Sonoma Cider Winter Mix 4-Pack (The Cutter gingerbread cider & The Sleigh spiced cider)

Review of Sonoma Cider’s Winter Mix 4-Pack, which consists of two 22oz bottles each of The Cutter (a gingerbread cider) and The Sleigh (a winter spiced cider).

>>This is a review of sample bottles provided to Cider Says by Sonoma Cider.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

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Cider:  The Cutter & The Sleigh
Cidery:  Sonoma Cider
Cidery Location:  Healdsburg CA
ABV:  5.5% (both)
How Supplied:  22oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  American Organic large-craft spiced cider

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Availability:  These are limited run ciders with less distribution, but Sonoma Cider is generally available in these areas

The Sleigh Description:  The Sleigh incorporates seasonal spices such as all-spice, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg combined with organic apple cider. The aromas of warm apple pie followed by buttery cinnamon notes on the nose are sure to conjure up some Yuletide memories.

The Cutter Description:  The Cutter captures the best of fresh baked gingerbread – bright, light aromas of ginger, with wellrounded notes of molasses and spiced baked apples in the body. It’s the perfect companion for the holiday season.

Cidery Description:  Sonoma Cider was founded in 2013 by 20-year veteran Cidermaster, David Cordtz, with his son and Cofounder, Robert Cordtz. Together they combine decades of industry expertise with next generation dynamism. Sonoma Cider handcrafts the only full line of organic ciders in the U.S., each made with distinctive, all natural, gluten-free ingredients. Sonoma Ciders are produced from freshly squeezed, organic apples in micro batches to deliver intensity of flavor and a refined experience for this rapidly growing category. Sonoma Cider offers four, award-winning “Core Ciders” which are available year-round. This includes the signature, apple cider “The Hatchet,” pear-based “The Pitchfork,” bourbon-flavored “The Anvil”, and sarsaparilla-vanilla “The Washboard”. Sonoma Cider also offers other unique flavors through the “Limited Run” series and “Cidermaker Reserve” series.

Price:  n/a (retails for ~$24 for the four 22oz bottles)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I was contacted about it

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The Cutter First Impression:  Medium hazy amber.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells lovely, rather strongly of gingerbread (starch, spices, ginger, sugar) and baked apples.

The Sleigh First Impression:  Medium amber.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells milder, of spices (primarily cinnamon).

The Cutter Tasting Notes:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Hints of tannins.  Notes of gingerbread (starch, spices, ginger), baked apple, and citrus fruit.  Long finish length with lingering spice, including a slight amount of ginger at the back of the throat.  Moderate sessionability, flavor intensity, complexity, and apple flavor.  Mild to moderate spice intensity.

The Sleigh Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No sourness or funk.  Hints of tannins and bitterness.  Notes of spice (not just cinnamon, but prevalent allspice & cloves), a mild to moderate intensity.  Moderate finish length with lingering spice.  Moderate flavor intensity, sessionability, and apple flavor.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I preferred The Cutter to The Sleigh, which is interesting as I don’t like ginger; I liked the stronger flavor and higher perceived sweetness (although both have the same residual sugar content).  Both however had a stronger scent than flavor.  Both were also best when served between fridge and room temperature (which I’ve noticed with most other spiced ciders).  I’m not the biggest fan of spiced cider, but I’d call these pretty average & typical of the style.

Most Similar to:  Other spiced ciders, such as 2 Towns Nice & Naughty (which is probably my favorite spiced cider), AEppelTreow Sparrow SpicedCarlton Sugar and Spice, and  Elemental Seasonal Spiced Apple.  The gingerbread had far less ginger than most other ginger ciders I’ve had, which was nice (and no burn).

Bottom Line:  If you are a fan of spiced cider but don’t like your cider as sweet and/or desire an Organic cider, you may enjoy these.

Closing Note:  I’m surprised they decided to do 22oz bottles, as it really brings up the price tag (over $20! for the 4-pack).  Maybe they were thinking more of holiday parties than a couple sharing it?

Have you tried either of these Sonoma Cider varieties?  What did you think?

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Sonoma Cider The Jax

Review of Sonoma Cider’s The Jax, a limited run cider inspired by Apple Jacks breakfast cereal.  This Organic cider is made with buckwheat, cinnamon, and honey.  It is my first time trying The Jax, although I’ve sampled most of Sonoma Cider’s bottled lineup (see here).

>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Sonoma Cider.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

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I love this packaging with the bright blue!

