekend I got to attend my first ever gaming convention. I strolled downtown to enjoy the first ever FLAG Con (Finger Lakes Area Gaming Convention). It was a brilliant and totally overwhelming experience. I played 1 board game and 4 tabletop role playing games in 3 days, and that includes my first experience running a one-off con game. At the end of each day, my voice was absolutely destroyed. When I was home Sunday evening after my game, I needed something calm, mature, and sophisticated for my cider choice. That’s why I choice Black Diamond Cider’s 2021 Redfield/Wickson Crab to accompany my dinner and relaxation.

Black Diamond Cider is based out of Trumansburg, New York. It’s a great small cidery out of truly incredible orchard. You can find more background information in my earlier reviews. I bought this cider as a returning member of Black Diamonds Apple and Cider CSA.

Here are all my Black Diamond Cider reviews. 

The Moosewood Black Diamond Pairing Dinner:

2021 Black is Gold a collaboration with Redbyrd Orchard Cider(My #1 cider of 2021):

Black Diamond Cider's 2018 Rosé:

Shin Hollow:


Geneva Tremlett’s:

Somerset Jersey:



Porter’s Pommeau:



Black Diamond Cidery’s website is the best place to find out the latest news with this Finger Lakes cidery:

2021 Redfield/Wickson Crab

The berry-filled essence and soft tannins of Redfield combined with intense acidity and rich sugars of Wickson Crab create this cider which is full-bodied, fruit-forward and with just enough sweetness to temper its racy acidity.

In the cidery: Field blend of Redfield and Wickson Crab pressed 1 month after harvest. DV10 yeast. Bottled still after 8 months of aging. 20 Cases produced.

In your glass: Aromas of stone fruit and white grape. Mouthwatering acidity, cherry and peach.

Varieties: Wickson Crab (80%), Redfield (20%)

Alcohol: 8%   Residual Sugar: 0.75% 

Knowing that this will be a still semi-dry cider with my favorite crab apple makes me extra curious about it. 

Appearance: delicate straw color, brilliant, still

This cider is completely still and brilliant. The color is a gently warm straw. 

Aromas: star fruit, peach, apple, cherry & minerals

One of my favorite things about Black Diamond ciders are the aromas. They never fade away; 

I’m amazed by the intensity of the Star fruit, ripe peach, apple and mineral aromas. The peach and cherry from the official description is completely accurate. 

Dryness/Sweetness: Semi-dry

This is a semi-dry cider. I usually have the dry end of Black Diamond’s ciders, but this has loads of appeal. 

Flavors and drinking experience: fruity, citrus, extremely high acid, wine like

The first thing I noticed when the cider touched my tongue is its extremely high acid. The cider tastes fruity, with loads of citrus. The particular way that this cider is semi dry is that it approaches sweetly and then goes to semi dry. It’s a still and luscious cider with a heavy mouthfeel. The impression that lingers is one of peach and apple. I think this would be a huge hit for fans of cool-climate semi-dry white wines like Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Cider Review: Haykin Family Cider's Methode Ancestral Jonathan 2018

Trick or treat! I decided that treat was the only way to go for my Halloween cider review this year. I bought a mixed shipment of Haykin Family Cider back in the lockdown days of 2020, working with the owner to choose bottles that would age well or be awesome for vertical tastings.  

Haykin Family Cider comes to us from Aurora, Colorado. They’ve won basically every award you can shake a stick at, and I’ve loved all of the Haykin family ciders’ I’ve ever tried. That’s why I’m pinning some high hopes on the Jonathan 2018.

Here are my earlier reviews for Haykin Family Ciders.

Reserve Niedzwetzkyana (my #3 favorite cider of 2021):

2018 Method Ancestrale Ela Family Farms Cuvee:

Harrow Pear:

Finding Haykin Family Cider online is an awesome way to see all of the current releases:

Here’s how the cidery describes this particular cider.

