Sky River Cherry Vanilla Honey Wine (Mead)

Today I don’t have a cider to review, but a mead, Sky River’s Cherry Vanilla Honey Wine.  It is my first time trying this, but I have had most of their lineup (see my trip report here from when I visited their meadery tasting room).

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Mead:  Cherry Vanilla Honey Wine
Meadery:  Sky River
Location:  Redmond WA
ABV:  12%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft mead (honey wine), with cherries and vanilla

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Availability:  U.S. (Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, & Pennsylvania), Japan, and Sweden, plus online sales

Mead Description:  The downy snow of blossom laden cherry trees.  The harbinger of spring.  Awakening the honey bees, and bringing the promise of new life.  With the blossoms come the tantalizing dreams of the promised lush cherries to come, and sumptuous days of sunshine.  Sky River Cherry Vanilla Mead reunites the honey and cherries.  Warm Honey and rich, dark Cherry, wedded with lush Vanilla bean  Enjoy with freshly grilled steaks, salmon, or even with your favorite custard.

Meadery Description:  From ancient cultures on distant shores, shrouded in mist, Sky River brings the age-old art of making mead into the twenty-first century to create a new tradition. 

Price:  $21
Where Bought:  a tasting event
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  a tasting event

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First Impression:  Dark cherry hue.  Still.  Smells of sweet cherry wine.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of cherry with hints of honey & floral, then a moderate length vanilla finish.  Low honey flavor.  Moderate cherry flavor, sessionability, overall flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  Nice flavor, of real cherry.  I would have liked a bit more vanilla.  Definitely not honey-forward though.

Most Similar to:  A more real-tasting, more complex, and drier version of Eaglemount Cherry Mead.  I’ve also had d’s cherry vanilla cider, with awesome flavor, similarly not apple-forward, but it is quite sweet.

Closing Notes:  Mead is a nice complimentary option to cider.

Have you tried mead?  What did you think?

Heidrun Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Honey Mead

Review of Heidrun Meadery’s Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Varietal Honey Naturally Sparkling Mead.  It is my first time trying anything from this meadery.  Not cider, I know, but mead is another alternative beverage I enjoy.

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Mead:  Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Varietal Honey Naturally Sparkling Mead
Meadery:  Heidrun
Meadery Location:  Point Reyes Station, CA
ABV:  12.5%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottle
Style:  American craft mead from Hawaiian macadamia nut honey (and water), dry, naturally sparkling (methode champenoise)

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Availability:  likely limited to Northern California (although they have online sales – this one is currently listed at $25 + shipping of course)

Mead Description:  A few years ago, we had the pleasure of visiting an apiary on the Big Island of Hawaii. Beekeepers here alternate between pollinating cultivated crops and allowing their bees to forage freely in the native tropical flora. The Macadamia is a cultivated tree, of course, and honey produced from its nectar is as succulent and rich as the macadamia nut itself. That richness results in a full-bodied, brut dry mead of subtle complexity and exceptional balance that pairs with a wide variety of foods, from raw oysters to smoked duck.

Meadery Description:  We produce naturally sparkling varietal meads using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise. Our trademark Champagne-style of mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, with subtle exotic aromas and flavors found
only in the essence of honey.  The Meadery was founded in 1997 in Arcata, California. In 2011,  the meadery relocated to a farm in Point Reyes Station (just across the 
Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) to develop its botanical and agicultural programs.

Price:  $21.99
Where Bought:  The Jug Shop in San Francisco CA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing – they had a large selection of meads from this meadery, from just under $20 up to $50

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First Impression:  Very high carbonation.  Light caramel hue.  Smells of tart burnt honey.

Tasting Notes:  It was very difficult to determine the perceived sweetness level with the high carbonation & tartness and sweet flavor notes, but I settled on dry to semi-dry.  Light boded with a fluffy texture.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Hints of bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, caramel, wood, nut, citrus, and burnt/smoke.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate honey flavor and flavor intensity.  High complexity.  Low sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked the flavor, but with the tartness, carbonation, and dryness, it was a bit much for me.  It mellowed out a bit the next day though (less carbonation and tartness).  My husband was a bigger fan.  This was super complex and interesting, and a memorable purchase, but I usually prefer the sweeter still meads.