Cider:  The Jax
Cidery:  Sonoma Cider
Cidery Location:  Healdsburg CA
ABV:  6.0%
Residual Sugar:  1.6 BRIX
How Supplied:  four pack of 12oz bottles (and kegs)
Style:  Organic American large-craft breakfast cereal inspired cider

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Availability:  This is a limited run cider with less distribution, but Sonoma Cider is generally available in these areas

Cider Description:  The Jax Breakfast Cereal is part of the brand’s Limited Run series, a collection of unique flavors that express the team’s creativity and inventive nature.  Hard cider made from Organic Pacific Northwest apples is combined with gluten-free buckwheat, cinnamon and honey to create this full-bodied cider.  Scents of toasted grain and apple-cinnamon and the taste of sweetened honey and tart apples embody this cider leaving you wanting more.  The flavors of The Jax- Breakfast Cereal make a perfect complement to Pop Tarts, mac n cheese and strawberry ice cream.

Cidery Description:  Sonoma Cider was founded in 2013 by 20-year veteran Cidermaster, David Cordtz, with his son and Co-founder, Robert Cordtz.  Together they combine decades of industry expertise with next generation dynamism.  Sonoma Cider handcrafts the only full line of organic ciders in the U.S., each made with distinctive, all natural, gluten-free ingredients.  Sonoma Ciders are produced from freshly squeezed, organic apples in micro batches to deliver intensity of flavor and a refined experience for this rapidly growing category.  Sonoma Cider offers four, award-winning Core Ciders which are available year-round.  This includes the signature, apple cider The Hatchet, pear-based The Pitchfork, bourbon-flavored The Anvil, and sarsaparilla-vanilla The Washboard. Sonoma Cider also offers other unique flavors through the Limited Run series and Cidermaker Reserve series.

They have a tap room in Healdsburg California.

Price:  n/a (retails for $10.99 / four pack)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  co-founder Robert Cordtz contacted me

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First Impression:  Moderate amber hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells mildly of starch, cinnamon, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Hints of tannins.  Notes of cinnamon, honey, starch, lemon, and grapefruit.  The flavor starts with citrus, then finishes with breakfast cereal.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor.  High sessionability.  Low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I liked it.  However, this is definitely more of a novelty cider that I wouldn’t really choose to drink again.  I had expected it to be much sweeter, but it remained fairly dry, which was great.  The Apple Jacks flavor was definitely there, real tasting, and not overwhelming.

Most Similar to:  Nothing I’ve tried.  There have been a couple ciders I’ve had that tasted a bit starchy, and I’ve had plenty of ciders with honey and/or cinnamon, but this one is unique.

Closing Notes:  Next up are two winter seasonal ciders from Sonoma Cider, The Sleigh and The Cutter.

Have you tried Sonoma Cider The Jax?  What did you think?

Sonoma Cider The Wimble (Rhubarb Gose)

Review of Sonoma Cider’s The Wimble, a gose-style cider with rhubarb.  Gose is a German style of beer characterized by its use of salt.  Its my first time trying The Wimble, but I’ve had Sonoma Cider’s Hatchet, Pitchfork, Washboard, Anvil, Crowbar, Pulley, Dry Zider, and Dry Fuji.

Cider:  The Wimble (Rhubarb Gose)
Cidery:  Sonoma Cider
Cidery Location:  Healdsburg CA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz cans
Style:  American Organic gose-style cider with rhubarb

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Availability:  semi wide release, but it is a limited run

Cider Description:  The Wimble is our cidery take on “gose” an ancient German beer style.  Tart, briny, and eager to please.

Cidery Description:  Our story officially began in 2013 through a unique father and son partnership. Sharing an entrepreneur’s curiosity and deep passion for beverages, David and Robert Cordtz set out to reinvent the cider category. David, a celebrated cidermaster and winemaker, has had a nearly lifelong passion for beverages made from naturally grown and harvested ingredients. He has been lauded for his highly refined palate and ability to create unique and high quality flavor profiles. His son, Robert, has been learning the business of beverages from his veteran father for as long as he can remember. In creating Sonoma Cider alongside his father, Robert brings a fresh perspective, a knack for creating things, and is fond of questioning the status quo. As VP Operations and Cidermaker, Robert’s creative streak keeps his dad on his toes as he is constantly infusing new approaches and ideas to the business. Together they make Sonoma Cider anything, anything but run of the mill.

Price:  ~$2 / single can
Where Bought:  Special Brews in Lynnwood WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing

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First Impression:  Light pumpkin orange-pink amber.  Nearly still (very low carbonation).  Smells mild, salty and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  Fully dry.  Light bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low bitterness.  No sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of salt, rhubarb, and citrus.  Moderate length finish.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability.  Very low flavor intensity.  Low complexity.

My Opinion:  I wasn’t a huge fan, but I liked it more than I expected.  The brine flavor wasn’t overwhelming, and it had a mild fruitiness.

Most Similar to:  Other gose-style ciders, such as from Seattle Cider, Gose and Plum Gose.

Closing Notes:   If you want a truly dry cider which is unique but doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor, you may like this one.  My favorite Sonoma Cider however remains The Anvil, their Bourbon-flavored cider.

