Monday, June 26, 2023

Cider Review: Winchester Ciderworks's 522 Black Currant

I’m happy to review my first-ever Winchester Ciderworks cider today. I found this cider when visiting Kentucky, and the 522 Black Currant cider happens to use one of my favorite fruits. I was instantly tempted by it. Some of my first wonderful cider experiences in Norwich as a visiting student were Cider and Black or Snakebite and Black, both of which add black currant concentrate to cider. And this weekend contained the perfect quiet evening to recover from gardening with a glass of Winchester Ciderworks 522 with Black Currants.

Here’s how the website for Winchester Ciderworks explains how this Virginia cider company came to be according to the website. 
Winchester Ciderworks was born in 2012 when British transplant, Stephen Schuurman, missed the drier ciders of his homeland. His adopted country only produced ciders which were far too sweet for his liking, so he decided to do something about it.

Over the next nine years he made ciders which gained a good following and distribution in several States, and he decided to buy the company from his partners to enable the growth and expansion he desired.

His ciders are made in the style of his birthplace, Suffolk in the East of England. These lighter, sparkling off-dry ciders were complimented in most of the varieties with an “American twist”.

Blending with adjuncts such as Blackcurrants, Ginger, Elderberries to give an added flavor to the aged apple juice.

Our aim is to provide high-quality ciders that will satisfy a wide variety of thirsty drinkers!
You can visit Winchester Ciderworks online to see the full lineup:

Here’s the official description for this particular cider.
522 Black Currant 4 Pack
VA - Shenandoah Valley

A traditional "Cider & Black." Black currant juice is added after fermentation to imbue tart acidity and a subtle fruity finish. The original Rose'.

Alcohol 6.20%

Appearance: intense chipotle red, brilliant, no visible bubbles

I enjoyed mulling over different shades of red to decide exactly what this cider looks like in the glass because the color is so vibrant and appealing. I think it’s the shade of powdered chipotle pepper: rich and red with some gold and ember in the mix. The cider is brilliant with no visible bubbles.

Aromas: Strong black currant, apple, cherry, minerals

The 522 wowed me even before my first sip with its strong black currant and apple aromas. When I brought my nose nearer the glass I could also scent notes of Bing cherry and mineral dust.

Dryness/sweetness: Semi dry

This cider comes across as semi-dry in a beautifully balanced way. 

Flavors and drinking experience: medium acidity, black currant, cranberry, mild bitterness

The 522 Black Currant cider tastes deep and dark, with some beautiful bitterness that I love. This cider offers up medium acidity and some papery tannins; I think they are from the black currants more than the apples. This cider brings a whole range of gorgeous vibrant fruit flavors including apple, black currant, grape, peach, and cranberry.

This cider is totally approachable and sessionable. I find it super enjoyable. The level of carbonation is medium with a juicy full body.

I enjoyed this cider with a long awaited thunderstorm: the kind that you feel in the air for hours before the rain finally arrives in a vertical torrent accompanied by rich rolls of thunder. I opened up a side door and just sat on my tile kitchen floor to listen to rain and sip the cider. What a quintessentially Summer way to relax. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Cider Review: Virtue Cider's Northern Spy

I’ve just been to Kentucky for a week to visit my family. It was wonderful and oh so summery! Read all the way to the bottom of the post to see a picture of what some of my time was like. Now that I’m back home, I’m looking forward to settling into a summer routine. Garden work, eating outdoors with friends, evening walks and appreciating the flavors of the season are my top priorities! And I’m excited to include cider into some of those plans! To start, here’s my review of the Northern Spy from Virtue Ciders. It was enjoyed as part of a lovely evening meal, enjoyed on a beautiful front porch evening.  

Full disclosure, this cider was shared with me for review by Virtue Cider. Nonetheless, my thoughts on it are mine.

I’ve reviewed no shortage of Virtue Ciders. I’ll include the lineup here. Additional background information about Virtue Cidery appears in these earlier posts. What I’ll say again here, Virtue Cider comes to us from Michigan and includes a wide variety of cider styles and taste profiles! 




Michigan Apple:



The Mitten Reserve:



The Mitten:

Red Streak:

Virtue’s website with tons of information can be found here:

Here’s what Virtue Cider says about the Northern Spy 2021.