The Jonathan apple is one of America's classic heirlooms, discovered in 1826 in Woodstock, NY. This sparkling cider has the aroma and flavor of plum and fresh rain. With light caramel notes, well-integrated acid and tannin, the creamy mouthfeel compliments flavors of brioche and spice. 100% Jonathan apples grown at Masonville Orchards, CO and bottled in 2018. This cider is dry. Aged 12 months sur lees and disgorged by hand. ABV of 8.1%

Appearance: super bubbly, warm straw, transparent

This cider bubbles with verve and excitement. I’ve never seen such a towering mousse on a cider. Yes, it dissipates but a show! The color is a gentle warm straw with clean transparency. 

Aromas: citrus, honey, pineapple, cherry

My gracious, the Jonathan smells astonishingly good. Everything about it just sings to me of sweet citrus and honey. Secondary notes rush in with cherry, pear, pineapple and powdered sugar. This is a fruit party of aromas!

Dryness/sweetness: Semi-sweet

I wondered if this cider would have a touch of sweetness based on all of its delectable juicy fruit notes, and it does! The sweetness is very natural and beguiling perfect for this holiday of dessert treats!

Flavors and drinking experience: floral, high acid, bubbly, cinnamon

The Jonathan is a floral and acidic dance. All of those fruity aromas primarily translate into blood orange on the palate. The sweetness helps the cider achieve a satisfying body while the bubble help lift and elevate the experience. The cider is semi-sweet and absolutely beautiful with notes of creamy custard and maple syrup. It’s not just simple though, the cinnamon finish turns leathery just at the end. 

I reached for a cider I expected to be good, and it still managed to surprise me by being even better and more complex that I hoped. What a treat! Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Cider Review: Star Cider and Blue Barn Cidery's Folklore

It’s Halloween time, and this year looks like sunny warm weeks and rainy cold weekends. Our trips to the pumpkin patch might be more hurried amidst the blowing blustery conditions. The time at home with snuggly blankets, cozy candle scents, and pots of hot soup is more needed than usual. This season has many modes, and all facets of Autumn are welcome to me. This week’s cider was enjoyed with a potato and cider cider soup and hot crust bread toasted with cheddar. 

Today, I’m sharing my thought’s on Star Cider’s Folklore. Star Cider is a regional cider local to us here in upstate New York. The cidery is based in Canandaigua, New York. That's part of the Finger Lakes, for those unfamiliar. It was founded in 2014 and the current tasting room opened in 2019. I love this quote from the cidery’s website.

Cidermaking is not a destination, but a journey. On this journey, cider will continue to evolve as we discover new insights on the science of cider and unravel myths and legends about the processes used to make hard cider in the past. Cidermaking will continue to transform as we experiment with the fermentation process and through the use of fresh ingredients that complement the flavor of cider.

I had a great time visiting Star Cider with the Cornell and NY Cider Association Summer tour last year:

And in 2018 I finally shared my notes on the Wild Child Rhubarb by Star Cider:

I recommend checking out the Star Cidery website to learn more about current offerings and activities in the tasting room:

And here's a link to Blue Barn Cidery too:

Admittedly, I know less about Blue Barn Cidery out of Hilton, New York, but I look forward to learning more!

Here’s how Star Cidery describes Folklore 

Made with mixed heirloom apples from Blue Barn Cidery in Hilton New York this collaboration cider is guaranteed to impress!

Notes of green apple, peach, and pear give way to a dry Riesling-like finish. The perfect cider for a sunny day. 7% ABV.

Appearance: Intense sunflower yellow, brilliant, bubbly

The Folklore pours with a head, but the head didn’t stick around long enough for pictures. This cider vibrates with its sunflower yellow color; it’s so bold and bright! The cider is bubbly and brilliant.

Aromas: overripe apples, tangy tartness, gentle funk

This cider bubbles ripe apple aromas with fervor! I love the rich autumnal lushness I get here. The Folklore also smells just a touch funky in a tangy way. Other notes remind me of lemon, wild rice, and mushrooms.

Sweetness/Dryness: Semi-dry

I find the Folklore semi-dry, but it was a careful consideration to get there. I’d be curious to see the residual sugar and acidity.