Have you tried Sonoma Cider’s The Wimble?  What did you think?

Schilling Cider House Visit 11 Tasting Notes

Tasting notes from my eleventh visit to the Schilling Cider House in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA.  Check out my past posts here.  I was there mostly as I wanted to pick up a couple bottles (Schilling’s new seasonal King’s Shilling brandy barrel aged & fortified cider and this year’s version of Two Towns’ Pommeau), but this isn’t exactly the kind of place where I can stop in without having some cider!

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I got there after work, around 4pm, and started with a flight of five ciders (I had tried everything else so skipped out on #6).  I brought some take out food I picked up from PCC (the Caprese sandwich went well with 101 Cider House Piña Mint).

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<left to right:  Schilling Blackberry Pear, Schilling London Dry, Sonoma Cider Dry Fuji, Original Sin Northern Spy, and 101 Cider House Piña Menta>

Schilling Blackberry Pear (Auburn WA), 5.5%:  This is a new draft-only release.  I believe it is apple cider with blackberry and pear juice infused after fermentation (vs. being a blackberry flavored perry).  Semi-sweet.  Full flavored with blackberry and a hint of pear.  Fruity, refreshing, and flavorful without being over the top sweet.  The apple remains pretty well hidden.  Medium bodied.  This was pretty good (and I’m usually not a big berry cider fan), although maybe I was just underwhelmed with most of the rest of the flight.  It reminded me of Atlas Blackberry (although less tart) and Crispin Blackberry Pear (although sweeter).

Schilling London Dry (Auburn WA), 6.5%:  Described as an English pub style cider, sold in four packs of 16oz cans and kegs.  Somehow I had never tried this one even though its been out awhile.  Dry.  High acidity.  Moderarate tartness.  Light bodied.  It was lacking the richness of English cider, likely as I doubt they used high tannin cider apples.  I thought this was a pretty average cider, but many people ordered pints of it while I was there (although maybe because it was the most inexpensive drier cider by far?).

Sonoma Cider Dry Fuji (Healdsburg CA), 6.5%:  This is a reserve series release from Sonoma Cider, an organic Fuji apple single varietal, oak barrel aged, sold in 22oz paper wrapped bottles and kegs.  Nearly clear hue.  Completely Dry (0 residual sugar).  High acidity.  Moderate sourness.  Mild tartness.  Light bodied.  Kinda Sidra-like due to the sourness, although it also reminded me of white grape wine.  Mildly flavored.  I wasn’t a fan at all, mostly due to the sourness.

Original Sin Northern Spy (York NY), 6.9%:  This Northern Spy single varietal is part of Original Sin’s Heirloom series.  This appears to be tap-only at this time (although they had similar heirloom series releases in 750ml bottles, like Newtown Pippin).  Semi-dry.  Low acidity.  Low tartness.  A hint of sourness.  Citrus notes.  Light bodied.  Overall mildly flavored.  Average.

101 Cider House Piña Menta (Los Angeles CA), 6.9%:  This is a new 101 Cider House release, a pineapple mint cider.  Smells of citrus and mint.  On the sweeter side of Dry.  A hint of sourness.  Citrus and mint notes.  I didn’t really pick up pineapple?  Moderately flavored.  Light bodied.  Unique with the mint flavor, but overall I thought it was average.

They also put Honey Moon CiderHead Quince on tap while I was there.

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Honey Moon CiderHead Quince (Bellingham WA), 8.3%:  This is described as their Quince mead with cider, so that would make it a cyser.  Semi-dry.  Mild tannins, tartness, and acidity.  Mildly fruity.  Light and refreshing.  Mild to moderate flavored.  Tropical notes, passion fruit and pineapple.  This was good, but I prefer Eaglemount Quince, which was more complex and flavorful.

I wanted a little something else, but didn’t feel the need for another pint, so I bought a bottle of Celt for $3 and drank it there.  The Cider House is pretty awesome as they don’t charge extra to drink their bottled cider there (vs. taking it home).  An awesome cider for an awesome price!  Its the only French cider I’ve seen that comes in a multipack (4 bottles).  Check out my previous review here.  I had forgotten how I much I enjoy this cider, and picked up a couple more bottles to take home.

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I’m excited to compare the last two years of Two Towns’ Pommeau in a vertical pour, now that I have a bottle of each.  I highly recommend it by the way, and if anyone is in the Seattle area, at $25 for an amazing 375ml bottle of 19% ABV Pommeau at the Schilling Cider House, its also a good buy.  I also spotted it at The Cave in Kirkland.

Stay tuned for more Schilling Cider House tasting notes here at Cider Says!  Have you had any good draft cider / cider flights recently?