What happens when you blend a little bit of cider from one apple varietal and a lotta bit of cider from another apple varietal? This cider is more Northern Spy and less Yarlington Mill, but all Michigan greatness.

STYLE: Dry Cider

SIZE: 750mL



REGION: Michigan


VARIETAL: Double Varietal Cider

FRUIT: Apple

Northern Spy 2021 Tasting Notes - Overripe Apple, Floral, Vanilla, Complex

TASTING NOTES: Baked Apple, Citrus, Tropical, Stone Fruit, Honey


2021 GLINTCAP – Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition: Silver - Heritage Cider - Dry

I love how thorough this info is! I’ll be curious to compare my thoughts to the tasting notes provided by the cidery.

Appearance: medium intensity peach color, mild haze, no visible bubbles

This cider looks like so many heirloom fruit UK ciders I’ve enjoyed with its warm peachy color, haze and no visible bubbles. 

Aromas: Mild aroma, leather and apricot and oranges

My associations with UK cider continue with the Northern Spy cider’s mild aroma notes of leather, apricot, and oranges.

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

I’m so glad to say that this is a dry cider! Mostly because I love dry cider, but even more because I love accurate descriptions from cideries!

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, medium tannins, petillant, nectarine

Northern Spy apples appear in many of my favorite ciders, as do Yarlington Mill apples. This cider reminds me of why. It’s just so well balanced. We do veer from a UK profile to a New World heirloom apple cider profile. The Northern Spy cider brings medium tannins but really powers the tasting experience with the cider’s high acidity. It’s a clean fermentation with notes of nectarine and overripe apple.

The cider is petillant more than truly sparkling.  Nothing about it stands out so much as to be a detraction or distraction from the overall experience. It’s tremendously food friendly and sessionable. We served this cider with sauteed cabbage rice and Beefless Bulgogi (from Trader Joe’s). The pairing worked beautifully. 

Happy Summer! 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Cider Review: Raging Cider & Mead Co's Town’s End


As I write this week, I’m getting ready to travel again. After three years of extremely limited travel, things feel undoubtedly different. Nonetheless, people are traveling again, and I am too. What’s different is that I drive more and fly less; I stick a little closer to home, and I try to get more than one purpose into each trip. It’s good to be going places nonetheless. I did want to review one last cider while at home. I reached deep into my cellar to find Raging Cider & Mead Co.'s Town’s End. The batch is labeled 2020.

Raging Cider and Mead has a great about section on the website, introducing the history, methods, values, and people of this small family-oriented cidery. Here’s just a bit of how the folks introduce themselves. 

The decision was made to grow their fruit utilizing regenerative methods and produce their ciders/perrys/wines naturally utilizing the native yeasts endemic to the orchards. In addition, they committed to only source apples, pears, honey, and other fruit from within San Diego County in order to support the local farming community and regrow the rich apple & pear orcharding traditions of the local San Diego mountains (in particular the Julian region). They have also committed to purchasing "ugly" and overproduced fruit to help local farmers derive a secondary income source from fruit that may have gone to waste and reintroducing traditionally made ciders (or heirloom ciders) to the American consumer using various techniques such as fermenting and aging on the lees in wine barrels in addition to Pétillant Naturel and other techniques borrowed from the wine world.

Today, I’m reviewing Raging Cider & Mead’s Town’s End, and I’ve reviewed one Raging Cider and Mead cider before. It was my number 10 cider of 2020.

Them Pet-Nat Southern Apples:

You can visit Raging Cider and Mead online here:

Here’s what Raging Cider and Mead has to say about the Town’s End. 

A dry cider from a single-source orchard located just past downtown Julian with bright apple and herbaceous notes. It was made with a field blend of Northwest Greening, Rome Beauty, Cinnamon Spice, and unknown sweet apples. 9 cases made ABV 8.5%

I’d never heard of Cinnamon Spice apples until reading this label, so now I’m extra curious about this California cider! And a total production of 9 cases: that's tiny.

Appearance: deep burnt orange color, slight haze, few bubbles

This cider is most striking in its color. The shade of burnt orange and slight haze remind me of many UK or UK-inspired ciders. I don’t see a lot of bubbles, but we’ll see how sparkly it feels.