Flavors and drinking experience: Bubbly, bittersweet, high acid

This cider develops as I taste it in a most pleasing way. The Folklore communicates with gentle bittersweetness. In mouthfeel, it’s creamy and rich; the fine bubbles move energetically through the cider. Like the majority of New York state ciders the Folklore gets lots of its ooph from its high acidity rather than tannins. 

Specific flavors associations that wafted through my mind were white grape and crème brûlée: something round and full. One of my favorite little surprises of this cider was its vanilla finish.


*Tattoo pictured is temporary: a remnant of my pirate costume. Sure looks great though, doesn't it?

Monday, October 16, 2023

Cider Review: Seminary Hill Cider Roundup

I had the opportunity to partner with Seminary Hill Cider last week and visit the Callicoon, New York cidery. They hosted the tall one and me for two nights at The Boarding House, shared a beautiful pairing meal (with vegetarian options), and showed us a complete behind-the-scenes tour of the growing orchard, production facility, and tasting room. And it wasn’t going to be the full experience without tasting a few more of the ciders. Luckily, we had far more sunshine than we expected and really got to see the Catskills at their autumnal finest. If you're curious, check out my Instagram to see the visual storytelling.

For full disclosure, I was hosted beautifully and treated to a wonderful time by Stuart, Chef Jack and the kind folks at Seminary Hill in exchange for some social media coverage of the experience. Nothing about the blog was part of the arrangement. I’m choosing to share a few notes on a select few of the ciders we tasted, because they were most certainly the cider highlight of my week. For this roundup, I choose to include five ciders that left big impressions. Other ciders might appear later in individual reviews, but here’s a fun smattering of what can be found at the Seminar Hill Cidery Tasting Room.

First, here’s the website that includes info on the ciders, Restaurant, Boarding House and Tasting room:

For each of these, I’ll include the official description and a quick summayr of what the Tall one and I thought. 

2021 Beechwoods

Alcohol 7.7% - pH 3.86 - Titratable Acidity (TA) 3.5 g/L g/L - Bottling Date 7/21/22

Still, Dry, Unfiltered

A relatively low-acid, soft, round, tannic cider. Perhaps the dry cider equivalent of comfort food.

Bronze and lightly cloudy.

Nose: Apricot, Jasmine

Palate: velvety with mild acid, apricot, peach, and Minneola. Finish: Medium bitterness and generous astringency.

Blend:Chisel Jersey 44%, Dabinett 35%, Wickson17%, Porter's Perfection 4%

Bronze Medal GLINTCAP

To us, the Beechwoods smelled immediately like ripe apples, golden raisins, and when we tasted the primary impression was one of deep soft ripeness. This cider needs to be still, all the better for it to express the smooth worn wood, softened leather, with good tannic bitterness.  I appreciated the dried apricot notes along with papery tannins.


Alcohol 7% - Titratable Acidity (TA) 5.23 g/L - Bottling Date 12/6/22

Blend: Dabinett 37%, Harry master’s Jersey 29%, Baldwin 13%, Wickson 5%, Puget Spice 5%, Zaubergau Reinette 4%, GoldRush 4%, Yarlington Mill 3%.

RS 1.5% TA 5.2 g/L

Brilliant Gold Petillant

Nose: Fresh. Apple, spice, deeply floral, toffee, mineral water

Palate: Sweet fresh apple and spice hit you first. Then the spice becomes more herbal and woodsy (is there a hint of wintergreen?) and the astringency kicks in. Full of flavor, but moderate on acid. Very easy drinking.

This cider makes me think of dust in the sunlight from the first sniff through tasting. Alex found it redolent of dried leaves and dark chocolate; I don’t disagree. The cider feels sweet, perhaps even a bit sweeter than its residual sugar because the acid isn’t angular and powerful. The cider tastes dark rather than bright, with a fruity red bell pepper finish. 

2020 Semi-Sweet Cackling Hen 

Alcohol 7% - Titratable Acidity (TA) 6.3 g/L g/L - Bottling Date 10.5.21

A lightly carbonated semi-sweet cider. A layered experience with lots of fruit. Concord grape, cherry, wood resin.