Cider Summit Seattle 2015 Tasting Notes

What an epic event!  This long-awaited post will cover my tasting notes on the 32 ciders I tried at Cider Summit 2015 (Sept 11 & 12 2015 at South Lake Union).  Another post (post 2/2 now up HERE) will cover information about the event and have lots of photos, including of the swag I picked up and the event program.  I was lucky enough to attend both days, and after a couple tastes I learned to ask for a smaller pour!

When you are going for quantity (vs. many of the folks who were just there to drink some cider and didn’t care so much what type or trying as many as they could), the smaller the taste the better, as long as you can get a couple good gulps in.  Sorry in advance I don’t have too many cider photos (its difficult at an event like this to juggle a glass, notepad, camera phone, etc), but post 2 will have more event & booth photos.  Hopefully someone enjoys these notes, as it took me many hours.

101 Cider House Black Dog Black Cider (Westlake Village CA).  6.9% ABV.  This is a unique “black cider”, which is from adding activated charcoal (apparently a new beverage trend, and is good for the digestion too).  It also includes lemon and agave nectar.  The color turned out a very weird green-blue-black tint (see below).  Fairly dry.  I’d say similar to Spanish Sidra (as it had a lot of sour citrus flavor) with a hint of weird from the charcoal.  I thought of it as more of a novelty, but some of my tasting buddies said they would actually buy a bottle.  This was more drinkable than their Cactus Red (which was crazy tart), but not my thing.

black dog

2 Towns Prickle Me Pink (Corvallis OR).  6.0% ABV.  This cider was released just this week, and uses prickly pear cactus fruit juice from California (reminiscent of my time in Arizona).  Semi-dry.  Fluorescent pink color!  Tart.  Nice and flavorful.  Some cactus fruit flavor (yes I’ve actually eaten one before and know what they taste like), but also some berry and watermelon notes.

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Alpenfire Ember (Port Townsend WA).  7.2% ABV.  This one is made from French & English bittersweet apples, organic, wild fermented, and bottle conditioned.  Semi-dry.  Higher carbonation.  Very high tannins and moderate astringency (I’d almost describe the mouthfeel as “chunky” lol).  I wasn’t really a fan, but folks who like a really high tannin ciders probably would.  I really love their Spark! and Apocalypso though, which are their more approachable and sweeter varieties.  Their Smoke was also pretty tasty.

Anthem Ap-Bee-Cot (Salem OR).  6.5% ABV.  Apple-apricot cider fermented with natural yeast from bee pollen.  Draft only.  Semi-dry, unfiltered, and tart, with mild apricot & honey notes.  I’ve not really been a fan of any of Wandering Aengus / Anthem’s ciders.

Apple Outlaw Oaked Sweet Dark Cherry (Applegate OR).  unknown ABV.  Tart with mild cherry notes and the slightest hint of oak barrel flavor.  Not really impressed, but it wasn’t bad at all either.  The first time I’ve tried their ciders.  At this time they also offer Original, Rabid Dry, Ginger Bite, Cranberry Jewel, Hoppin’ Holdup, and Tangerine Twist in bottles.

Dragon’s Head Traditional (Vashon Island WA).  6.8% ABV.  Semi-dry, rather still, smooth, acidic, mild tartness, and moderate tannins.  My first time trying their cider (although I have a bottle of their Wild Fermented at home).  A pretty solid selection.

Eaglemount Homestead Dry (Port Townsend WA).  8.0% ABV.  Hazy.  Dry, tart, and bitter.  Made with heirloom apple varieties including Gravenstein, White Pippin, Stayman’s Winesap, and Tolman Sweet.  Not really my thing.  I love their Quince though!  I mostly tried it as I wanted to try another one of their offerings, and nothing else sounded interesting (Rhubarb, Raspberry Ginger, and Boot Brawl, which is hopped).  A solid choice for those who like this style of cider though.

Eden Heirloom Blend Ice Cider (Newport VT).  10% ABV.  Very sweet.  Syrupy but awesome bold full flavor.  Well-hidden ABV.  Vanilla and brown sugar notes.  I look forward to trying more from Eden!  It was awesome to meet Eleanor at the Burgundian event the night before and try two of their other ciders.  I hadn’t tried any of their ciders before this weekend.  My husband surprised me with a bottle of this for our anniversary!  Happy wife.

E.Z. Orchards Semi-Dry (Salem OR).  6.4% ABV.  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  Uses French bittersweet apples, which have lower acidity and bring in some tannins and tartness.  This was my first time trying their ciders.  Pretty tasty.

Farnum Hill Extra Dry (Lebanon NH).  7.5% ABV.  I’d still call this one dry, not extra dry, as I picked up a hint of residual sugar.  Very tannic and acidic with moderate bitterness.  Significant carbonation.  Not really my cup of tea, but I think this is a great wine-lovers cider.  I had wanted to try their Dooryard, which had been on the tasting list, but they didn’t have it.