Aromas: chocolate, boozy, graphite, apricot

The Town’s End smells wild to me and full of complexity. The first notes I detect are chocolate and pencil shavings, or specifically the graphite. Secondarily, scents of apricot, minerals, and an aura of booziness make themselves known delicately. There’s no mistaking this wild ferment for anything more tame!

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

I love that this cider is dry as promised!

Flavors and drinking experience: tart, acetic acid, medium high tannins and lots of citrus

This cider is tart and wild with a definite presence of acetic acid and medium high tannins. Lots of citrus notes just jump out at first sip. The cider is unashamedly funky notes of red bell pepper and oranges. The whole experience is very herbaceous with a slightly bitter finish. The cider feels mildly bubbly on the tongue, more petillant than strongly sparkling but that could be due to age. 

I had mine with a casual outdoor dinner of open faced avocado cheddar melts and chopped vegetable salad. This is a cider for someone who knows that they love the untamed side of cider and who wants to experience some savory notes and unusual apples. 

Monday, June 5, 2023

Cider Review: Berkshire Cider Project's Hancock Shaker Village

I’ve just returned from another cider competition. This past weekend, I judged for The Eastern States Exposition (usually just called The Big E), and it was a well-run competition with the added benefit of getting to meet online cider friends in-person for the first time ever. What a treat!

That brought Massachusetts ciders to the forefront of my mind, so I did a little digging in my cellar and found Berkshire Cider Project's Hancock Shaker Village. I picked this up last summer when visiting the cidery’s Greylock Works tasting room in North Adams, Massachusetts.  

Here’s how Berkshire Cider Project describes what they do.

All of our ciders are dry and sparkling.  

Natural ciders may remind you of white wine or even champagne. Enjoy at home, bring to a dinner party or as a special gift, made right here in the Berkshires.

Each fall we receive fresh-pressed juice from local orchards and ferment slowly during the cold Berkshire winter. We age these base ciders in French wine barrels or neutral tanks for 6-12 months, before blending and bottling.

We’re obsessed with traditional cider apples. These often forgotten varieties are like grapes to wine, with distinct levels of acid, aromatics and tannins. We source from local orchards, forage wild fruit and  even import juice from the UK to supplement what we can’t find locally (yet!).

Each harvest is different so each cider will be different. But you can be sure that each one was crafted with care, right here in the Berkshires.

I have one previous entry about Berkshire Cider Project, but it’s a roundup of several of the ciders: Bittersweet, Windy Hill, Hancock Shaker Village (2020), and Dry.


Visit the Berkshire Cider Project online:


Hand-picked heirloom apples.

A rich blend of heirloom and wild apples from the historic Shaker orchard. Our 2020 bottling captures the bright aromatics of a warm fall and chalky palate of late-harvest russets. Fermented slowly and simply with wild yeast.

Tasting notes: Wildflowers, Oyster Shell and Green Apple.

500ml, 6.9% alc/vol

65 cases produced

I quite liked the Shaker Village that I tasted last year, so I was curious about this one. 

Appearance: brilliant, sunny, bubbly

Bright! I love how radiantly sunny the golden tone is. The cider is beautifully brilliant and bubbly as well. 

Aromas: Leather, overripe apple, honeydew melon, grain and cast iron

The Hancock Shaker Village smells most immediately of leather and overripe apples. I can also detect notes that remind me of honeydew melon, grain and my cast iron skillet.

Sweetness/dryness: Dry

Without any doubt, this cider is exuberantly dry!

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, chalky, prickly bubbles, overripe apples

I love that the tannins in this cider speak first. The Hancock Shaker Village starts with an initial hit of bitterness that smooths out into gentle fruitiness. I get notes of overripe apple like I noticed in the cider’s aromas. The tannins take back over by the finish with elements that remind me of oyster shells in that they are chalky and minerally.

The mouthfeel is austere and structured with prickly small bubbles. The acidity is present and taut but not a prominent part of the tasting experience. 

I enjoyed the Hancock Shaker Village tremendously with an ultra-simple meal of summer squash, blackened fish, and brown rice. It’s funky but not flawed. What an elegant and restrained cider!