Blue Moon Winery Raven’s Moon Ragged Ass Road

Review of Blue Moon Winery’s Raven’s Moon Ragged Ass Road, a bourbon infused cider.  Its the first time time I’ve tried this cider, although I’ve had their Apple and Raspberry varieties.

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Cider:  Ragged Ass Road
Cidery:  Raven’s Moon, by Blue Moon Winery
Cidery Location:  Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottles
Style:  Canadian craft cider, bourbon infused

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Availability:  mostly British Columbia Canada, plus a few locations in the U.S.; see a list of retailers on their website.  They also have an online store, although it wasn’t clear where they can ship to.

Cider Description:  Who wouldn’t love this? Named for a famous street in Yellowknife, where proprietors George and Marla have spent a lot of time, this is a combination of delightful Raven’s Moon apple cider carefully infused with rich golden Kentucky straight Bourbon. It’s a fabulous marriage of crisp dry apple with toasted white oak, rustic smoke and vanilla hints of this special whiskey. Rich, flavourful and savoury – this is a cider for bonfires and good times!

Cidery Description:  At Blue Moon Winery and Ciderworx we grow, gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you hand-crafted award winning spirited fruit wines and sparkling ciders. Our inspiration comes from the scrumptious organic fruits collected from Vancouver Island, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive. Our award winning fruit wines and ciders are crafted from 100% BC organic fruit, picked at the peak of the harvest and created in small batches.

They have a tasting room in Courtenay British Columbia.

Price:  $7.74 CAN ($9.56 USD)
Where Bought:  The Strath in Victoria B.C. Canada
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, when there for the day on a cruise port stop

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild, of bourbon and Chardonnay?

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of lemon, green apple, honey, bourbon, and butter/cream.  Long finish.  Low apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate bourbon flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, I would have preferred some richer flavor notes with the bourbon flavor (like vanilla and caramel), but as this appears to be bourbon infused not bourbon barrel aged, it made sense.  As-is, the flavors didn’t quite seem to go together.  It wasn’t as sharp as their other two ciders I’ve tried though, which I liked.

Most Similar to:  Big B’s Grizzly Brand and Virtue Cider The Mitten multipack

Closing Notes:  This was one of a couple dozen ciders I picked up last September on a cruise, and I still have a number of them left; hopefully I’ll finish them before this September’s cruise.

Have you tried Raven’s Moon cider?  What did you think?

 

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Tasting Notes on Merridale House Craft Cider, Gowans 1876 Heirloom, and Raven’s Moon Apple Raspberry

At the same time I had friends over to try the 2 Towns La Mure and three ciders from Brooklyn Cider House, we opened up a few other bottles.  All three were picked up out of state by some friends; two from British Columbia Canada and one from California.

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Merridale (Cobble Hill B.C. Canada) House Craft Cider (6.0% ABV): This Canadian cider is uniquely sold (only in British Columbia) in a 1 liter plastic bottle (which is common especially for affordable ciders in England).  It was very very carbonated, dry, sour, and off tasting.  The description mentioned English & French cider apples, so we were confused.  Then we noticed the “always refrigerate” note on the label…it appears the cider may have re-fermented in the bottle due to the lack of refrigeration.  Its rare to find a cider sold commercially that isn’t shelf stable, but some exist.  It certainly didn’t taste good, so I won’t bother with tasting notes.  Hopefully we can try a new bottle some other time.  I recently tried their Scrumpy cider (see here) and enjoyed it.

UPDATE: Merridale confirmed that their ciders in plastic bottles are unpasturized / unsulfited, so need to stay refrigerated or risk re-fermentation.