Finnriver Country Peach (Chimacum WA).  6.5% ABV.  Hazy slightly pink lemonade color.  Semi-dry.  Sour and tart, but a more approachable sour than some (vs. their Barrel Berry Sour and traditional Sidra and such).  More of a peach skin than peach taste.  Acidic and slightly vinegary.

Finnriver Cyser Cider (Chimacum WA).  6.9% ABV.  Honey cider made with mead yeast.  Semi-dry.  Similar to their Honey Meadow, but without the hint of herbal flavor (I like Honey Meadow better).  Low acidity, tartness, and bitterness.  Earthy.

cyser

Liberty Ciderworks English Style Cider (Spokane WA).  8.0% ABV.  Made with cider apples (including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill and Ashton Bitter) and aged for over a year.  Semi-dry.  Lovely bittersweet flavors with a bit of a “bite”.  Tannic and acidic.  Bright amber.  Very tasty, and definitely English-style.  I’m a big fan of theirs, and looking forward to trying the bottle of their Stonewall Dry Fly Barrel-Aged cider I have at home.

liberty

Manoir du Parc Authentic Cidre (Normandy France).  5% ABV?  A naturally carbonated (bottle conditioned) wild yeast fermented traditional French cider with “no shit added” per the French dude pouring it lol.  Semi-dry.  Funky, tart, high carbonation, and high tannin.  A bit too traditional / funky for my tastes, maybe from the wild fermentation?  So far I’ve been more impressed with Dan Armor and Domaine Pacory Poire Domfront from France.

Millstone Cellars Farmgate Dry (Monkton MD).  8.5% ABV.  I really wanted to give Millstone another chance, as I didn’t care for their Cobbler at all.  I chose this one mostly as the other varieties they were pouring weren’t appealing (hopped, ginger, and strawberry rhubarb).  Barrel aged and made from 40% Stayman Winesap, 30% Northern Spy, 25% Jonathan, and 5% Cameo apples.  Apparently they are known for tart, funky, and astringent ciders which are similar to Sidra, although of course no one told me!  In contrast to Cobbler, I found this drinkable, but I still didn’t care for it.  Definitely dry, tart, sour, funky, and astringent.  To me all those qualities were overpowering such that that the cider couldn’t shine and I couldn’t detect any barrel influence, etc.  A lot of folks really like sour ciders (and beers) though.  Shoutout to Kyle who I e-mailed with, was there pouring cider, and really wanted me to find something from them I liked!  I also saw him at the Burgundian the night before.  They recently re-did their website, and I think it does a much better job of describing their cider style.  The mis-advertisement on the bottle and their website was my main complaint about Cobbler (I get not everyone likes every cider so I never fault a cider because I didn’t like it)…that it wasn’t described as sour, tart, astringent, funky, etc.

Montana Ciderworks Darby Pub Cider (Sula MT).  5% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Described as “semi-dry new world style”.  Sold in MT, WA, and CO.  English cider flavor with some woody & earthy notes, but its an easy drinking and approachable variety.  Fuller bodied and effervescent.  Mostly Spartan (Montanan) apples, but the earthy notes are from some bittersharp and crab apples.  I wasn’t expecting it to be as sweet as it was (slightly back sweetened), but it was nice.  This was my first time trying their cider, and I’m impressed!

Moonlight Meadery How do you like them Apples Bourbon Barrel Cider (Londonderry NH).  13.5% ABV.  Draft-only cider with honey and brown sugar, aged at least 3 months in Jim Beam bourbon barrels they used for their Last Apple mead.  Very similar to their How do you like them Little Apples I tried at the Schilling Cider House, which was also bourbon barrel aged (this one was slightly sweeter and had more barrel flavor).  Very tasty!  Definitely sweet and syrupy, but it has a lovely rich barrel flavor too.

Moonlight Meadery Kurt’s Apple Pie Mead (Londonderry NH).  16.8% ABV.  Mead bottle pour.  Made from local apple cider, Madagascar-bourbon vanilla, and Vietnamese cinnamon spice.  My husband got a small pour and I tried a sip.  Not really my thing because of the spice, but very smooth.  This is one of their most popular products.

Neigel Vintners (NV) Cider Cherry Perry (Wenatchee WA).  5.1% ABV.  They announced this new variety when I interviewed brothers and co-founders Kevin & Mark Van Reenen, and this weekend was its release.  They left this fairly unfiltered, so there was a nice thicker mouthfeel with both pear and cherry flavors.  Very balanced between the two flavors.  Sweet but not overly.  Yum!  I was surprised to see a couple other local cideries also make a “Cherry Perry”, Wildcraft and Carlton.  They don’t currently plan to bottle it, but if they do, they noted it would have to be slightly more filtered so it would be more stable.