Most Similar to:  The complexity of a fine mead (such as from Superstition Meadery in AZ), except methode champenoise (a labor intensive method for natural carbonation).

Closing Notes:  This is my first methode champenoise mead – all the others I’ve tried have been either still (usually sweeter and higher ABV) or force carbonated (usually drier and lower ABV, “session” style).

Have you tried mead?  What did you think?

White Claw Black Cherry Hard Seltzer

Review of White Claw’s Black Cherry Hard Seltzer (sparkling water).  They make this by fermenting sugar water until dry and adding carbonation and flavor.  This is part of an expanding alternative beverage market, and lower calories than hard soda.  This isn’t cider, but at times I include reviews of non-cider alternative beverages here (such as mead).

Producer:  White Claw Seltzer Works
Flavor:
  Black Cherry
Location:  Memphis TN
ABV:  5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans
Style:  commercial hard sparkling water

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Availability:  wide release

Description:  Subtle yet unmistakable cherry flavor meets dry yet refreshing hard seltzer.  The result?  Crisp, clean spiked sparkling water with minimal sweetness and no aftertaste – just a light hint of deliciously dark black cherry.

Ingredients:  Purified carbonated water, alcohol from cold-brewed sugar, natural cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, natural cherry juice concentrate, sodium citrate.

Price:  ~$2 / single can (runs ~$10 / six pack)
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I tried the other major brand of hard seltzer, Truly Spiked & Sparkling, and was curious how this one compared.  Once I found a single can, I gave it a try.

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First Impression:  Clear.  Low carbonation.  Smells of cherry candy and maraschino cherries.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Simple seltzer with sweet maraschino cherry flavor.  Very high sessionability.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  Its light, refreshing, and just flavorful enough.

Most Similar to:  Other hard seltzers.  I liked this one better than Truly Spiked & Sparkling, as it seemed more flavorful.

Closing Notes:   I’m curious to try their Lime and Grapefruit flavors, although the Cherry sounded the most interesting.

Have you tried hard seltzer?  What did you think?

Nectar Creek Waggle Wildflower Session Mead

Review of Nectar Creek’s Waggle, a Wildflower Session Mead (lower alcohol content). I’ve previously only tried their Honeycone hopped session mead, at Cider Summit last month (see here).  This obviously isn’t a cider, but sometimes I cover non-cider beverages.

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Mead:  Waggle, Wildflower Session Mead
Meadery:  Nectar Creek (Oregon Honey Products)
Meadery Location:  Corvallis OR
ABV:  6.2%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft mead (made from Oregon wildflower honey, water, yeast, and sulfites)

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Availability:  Year-round, at least in CA, GA, ID, MN, OR, TX, and WA (see their locator)

Mead Description:  The complex essence of Oregon wildflower honey is captured in this session mead with flavors and aromas of ripe fruit and fresh honeycomb.

Meadery Description:  Founded by two brothers native to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Nectar Creek combines a passion for beekeeping, agriculture and brewing into delicious, sessionable meads.

They were founded in 2012 and have a tasting room in Corvallis Oregon (which is also home to 2 Towns cider).

Price:  $8.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells mild, of honey with a hint of floral.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  Simple flavor, primarily of honey, with some floral and citrus.  Quick finish length.  Low to moderate honey flavor.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Tasty.  I liked it.  Simple and sessionable.  However, I prefer more flavor.  It tasted a bit watered down.

Most Similar to:  This was similar to their Honeycone, except Waggle was more honey forward and not hopped.  Nectar Creek is the only session mead maker on the market I’ve seen.

Closing Notes:   This was nice, but I think I prefer the higher ABV sweeter meads, which I’ve found to be more flavorful.  Check out some of my other mead reviews here.

Have you tried Nectar Creek Session Meads?  What did you think?