Residual Sugar 1.4%

Blend: Yarlington Mill 32%, Ellis Bitter 29%, Northern Spy 19%, Tremlett’s Bitter 12%, Newtown Pippin 6%, Chisel Jersey 2%

Zing! This cider rings like a struck cymbal. Though it’s still got some sweetness, the impression is more that of an austere acid bomb. The cider is sophisticated and restrained with notes of lemon and Bing Cherry. We noticed the official descriptions use of the word resin; that captures something important.

Tom’s Beard

Alcohol 7.5% - Titratable Acidity (TA) 8.4 g/L - Bottling Date 1/6/23

A Semi-Dry New World cider with tropical fruit notes and bright acidity. Great with food but also wonderful on its own.

Silver Medal GLINTCAP

Blend: Golden Russet 62%, Newtown Pippin 20%, Wickson 13%, Northern Spy 5%

Nose: Citrus, passion fruit, mango

Palate: Bright acidity, citrus, passion fruit, citrus pith.

RS 1.6% Malic acid 8.4g/L

For folks who want a bit of funk in their cider, start here! It has a smoky phenolic smell but the flavors are dazzlingly intense with tropical fruit. Yes that acid makes it very much a New World/East Coast cider. It’s very juicy and apple-y with a golden ribbon of pineapple as well. I imagine this one's a crowd pleaser. It’s sweet, big, rich, and thick.

Spy Who Came in From the Cold

I don’t have all of the information on this one, but this is a lightly petillant dessert cider.

I was immediately impressed by it’s delightful high acid. This one oozes golden raisins but is sharped up with a strong flavor of Crab apples. What a wonderful treat to find a petillant dessert cider that’s not too thick in mouthfeel. The overall impression is a sweet cider that’s blooming and exciting but not too boozy. Secondarily I get notes of  red currant, shortbread, and the tiniest hint of funk. Single varietal Northern Spy.

I think I’d like to go back to Seminary Hill on my own for a self-directed writer’s retreat, maybe to catch the beauty of another season in this gorgeous spot. It's quiet and peaceful. The farm and landscape certainly offer inspiration aplenty; I kept thinking of Grimm’s fairy tales when I peeked across the well- cared-for-orchards into the forest beyond. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Cider Review: Western Cider Co.'s Dry and Dandy

Before I even woke up this morning, I was immersed in ideas and imagination. The brightness of the fall sunrise seeped into my unconscious mind to gift me with notions of lush greenery, hidden adventures, and the image of a blue opal cartouche. Sadly, none of it was cider-oriented, so I’ll have to save these ramblings for other creative outlets. What I love to do though on the shorter autumnal evenings is to let my ruminations cavort wildly with a cider in one hand and a paper notebook in the other. We’ll see how much these two worlds ever overlap in the coming weeks and months. 

Most recently I tried this with a cider that’s been waiting in my cellar for far too long: Western Cider Co.'s Dry and Dandy. It’s my first ever taste from Western Cider Co. out of Montana. I love how the cidery folks introduce the company, so I’ll quote from the website, a whole section called, “Who the Heck Is Western Cider?”

WESTERN CIDER is located on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. Our dream was seeded in 2012 when co-founder Michael Billingsley planted 2,500 cider apple trees in Montana's Bitterroot Valley - just south of Missoula. Now, we have nearly 5,000 trees and over 50 varieties of apples. We use those apples, as well as apples from Northwest orchards, to produce easy going and traditional ciders. We are plain-speaking cider weirdos who can hang with the nerdiest of cider nerds and the gnarliest of dive bar flies. As a company, Western Cider aspires to create an institution of great cider, good times and a life worth living in this far-flung region of the American West.

Visitors can come try Western Cider Co.’s offerings in the Missoula, Montana tasting room. I recommend checking out Western Cider Co.’s website to learn more. 

Find it here:

The official description of the cider tells us lots of meaningful information including the apples used for the cider and the cider-making style.

