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.