Hi-Wheel Wine & Mead Co. Lavender Lemon

Review of Hi-Wheel Wine & Mead Company’s Lavender Lemon.  This isn’t cider, but instead a carbonated fruit wine, made from fermenting water, lemon juice, sugar, and lavender.  Its my first time trying anything from Hi-Wheel.

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Beverage:  Lavender Lemon Carbonated Fruit Wine
Company:  Hi-Wheel Wine & Mead Co.
Location:  Portland OR
ABV:  6.8%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  American craft fruit wine made from lemon and lavender

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Availability:  Oregon and Washington

Product Description: This refreshing drink has the same lemon start as its cousin Ginger Lemon, but infused with lavender.

Company Description:  Hi-Wheel Wine & Mead Co. makes fizzy wines out of fruit not typically used for wine making, such as grapefruit, lemon & lime. Brewed with culinary herbs and spices, we present a growing series of session beverages with AVB around 6.8%, such as Ruby Zozzle (grapefruit), Ginger Lemon, Lavender Lemon, & Lime Habanero.

Hi-Wheel also crafts long-aged meads, with a release of Beloved Sovereign – an herbal honey wine made with Sauvie Island honey, savory spices & citrus – later this autumn. These meads are designed for intimate dinners and connections, in tasteful packaging, and run about 14% AVB.

Price:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had seen them before, but only other varieties which didn’t appeal to me (I’m not a fan of grapefruit, ginger, or spicy beverages).

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First Impression:  Hazy lemonade hue.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of tart lemonade with a hint of lavender.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acid.  No bitterness or sourness.  Notes of only lemonade and lavender.  Moderate finish with lingering tart lemon and a hint of booze.  Moderate flavor intensity.  Very low complexity.  Very high sessionability (this was too easy to drink!).

My Opinion:  A refreshing summer sipper.  No complexity, but I liked it.  I would have preferred slightly less tartness (as well as more carbonation), but I imagine most folks will like the high tartness, and it only bothered me the first few sips.  I appreciated that it wasn’t overly sweet.  The lavender worked well and was an appropriate amount–definitely noticeable but not overpowering.  This would have been quite boring without the lavender.

Most Similar to:  Other alcoholic lemonades, such as from Crabbie’s and Big B’s.  I think I slightly prefer the Big B’s Lazy Daze (although its actually a mix of cider with lemonade, so maybe that is why).

Closing Notes:   I’m curious to try their other products.  I imagine this will sell well, as altervative alcoholic beverages are popular now (alcopop and the like).

Have you tried Hi-Wheel’s fruit wines?  What did you think?

Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime

Review of Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime, a hard sparkling water.  They make this by fermenting sugar water until dry and adding carbonation and “natural flavor”.  This is part of an expanding alternative beverage market, which also includes hard soda, but unlike hard soda is advertised as being a low calorie option (only 100 calories for 12oz of 5% alcohol).  This isn’t cider, but at times I include reviews of non-cider alternative beverages here (like mead).

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Beverage:  Truly Spiked & Sparkling with a hint of Colima Lime
Producer:  Hard Seltzer Beverage Company, owned by the Boston Beer Company (who makes Angry Orchard)
Location:  Boston MA, Cincinnati OH, and Breinigsville PA
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  six pack of clear 12oz bottles
Style:  commercial hard sparkling water

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Availability:  wide release in the U.S. (see their website for a locator)

Description:  Clean, crisp, & refreshing.  Each style with a hint of fruit is lively & effervescent.  Just like sparkling water, with with 5% ALC./VOL.  Truly Spiked & Sparkling Colima Lime has a slight tartness with a crisp but subtle sweetness.

Also available in Pomegranate and Grapefruit & Pomelo.

Price:  ~ $2 / single bottle (runs $9.99 or $10.99 / full six pack)
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had seen this (and another brand) in other stores, but was waiting to try it until I found a single bottle.