A Pet-Nat from our Orchard in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley

A refreshing blend of Golden Russet, Harrison, Calville blanc D’Hiver, Baldwin Ashmead’s Kernel, Hudson’s Golden Gem,  Bedan des Parts, Binet Rouge, and McIntosh apples. Bottled at the tail end of fermentation in the petillant naturel style. Rested for 6 months. Lightly hazy, ripe pineapple aromatics, eminently drinkable.

And the cider comes with a warning adorably put, “The bubbles dance! Chill before Serving and Open slowly!    

The cider is listed as 8.1% ABV.

Appearance: extremely bubbly, gentle haze, warm popcorn kernel yellow

The Dry and Dandy poured with an impressive head. The bubbles are multitudinous and active. When the label said that they dance, it’s accurate. It’s a lovely medium intensity color that reminds me of golden popcorn kernels with just a hint of haze.

Aromas:candied pineapple, cherry, and golden syrup

Wow! Based on the petillant naturel style of this cider I didn’t expect its rich concentrated fruit aroma. This oozes with candied pineapple, cherry, and golden syrup scents. I’m sure it won’t taste as sweet as it smells just because fermentation will have transformed the sugar to bubbles and alcohol, but what I smell reminds me of sweet things!

Dryness sweetness: Dry!

My brain wins over my sensory expectations. Indeed, fermentation sciences is real and the fruity smells of the cider do not translate into residual sugar. The Dry and Dandy is dry as promised.

Flavors and drinking experience: very high acid, tannic, floral, bitter, bubbly

Now that I’m actually tasting this cider instead of speculating about it based on descriptions or aromas, I understand what’s happening. The Dry and Dancy is aggressively zingy in that’s fully dry while also tasting super tart! The high acid causes an immediate salivary reaction. Not only does this cider bring the acid, tannins are part of the celebration too!

By bottling the cider before its fermentation is complete, it has become an extremely bubbly beverage with tiny bubbles. As I continue tasting, I notice something blocky in the tannins as they create the mouthfeel. Flavorwise, it seems related to a streak of floral bitterness like a powdery spring flower. I really enjoy the strong wood notes and powerful malic acid.

Dang! This is a complex and grown-up cider. As I continue to sip, more notes come to the fore, including mild lemon peel and ripe cherry. The finish swings back green wood and salt. What a remarkable cider to contemplate! I enjoyed it very much with writing and thinking time, but it would taste ever so nice with an orzo casserole and the last of the summer squash.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Cider Review: Penning's Farm Cidery's Wild Series The Continental and New York Cider Week!

It’s almost New York Cider Week! This is a busy time of year; there are more people I’d love to see and things I’d love to do than time. I tasted this cider with the Tall One this evening for two reasons. One, this was a gift from my dear friend Maria who is off on her own cider adventures; it’s a nice way to remember a faraway friend. Two, Alex is practicing taking tasting notes for a certain upcoming cider exam in less than two weeks! Many thanks to Maria for this important study aid!

Before I get into my review though, let me encourage folks to check out information about this fall’s New York Cider Week:

Pennings Cidery has a limited run cider called the Wild Series: The Continental. It’s my first ever review of anything by this Warwick, New York cidery. You can find this farm and cidery in the Hudson Valley. The farm is home not only to the cidery itself but also a tasting room and farm that grows apples, pumpkins, nectarines, apricots and peaches. I sense a certain flavor profile here! 

And this is just a little bit from Pennings Farm Cidery’s website about the Wild Series Continental project. 

With nutrient-rich soil and micro-climate conditions, it is no surprise that the Hudson Valley region has been an agricultural hub for more than 200 years. What wasn’t farmed, grew naturally on its own. Among the apple trees, we planted in our own orchard was one such wild seedling apple tree. In 2018 that tree produced an abundance of apples that we picked to be the main ingredient in our first Wild Series Cider, The Continental. Wild apples provide characteristics that cannot be found in culinary apples from cultivated trees. Our Wild Series Ciders will come from such wild seedling trees growing freely throughout the Hudson Valley. When we claim to be #CiderCountry here in Warwick, NY.