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Gowans (Napa CA) 1876 Heirloom (6.1% ABV): Gowans has been in the apple business in California since 1876, but only recently got into cider.  Only sold in CA.  Dark straw yellow hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells sweet, rich, and of caramel, reminding me of ice cider.  Semi-sweet.  Medium bodied.  Caramel, honey, and vanilla notes.  Very apple-forward.  Moderate length warming finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  The scent of this cider was quite luscious, and seemed too good to be true, like it was added.  We ended up seeing the ingredient includes water and sugar…which often means the cider is made from apple juice concentrate (why else would you add water to cider?).  The use of concentrate is common in Europe even with high quality ciders made from high tannin cider apples, but you only hear of it here in the U.S. for commercial ciders.  For $15 for 500ml (a friend picked this up in CA), the ingredient list is disappointing [UPDATE: Apparently the retail price is $10; it was $15 for Cider Summit San Francisco].  The flavor was awesome and the clear winner of the popularity contest of these three ciders, but we had doubts about this being a true craft cider.

UPDATE: Sharon Gowan responded to my e-mail with some additional information:

Here’s some background on our family farm: We’re celebrating our 140th harvest this year! We are 100% estate grown farm to table! Gowan’s is a ‘Grand Cru’ Orchard, one of the oldest heritage orchards in California. Warmer days and cool nights provide a longer growing season—the very best for flavor development. Plus we have older orchards-also great for tannin development. 

What apple varieties are used?

….that’s kind of a secret family blend! Over the last few years we’ve fermented hundreds of small batch single variety apples paired with different yeasts, in a huge experiment to discover the best pairing between apple and yeast. We’re not divulging these results just yet…

I’ve never had a cider that smelled so delicious besides cider,,,how were you able to get such a strong rich scent?

Wow! Yeah!! So glad you like it! We’re honored. You’d recognize these rich aromatics if you visited our orchards in October! The secret is the varieties we grow, the terroir, and our 6 generations of orcharding expertise on this family farm. For a 140 years our family has been curating this unique collection of heirloom apples on this same land. You probably wouldn’t believe the endless debates around kitchen tables about how one variety is better than another; better earlier, mid, or late season; better this year vs last year. As farmers we may only replant an orchard 1-2 times in our lifetime—picking the right apple is important. So 6 generations have continued to select, plant trees, graft, grow and harvest the apples to produce the best flavor in this terroir. And of course the 80 plus heirloom varieties we grow.  We don’t use any flavorings of any sort.

I was surprised by the ingredient list.  I’ve only seen commercial ciders add water and sugar, due to the use of apple juice concentrate.  Why is water listed as an ingredient?  Was juice or concentrate used?  Was the sugar added before or after fermentation?

If there was more consistency in ingredient labeling across the industry, you probably wouldn’t be surprised at all.  The FDA is in charge of labeling ciders under 7% ABV, but they don’t pay much attention to it, and the rules are open to broad interpretation. 

No ingredient label is required if “the person claiming the exemption employs fewer than an average of 100 full-time equivalent employees and fewer than 100,00 units. www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm053857.htm (for cider under 7% ABV : FDA regulations) We are definitely a small producer, and qualify for this exemption, but chose to list all ingredients anyway. 

No ingredient label is required if sold within the state (for cider over 7% : TTB regulations), If sold interstate, only required to declare few of things. See the info that the TTB presented to cidermakers at Cidercon this year.) It’s a confusing mishmash of regulations that the industry struggles with, and at best is incomplete for consumers. 

We simply take the apples we grow, and ferment them, and let the cider mature. Then, if it’s a ‘beer style’ cider we blend, sweeten, add water to reduce the alcohol—like beer. A beer-style cider makes a great ’session’ drink ( 4-6% ABV). A pint to quench a thirst, or a couple of of 8 oz glasses with dinner works great, but won’t get you tipsy.  We believe it is extremely important to have a low alcohol option.

