Dragon’s Head Heritage Rosé

Review of Dragon’s Head Heritage Rosé cider, made from red-fleshed apples.  This differs from a modern rosé cider which would add non-apple juice, hibiscus, etc, to get the red hue.  I tried this at a WA Cider Week preview event at Dragon Head’s own orchard (see here), plus I’ve had their Traditional CiderWild FermentedKingston BlackColumbia Crab, Methode Champenoise Perry, Perry, ManchurianSummer Cider, and Heritage.

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Cider:  Heritage Rosé
Cidery:  Dragon’s Head Cider
Cidery Location:  Vashon Island WA
ABV:  6.9%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  American craft orchard-based heritage rosé cider from red-fleshed apples

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Availability:  probably only in Washington and Oregon (see a list of retailers here), plus online sales

Cider Description:  Our Heritage Rosé Cider gets its lively pink color entirely from the Redfield and Mountain Rose apples we use to make it. Unlike typical apple varieties, in the Spring the blossoms on these trees are pink, the leaves are even a reddish bronze, and amazingly the flesh of these unique apples is red in color. When the apples are pressed the juice is a crimson color that lightens and clears into the beautiful rosé that you see in the bottle.

Cidery Description:  From apple to bottle, all right here on our farm.  At Dragon’s Head Cider, we take a traditional approach to cider making. Our focus is on the apple varieties that we use and the quality of the fruit. We love the story that apples alone can tell through cider, altering the flavor by changing the blend of apple varieties that we carefully select. The process is simple and the ingredients list is short. Perhaps we’re a little old fashioned.

Price:  ~ $19
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  a tasting event (see here),

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First Impression:  Medium pink hue.  Very low carbonation.  Smells mild and fruity.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-dry.  Light bodied.  Low to moderate tartness and acidity.  Hints of tannins and bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of complex heirloom & tart green apple with hints of lemon, berry, rhubarb, and watermelon.  Moderate length tart finish.  Low apple flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity.  Moderate complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  I enjoyed it.  However, I personally prefer ciders which are a bit sweeter and fuller flavored.  I’d recommend this for folks who like a fruity cider but without the sweetness that most have.  I’m always amazed by how many different flavors can occur just from apples, like the fruitiness from red-fleshed apples.

Most Similar to:  Other heritage rosé ciders made from 100% red-fleshed apples, such as Snowdrift Red (a tad sweeter and more tart), Tieton Russian Red (sweeter), Alpenfire Glow (much sweeter and very full-flavored), and Alpenfire Cinders (drier and super bubbly since its methode champenoise).

Closing Notes:  I’m often torn between heritage and modern ciders, as they both have so much to offer, but thankfully I don’t have to choose between them.

Have you tried heritage rosé cider from red-fleshed apples?  What did you think?

Snowdrift Summer Red

Review of Snowdrift Summer Red.  This is the second cider I’ve tried from Snowdrift (the first was Cornice), and the first time I’ve had cider from red-fleshed apples.  Although there are a few other ciders to be found from red-fleshed apples, they are pretty rare.

Variety Note:  Per Snowdrift, “Summer Red” is being re-named simply to “Red”, and they are phasing out their similar Winter Red variety except for selected draft customers.  Their Winter Red variety is a more intense higher alcohol version of Summer Red (9.0% ABV), and even more limited in availability.  Their Red cider is one of their most popular varieties, and difficult to find.  It has previously also been called “Nebula Red”.

Special Thanks:  Tim Larsen, owner & cidermaker at Snowdrift, was gracious enough to answer my questions and provide extra information on this cider.

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I really love their logo and bottle labels!

Cider:  Summer Red
Cidery:  Snowdrift
Cidery Location:  East Wenatchee WA
ABV:  7.6%
Residual Sugar:  4.3%
How Supplied:  750ml brown glass bottle, champagne corked & caged (also available in kegs); I drank bottle 256 of batch 214

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Availability:  WA, OR, CA, NY, NJ, & MA.  Soon they will offer sales directly to consumers in 22 states from their website!  Here is an interesting article on direct to consumer cider sales.

Cider Description:  Made entirely from red fleshed apples, from trees imported from Switzerland, only a couple generations removed from their native ancestors in the hills of Kazakhstan.  All flavor components and color are natural to the apples.  Red fleshed apples are an uncommon strain of apples that naturally developed the color pigments in the flesh of the apples, not just the skin.  These apples are very tart & sour, giving great berry notes, particularly strawberry & cranberry.  Depending on the apple variety, hints of watermelon and rhubarb can also be found.  Their brilliant red flesh yields a crimson red cider with bright acidity.  This cider is packed with flavors of cranberries, watermelon, rhubarb, & strawberries, finishing with soft toffee tones.  Summer Red received a silver medal this year from Craft Competition.

Snowdrift’s red-fleshed apples, cross-section:

red flesh

Cidery Description:  Snowdrift is a farm-based cidery in sunny central Washington which grows over 35 varieties of cider apples which are blended into their ciders, available since 2009.  They aim to showcase the best flavors from the special apple varieties, aging them to allow the tannins to mature into rich flavors before bottling.  Tours and tastings are available.

Price:  $20
Where Bought:  Whole Foods
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I’ve read about it online and had been on the hunt to find a bottle.

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First Impression:  Brilliant coral berry pinkish red.  Highly carbonated with a foam head / ring.  Lovely berry-apple scent.  I was enjoying the scent so much I almost didn’t want to start drinking the cider!  But, I was very glad I did.

Opinion:  On the sweeter side of semi-dry.  I pick up berry, watermelon, and cranberry notes.  Moderate tartness and acidity.  I was afraid it would be too tart for my liking, but the tartness worked really well with the flavor profile and was balanced with some sweetness.  Refreshing, smooth, and crisp.  Great summertime beverage!  Easy to drink too, and since I had help drinking this one, the bottle was quickly empty.  Unique and well-crafted.  Although Snowdrift’s ciders are a bit spendy, you can really taste the difference and how much work goes into making a bottle of good craft cider (here is a recent Cider Journal article on that topic).  My three of my companions all really enjoyed this cider too.  What a treat!

Closing Notes:   Awesome!  I’ll have to pick up more if I can find some.  Highly recommended.  This is a nice profile piece on Snowdrift from Serious Eats, although a bit old (from 2011).  Here is a more recent one from 2014 from TDHURST.  I look forward to trying more cider varieties from Snowdrift.  This one from Pepper & Rye has some lovely photos of the Snowdrift cidery & orchards from 2014, and explains the Méthode Champenoise process they use.

Have you tried any red cider varieties from Snowdrift or other cideries?  What did you think?