And here’s just a bit about how the cidery describes the cider’s taste.

The Cider Notes

You will be at ease with the first sip of The Continental. The tropical fruit aromatics and flavor offer a mood-lifting first impression, followed by a brilliant medium body finish that marches across your palate with a polished texture and intensity from the tannin-heavy skins.

I recommend visiting the Penning's Farm Cidery page to learn more:

Appearance: intense nectarine color, gentle haze, sediment, visible bubbles

I love the rich dark nectarine skin color! It’s hazily golden with some sediment even on the first two pours. I could see some tiny bubbles rising to the top.

Aromas: homemade applesauce, butterscotch, apricot, toffee and nuts

As soon as I poured the Wild Series, I noticed its powerful and appealing applesauce aroma. I’m a sucker for that scent. Sniffing deeper revealed notes of butterscotch, toffee, and toasted nuts. I almost wonder if barrel aging was involved.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is a truly dry cider. It doesn’t taste only challenging or austere. The Wild Series Continental has plenty going on. Read on for more.

Flavors and drinking experience: peach, orange, baking spices, chipotle pepper, tannins and acid

The Wild Series Continental’s flavor comes across as more restrained than bold, but the cider is definitely fruity. I can taste peach and orange. One of my co-tasters got notes of apricots. Secondarily the cider is redolent with notes of baking spices and smoky chipotle pepper.

In terms of mouthfeel, the cider is petillant with a relaxed level of sparkle. It’s high acid and tannic; repeated sips emphasize the papery tannins and apple bark notes The Wild Series has a light angular body and a lingering fruit leather and limestone finish.

We enjoyed it very much with our first chili of the year. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

Cider Review: Eden Ciders' Fuzz Ball Harvest Cider

How can I be poetic about the time of the year when everyone I know is telling me how behind they feel? It’s not just bad stuff; people are stuffing their lives overfull with those things we must do and some of the experiences that bring us joy or contentment. That’s exactly where I am too. What the moment has in common is just the tumbling, “Are we flying or falling?”  momentum of it all. I think we’re like those busy, distracted, intense squirrels and chipmunks perhaps, trying to fit it all in before the winter comes. Or at least that’s how things look from here. 

I'm up and out of the boot, so that might be part of why I'm going absolutely everywhere. I missed this for the past 5 weeks!

Yesterday, I was determined to get one last important treat from my garden. I gathered the last of the ripe tomatoes, and we turned them into a tomato pie. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know it's one of my favorite dishes and a great cider pairing. I had a fairly new box Eden ciders too, since I’m a member of the cider club. That made choosing easy. I wanted to try the new Harvest canned cider: Fuzz Ball.

Eden is a fabulous cidery from northern Vermont. I’ve reviewed their ciders many times. In earlier reviews, I include more background on this wonderfully apple focused cidery. Here is the full list of my earlier reviews:

Cobble Knoll:


Oliver’s Twist Foxwhelp Cider:

Brut Rose:


Deep Cut:

Peak Bloom:


Extra Sec:

Eden Heritage Cider:

Siren Song:

Brut Nature:

Imperial 11 Degree Rose:

Sparkling Dry:

The Sparkling Dry featured in Thanksgiving & Birthday celebrations in 2016:

Eden Specialty Ciders can be found online here, plus you can meet the newest additions to the portfolio:

 The Fuzz Ball was included in my club shipment. It excited me, because I love a dry cider in a can. I want the ease of a canned cider sometimes. There’s not a lot that easier for a bonfire evening or a movie night. And I know that Eden Specialty Cider has made some of the best I’ve ever tasted.  Here’s what the folks at Eden Cidery have to say about this new one: Fuzz Ball Harvest Cider. 

Fuzz Ball 6.2% ABV

You should see me in a crown. 

Notes of lemon pith, soft herbs, wheat biscuits with jam.

Limited Run. Made with the pomace of the renowned Kingston Black, Fuzz Ball is dry dry dry. Crisp, structured, really, truly, if you love dry this is going to knock your socks off!