Our apples naturally range from 7-11% alcohol. There is no way to produce a ‘beer style’ (lower alcohol) cider from our tree ripened apples without water, unless we harvest our apples before they are ripe. But you get much better flavor from ripe apples, as you’ve noticed!  Truly dry ciders are seldom palatable. We chose to back sweeten with sugar because it is neutral and doesn’t change the flavor of the cider. (Fun Fact: Cider naturally ferments to dry, any sweetness is introduced somehow. In general, apples don’t have unfermentable sugars, like grapes do.)

We also craft wine-style ciders: the alcohol content is often higher, depending on the apple’s natural sugar content that year.

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Blue Moon Winery (Courtenay B.C. Canada) Raven’s Moon Apple Raspberry (9.0% ABV): Only sold in British Columbia Canada. Light cranberry red hue.  Nearly still.  Smells like alcoholic raspberry candy.  Semi-dry.  Light bodied.  High tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  No sourness.  Low tannins.  No funk.  Raspberry and crab apple notes (the high ABV supports my guess that they use crab apples).  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low sessionability.  This cider is best drank very cold, as it becomes more harsh as it warms up.  I thought the high ABV and fruitiness competed with each other.  It reminds me of Eaglemount’s ciders, from Port Townsend WA, which also tend to be higher ABV.  Also, I think this is the most tart cider I’ve ever drank!  Truly mouth-puckering.  I preferred their plain Apple cider (see here).

Blue Moon Winery Raven’s Moon Apple Cider

Review of Raven’s Moon Apple Cider from Blue Moon Winery in British Columbia.  I picked this up in Victoria, a port on our Alaska cruise.  This is the first time I’ve tried their cider.

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Cider:  Raven’s Moon Apple
Cidery:  Blue Moon Winery
Cidery Location:  Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  8.5%
How Supplied:  500ml bottle
Style:  Canadian craft cider

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Availability:  British Columbia; see a list of retailers on their website.

Cider Description:  A nice dry and crisp sparkling cider made from 100% pressed organic Heritage cider apples from Denman Island. Delightfully effervescent, and delicate on the palate, you will love sipping this all by itself on a hot day over ice, or serve with friends wand your favourite meal.  Best enjoyed in good company! Non pasteurized so keep cool. No water added nor concentrate.

Apple Cider is the original flagship product in the Raven’s Moon lineup. This is true artisan craft cider made from organically grown cider apples, including Pippins, Chisel Jersey and Dabinett. Don’t let the higher alcohol fool you – it contributes to a crisp dry backbone, which is fleshed out by delicious and refreshing full apple flavour, like biting into a juicy apple just plucked from the tree. A versatile sparkling cider for all occasions. 

This is their flagship cider, but they also make Blackberry, Asian Pear, Raspberry, and Bourbon Infused varieties.

Cidery Description:  At Blue Moon Winery and Ciderworx we grow, gather and ferment the flavors of the land to offer you hand-crafted award winning spirited fruit wines and sparkling ciders. Our inspiration comes from the scrumptious organic fruits collected from Vancouver Island, the ancient history of the craft of fermentation and the lively traditions we now seek to revive. Our award winning fruit wines and ciders are crafted from 100% BC organic fruit, picked at the peak of the harvest and created in small batches.

They have a tasting room in Courtenay British Columbia.

Price:  $7.50 CAN (~$5.63 USD)
Where Bought:  The Strath in Victoria B.C. Canada
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had never heard of them.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild–sharp & tart, slightly musty, and of apples.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  Low bitterness and tannins.  No sourness or funk.  Apple-forward with a flavor reminiscent of both cider apples and crab apples, honey, and citrus.  Moderate apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  This has a nice flavor.  Its a bit on the sharp and boozy side, but I enjoy that (although it may not be for everyone).

Most Similar to:  It reminds me of some ciders from Liberty Ciderworks which use crab apples.

Closing Notes:   I think this cider is a great value (especially with the current exchange rate) for using organic cider apple varieties.  Too bad I probably won’t be able to get anything else from them for awhile, as their Bourbon Infused cider sounds awesome.

Have you tried Raven’s Moon cider?  What did you think?