One Tree Caramel Cinnamon (Spokane Valley WA).  6.8% ABV.  Sweet.  Cinnamon with a hint of caramel.  Syrupy.  Spiced cider isn’t really my thing, but I was intrigued.  Their booth was very popular at the event.

One Tree Lemon Basil (Spokane Valley WA).  6.5% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Nice lemonade-type tartness with a hint of herbal basil flavor.  Very unique.  This was my first time trying ciders from One Tree.  They are fairly new, but seem to quickly be building a following.  At this time they also offer Cranberry, Huckleberry, and Ginger in bottles, and Crisp Apple in cans.

Sea Cider Bramble Bubbly (Saanichton B.C.).  9.9% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  My sample didn’t have much if any carbonation, so I missed out on the “bubbly” part, but it was the end of the bottle.  Lovely berry/rosé color but the blackberry flavor was a bit underwhelming and sorta standard.  Some tartness.  Overall it was disappointing…I had really been looking forward to trying this one (its difficult to find this side of the border and I’d always rather taste something than commit to a bottle, especially when its in that $20 price range for a 750ml).  I will say that it hid the alcohol very well though, and was well-crafted.  I really love their Prohibition, but that is a completely different flavor profile!

bramble bubbly

Snowdrift Cliffbreaks Blend (Wenatchee WA).  7.6% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  I picked up a lot of pear notes with this one for some reason?  Its supposed to be more of an English / bittersweet apple cider with some melon & dried fruit notes.  A bit tart with a hint of citrus too.  I tried it at a different time than the Perry (below) too.  Bold flavor, but I didn’t really get that richness I was expecting.  Very tasty nonetheless.  This is probably the most popular of their regular line.  Their Red & Cornice are probably their most popular overall.  I was happy to hear they are increasing production & distribution of both of those, as they are my favorites…the Red slightly more so, which is odd as barrel aged is usually my favorite.  I was very happy to pick up two bottles of Red for $12 each at Whole Food’s 20% off cider day (Friday of Cider Summit).  Its a good thing I picked them up near home, as they were out at the one near the Summit.

Snowdrift Perry (Wenatchee WA).  10.1% ABV.  Semi-dry.  I was expecting different with this one…I tasted a lot of bitterness & tartness, and only a very mild pear flavor.  I haven’t had too many true perries though, so I probably didn’t know what to really expect.  Its made in the labor-intensive way of Méthode Champenoise (secondary fermentation).  I wasn’t really a fan.  Red is definitely still my favorite from Snowdrift….and it was getting a lot of love at the Summit!

Sonoma Cider Dry Zider (Healdsburg CA).  6.9% ABV.  Cider aged in Red Zinfandel oak barrels for 7 months.  Rosé wine-like cider.  Very dry (0.3 BRIX).  Light berry/salmon color.  A bit tart.  Nice fizz.  Not bad, but not really my sort of cider.  This one is a special release that is available now (has slowly been rolling out for a few months).

Sonoma Cider The Pulley (Healdsburg CA).  unknown ABV.  This is a brand new variety for them, and launched at the event (not even bottled yet)!  They referred to it as absinthe-style, and said the only addition was fennel.  Dry.  Slight herbal flavor.  Very unique.  Not bad, but not my sort of cider.  I got to meet David (one of the cidermakers, with his son Robert).

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Amity Rose 2012 (Corvallis OR).  6.5% ABV.  Made from traditional French and English cider apples grown in Amity OR.  Semi-sweet (but maybe it just came across that way?  I’m guessing it would test drier).  Rather plain, but wine-like with some honey notes.

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Bourbon Barrel 2012 (Corvallis OR).  6.9% ABV.  On the sweeter side of dry.  Strong unique bourbon barrel flavor, but not overwhelming.  Very smooth.  Light bodied.  Higher in tannins.  Aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for 4 months (apparently they got their barrels very wet, so it adds more of the flavor of the spirit).  Made with Dabinett & Kingston Black cider apples and wine yeast.  Awesome!  This was my first time trying their Traditions line, which uses cider apples and is sold in 750 ml bottles (vs. the regular 2 Towns line which uses dessert apples and is sold in 500ml bottles, plus a couple selections in cans).  Definitely try this one if you can find some!  I was very happy to get my hands on a bottle (at Full Throttle Bottles, as they ran out at Cider Summit, or couldn’t find it or whatever).

Traditions Ciderworks (by 2 Towns) Riverwood 2013 (Corvallis OR).  6.9% ABV.  Semi-sweet.  Made with Jonagold apples (a cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan) and inspired by sparkling brut champagnes.  I found it very similar to their Amity Rose but slightly sweeter, with some floral notes.  I imagine if I sat down with both of them I’d have better tasting notes, but I had just a few sips of each one after the other.

Wandering Aengus Oaked Dry (Salem OR).  6.8% ABV.  Made from English and French bittersweet apples.  Dry.  Mild barrel earthy flavor.  Fairly easy drinking for a barrel aged cider.  Like all of their ciders though, I picked up more bitterness than I prefer, so I’m not a big fan.