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First Impression:  Clear.  Low carbonation upon pouring.  Smells of seltzer water, slightly sweet, with a hint of lime.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry, especially on the back end.  Moderate carbonation.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  The flavor is purely seltzer water with a hint of lime and a hint of sweetness.  Moderate length finish which was slightly off from regular seltzer water, although I can’t really describe how.  Low flavor intensity and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I liked this, but it was a bit too boring to be something I’d considering buying again.  It could be quite dangerous as it is so easy to drink and doesn’t at all taste alcoholic.

Most Similar to:  Non-alcoholic flavored sparkling water (I literally couldn’t taste any alcohol, and it had only the slightest difference in flavor from a non-alcoholic version).

Closing Notes:   If the most important thing about your alcoholic beverage is that it is low calorie, or you are counting carbs, you may enjoy this.

Have you tried any hard sparkling waters?  What did you think?

Reverend Nat’s ¡Tepache!

Review of Reverend Nat’s ¡Tepache!.  Note this technically isn’t even cider, as it is only made using pineapple juice, no apples.  I tried this awhile back, and I’ve sampled a number of ciders from Reverend Nat’s (see here).

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Cider:  ¡Tepache!
Cidery:  Reverend Nat’s
Cidery Location:  Portland OR
ABV:  3.2%
How Supplied:  22oz brown bottles
Style:  American craft fermented pineapple juice with spices

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Availability:  Summer Seasonal sold in Oregon, Washington, Southern California, Idaho, Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia Canada, Japan, and Singapore

Cider Description:  During a holiday in Veracruz I had a chance meeting with a peddler hawking Traditional Tepache out of a push-cart. A few pesos poorer and I was on Cloud Nine. ‘I unquestionably must have that recipe!’ I shouted. My Spanish is dreadful and his English was no better but over a few minutes of pictographic correspondence, I felt sanguine in my capacity to recreate that sumptuous drink upon my return to Portland.

Composed exclusively of pineapples sourced from my second cousin’s plantation in Costa Rica, piloncillo from the Mexican state of Michoacan and a furtive selection of spices, this lightly alcoholic elixir is sure to please your palate.

Much like American Apple Pie, there is no recipe for Tepache. It is a traditional Mexican drink, frequently consumed out of a plastic baggie with a straw, sold by street vendors in Jalisco and made at home. It’s not a cider – NO APPLES! The fermentation happens on the scales and rind of the pineapples, imparting a deep and unique flavor. This beverage is low-alcohol and sweet like a Summer Shandy or Radler due to a partial fermentation of the pineapples. Available starting Cinco de Mayo.

Cidery Description:  Reverend Nat is a single-minded cider evangelist who searches the world for superior ingredients to handcraft the most unusual ciders that no one else will make.

Price:  $6.99
Where Bought:  Total Wine
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  It sounded good, and I wanted to try mixing it with cider this time versus drinking it straight, so it ended up being an impulse try.

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First Impression:  Hazy yellow/brown hue (I recommend to lightly shake before pouring to distribute the sediment).  Still.  Smells strongly of pineapple and moderately of spices.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness and acidity.  No bitterness, tannins, sourness, or funk.  Notes of juicy pineapple, cinnamon, and brown sugar.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate pineapple flavor and moderate amount of spice.  Low complexity.  Moderate flavor intensity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Yum!  Great by itself or mixed with cider.  I tried it with Number Six Dry 99 (although that didn’t help boost the 3.2% ABV much as its only 4.2% ABV).  I agree with the suggestion to use more Tepache than cider (or 50-50).  I don’t like beer so I can’t comment on that mixture, although it appears plenty popular.

Most Similar to:  Nothing really.  You can’t really compare it to pineapple cider as it doesn’t use apples.  However, like a number of other beverages, I thought the pineapple came across more in the scent than the flavor.  I only know of one other cidery doing Tepache, Argus Cidery in Texas, although I haven’t tried it as I heard its sour and thats not my thing.

Closing Notes:   If you are looking to try something unique and like pineapple and spices, Tepache may be to your liking.  This definitely isn’t an everyday drinker (like his Revival, which remains my favorite from Rev Nat’s), but its unique.

Have you tried Tepache?  What did you think?