Appearance: Cloudy cool toned yellow

When poured, the Fuzz Ball reveals the reason for its name. It’s a cloudy cool toned yellow that reminds me of honey and dandelion fluff. 

Aromas: Smells sharp, crisp, white floral, ripe apples,grassy, chalk

This cider smells sharp, crisp, and apple-y immediately. I definitely recommend pouring it from the can into a glass to get the full aromatic experience. After a moment, I notice white flowers, dry grassy notes, and chalk.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

Completely dry. No fooling around here.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, astringent, twiggy, sour orange, ripe apple

Emphatically dry, this cider is more than just what it doesn’t have. The Fuzz Ball brings off-the-charts acid in a super yummy way. The Kingston Black pomace indee imparted some assertive astringence like twiggy young green wood. After the tannins and acids make their presence thoroughly known, I can get into more specific flavors like lemongrass, green apple, and sour orange.

We enjoyed this cider along with a goodbye to Summer supper of tomato pie (with a cheese crust of course) and vegetarian baked beans. It was simple and delightful. The Fuzz Ball was a wonderful accompaniment, because it lifted and separated flavors with its acidity and bubbles. 

Now if we can just find a moment to remain still and appreciate the changes of the season. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Cider Review: Hudson North Cider Co.'s Toasted Pumpkin

Today I watched chipmunks in a garden during my lunch break and walked with normal shoes on campus for the first time in almost a month. I relished the bright blue sky and dappled shade. I noticed how good the outdoors looked and felt grateful to get to enjoy these things and notice them as they happen. This moment of seasonal shift is a lovely one. We’re almost to the Autumnal Equinox, and harvest is already underway.

Over the weekend I had the fun of trying a new-to-me cidery! One of my most wonderful co-tasters, Woody, picked up a six-pack of Hudson North Cider Co. for the first time. This Hudson Valley cidery is hoping to open a taproom in Fall 2024 and now is available in some states and shipping to many more. The apples come from Minard Farm in Clintondale, New York. 

This is the first time I’ve reviewed anything by Hudson North Cider Co. 

Find out all about the cider offerings and sign up for the newsletter here:

Here’s how the folks at Hudson North Cider Co. describe the Toasted Pumpkin.

Hitting all the flavor notes we crave in the fall, Toasted Pumpkin is packed full of warming spices and pumpkin pie. Made with Hudson Valley apples, this cider pours hazy golden brown reminiscent of a chilled mulled cider.

5% ABV — Gluten Free  —  8g Sugar

Appearance: foamy, intense pumpkin orange, hazy

The Toasted Pumpkin pours initially with a head, but it dissipates relatively quickly. The color is a fun one! It looks just exactly like a fresh pumpkin with all of that orange intensity. The cider is mildly hazy with some visible bubbles.

Aromas: Orange, citrus, nutmeg, allspice and cake and cinnamon and yeast!

Initially Hudson North’s cider’s aromas remind me of orange and other juicy citrus fruits. Secondarily, I get ripe apple, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and yeast. All in all, the range of aromas remind me of a spiced pumpkin frosting. The scents are very seasonal and appealing. 

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

There’s a lot going on in the Toasted Pumpkin cider, and it has some sweetness. In England, this would be called a Medium. I’ll call it a Semi-dry here. I think the sweetness is necessary to bring other elements together into a pleasing whole. Keep reading to see what all is going on.

Flavors and drinking experience: mild tannins, sour, apple, spices, funky

Everyone who tried Hudson North Cider Co.’s Toasted Pumpkin along with Woody and me quite enjoyed it. The cider bring mild tannins, moderate sourness,  apple, spices, and funk to the seasonal party. For me the medium sweetness really helped balance out the spices and tart or sour flavors. It reminds me of sour beer, but it’s still very recognizably cider, which is much more appealing for me! We agreed that it’s just a little bit funky, but what dominates is lots of apple followed by some pleasing Fall spice.

The Toasted Pumpkin has a light body and medium level of sparkle. It was a total delight with vegetarian sausages and multiple different kinds of homemade soft pretzel. What a treat!