Whitewood Whisky Barrel Aged Kingston Black (Olympia WA).  9.7% ABV.  I was really looking forward to this one (mostly as Kingston Black is a famous epitome of a cider apple and I’ve never had a single varietal of it), and it didn’t disappoint!  Apparently this isn’t a true single varietal (ended up 80% Kingston Black and 20% Porter’s Perfection due to some pressing difficulty due to the type of apples), but very close.  Aged almost 2 years in Wishkaw River whiskey barrels!  Dry.  Significant rich barrel flavor.  Higher acidity and tannins with some tartness.  Longer finish.  Very similar to Traditions Bourbon Barrel, but more cider apple than (good) boozy flavor (although this one is higher ABV as Kingston Black has a high sugar content).  Quite different from their Summer Switchel I tried previously.  Definitely try this one if you can find some (very small run)!

Woodinville Ciderworks Tropical (Woodinville WA).  6.3% ABV.  Tap pour.  Cider from dessert apple juice (granny smith, gala, fuji, etc, from Fruit Smart) with mango & passionfruit essence (fresh made concentrate) to backsweeten.  Semi-sweet.  Definitely some nice bold tropical flavor going on.  Mild tartness.  Good fizz.  Definitely a tasty easy drinking cider that I think with the right price and advertising would sell well.  I found it very interesting that the cidermaker/owner Leroy said he made this (added: put the finishing touches on this) Tuesday for the weekend event, comparing to his experience in the wine industry where it takes much longer to get out a product.  (added: the cider was tank aged for 4 months and back sweetened just before the event)  Most craft cidermakers I’ve talked to will at least tank age then bottle age a bit, if not bottle condition, their ciders, so although the product is done quickly, they don’t consider it ready for many months.  This event was their release!  They said bottles should be in stores in about a month.  Overall I think its a solid introductory craft cider, kinda similar to Atlas.  The flavor of their Tropical reminded me a bit of Rev Nat’s Revival, although Rev Nat didn’t add any tropical flavor to the cider (it was all from the yeast, which must have been difficult).  I’m very intrigued to see what they will price their bottles at.

Worley’s Special Reserve (Shepton Mallet England).  5.4% ABV.  A keeved bottle conditioned cider made from cider apple varieties.  Semi-sweet.  Slightly hazy, moderate tartness, and high tannins.  This was my first time trying their cider, although I have a bottle of their “Premium Vintage” at home.  It was a solid selection, but nothing too remarkable.  Maybe as it wasn’t all that cold and had lost some fizz, which is a drawback of bottle pours from events like this.

So, what were my favorite ciders you may ask?  Traditions Bourbon Barrel followed by Whitewood Kingston Black.  Both were fairly similar bold barrel aged ciders, which is my typical favorite cider type.  I was disappointed I couldn’t get a bottle of either at the event (they were out or couldn’t find them or whatever).  However, I was able to try the Whitewood Kingston Black again at the Bill Bradshaw tasting event with 9 local cideries at Capitol Cider the Tuesday after Cider Summit, and found a bottle of the Traditions Bourbon Barrel at Full Throttle Bottles.

Other favorites included Liberty’s English Style, Eden Heirloom Blend, Moonlight Meadery How do you like them apples bourbon barrel, and Montana Ciderworks Darby Pub Cider.  Definitely impressed.  I didn’t really have a single bad cider (there aren’t too many out there), although there were some I didn’t care for.  Stay tuned for Cider Summit 2015 post 2/2, and posts on the remaining two Washington Cider Week events I went to!

Let me know what you think!  Comments please.

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Sonoma Cider The Anvil

Review of Sonoma Cider’s The Anvil, a bourbon flavored cider.

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Cider:  The Anvil
Cidery: Sonoma Cider
Cidery Location:  Healdsburg CA
ABV:  6.0%
How Supplied: four pack of green 12oz bottles (or a single 22oz bottle)
Availability:  Year-round, semi-wide release in U.S. (plus Canada & China apparently!)

Cider Description:  David and Robert both love Bourbon. We mean love bourbon. Maybe that’s why they didn’t beat around the bush here. Sure, you can age subtly in bourbon barrels. And subtlety is sometimes enough. But, with the Anvil, the real spark ignited when we tossed nuance aside and added a healthy measure of our proprietary barrel-proof bourbon flavor. Suddenly, something intense, alive and memorable happened. To our palates, it offers a clean, lively, aromatic presence with a layered smoky finish. It’s truly integrated and rounded, yet vitally distinct. Enjoy.

Blend of organic Yakima Valley Fuji and Granny Smith apples.  2.7 BRIX.  3.75 pH acidity.

Cidery Description:  Sonoma Cider handcrafts the only full line of organic ciders in the U.S., each made with distinctive, all natural, gluten-free ingredients. Sonoma Ciders are produced from freshly squeezed, organic apples in micro batches to deliver intensity of flavor and a refined experience for this rapidly growing category. The company was founded in 2013 by 20-year veteran cidermaster, David Cordtz, with his son and co-founder, Robert Cordtz. Together they combine decades of industry expertise with next generation dynamism.

[at least Alpenfire is also Organic, by the way]

Price:  ~$2.50 for a single 12oz bottle (or $8-10 for a four pack)
Where Bought: Special Brews in Lynnwood WA (I’ve also seen it at Total Wine & Whole Foods, among other places)
Where Drank:  home
How Found: Initially, by browsing Total Wine.  This time thought I had thought it would be an interesting one to review, so I picked up a bottle.

First Impression: Copper amber with a slight yellow sheen.  Quite carbonated upon pouring.  I smell smokey apple and bourbon

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Opinion:  Between semi-sweet & semi-dry.  I pick up smoke, bourbon, ripe apple, woodiness / earthiness, and caramelized sugar.  I like the higher carbonation level of this cider.  There is the slightest bit of tartness & acidity, although I tend to be sensitive to that.  This is bourbon flavored, not bourbon barrel aged, which is an interesting approach.  I quite like the Bourbon flavor (even though I don’t like Bourbon); I think it was done well, is fairly mild, and doesn’t taste fake or artificial.  Quick finishing.

I’ve had this cider a few times.  I have also tried Sonoma Cider’s other current offerings (Pitchfork, Hatchet, Crowbar, & Washboard), but The Anvil is my favorite, probably followed by The Pitchfork (pear).  Apparently Sonoma Cider also has “Dry Zider”, aged in Zinfadel wine barrels, their first Reserve Series, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Closing Notes:  Tasty!  Fairly easy to drink too.  Also, Sonoma Cider is a good fairly widely available craft cider alternative to commercial cider.

Have you tried Sonoma Cider’s The Anvil, or anything else they make?  What did you think?

Saturday Tasting Notes – Sonoma Cider The Crowbar & Possmann Pure Cider

Random Saturday cider tasting, awesome!

Sonoma Cider The Crowbar

The Crowbar is a limited release Habanero-Lime cider from Sonoma Cider (available since May 2015).  I’ve been wanting to try this variety but was unsure if it was something I’d immediately want to dump out, between the spice and the dryness, so I’ve held off.  I was lucky enough to attend a tasting event of Sonoma Cider at Whole Foods in Lynnwood WA today (where I got to meet Sarah from Cider Log!).  They were offering their Hatchet (apple), Pitchfork (pear), Anvil (bourbon), and Crowbar (habanero-lime) ciders.  They also have The Washboard (another limited run cider, with sarsaparilla & vanilla), which I definitely wasn’t a fan of but my husband loved, which they weren’t tasting.

crowbar

Opinion: With a good sniff some spice is definitely perceived.  Upon tasting, I pick up both habanero and lime.  The lime is more present than for example Schilling’s Sriracha Lime, which helps calm down the heat.  It also had less spice & bite to it than the two other spicy ciders I’ve tried (Schilling Sriracha Lime and Finnriver Habanero), but was definitely spicy.  I was expecting it to be much more dry as it only has 2 grams of sugar in 12 oz (1.1 Brix), but I perceived it as semi-dry instead of bone dry for some reason.  The sample (a few sips) was drinkable enough, but this isn’t something I’d want to buy even a can of.  I just don’t think spicy ciders are for me.  More of a novelty?  Apparently some folks have got this to cook with.  I think I’ll stick with their Anvil (bourbon flavored) cider, which I think is quite tasty.

Possmann Pure Cider

I stumbled across a tasting at World Market today which included a cider, Possmann Pure Cider (from Kelterei Possmann in Frankfurt Germany).  “Possmann Pure Cider has a perfect balance of rich apple flavor while not to sweet and finishing dry. The flavor comes from our unique source of apples which are harvested exclusively from our 800+ farmers in the Hessen region of Germany. Our typical framer has 3 to 15 naturally occurring apple trees on their land that are not part of a cultivated orchard. These country apples provide a uniquely rich apple flavor.”

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Opinion:  Crisp/clean & smooth but overly appley apple flavor.  Sweet but not very sweet.  Tastes sugary and overly appley, and I guessed it was back sweetened with apple juice concentrate.  I was right!  Further, they actually add pure sugar after fermentation (listed on the ingredient list).  I’m surprised the cost of this cider (~$9 for four 11oz bottles) is so much more than its competitors, Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, etc (same price for six 12oz bottles), and that they would actually import this stuff.  I imagine real German cider is better (I have one in the cue).  I’d put it as better than Angry Orchard & Strongbow but not as good as Woodchuck.