Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve

Review of Snowdrift’s Cidermaker’s Reserve.  I have sampled it twice before (see here and here), but I’m doing a full review this time.  I’ve also tried most of Snowdrift’s line-up:  CorniceRedPerryCliffbreaks BlendDrySemi-DrySeckel Perry, and Orchard Select.

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Cider:  Cidermaker’s Reserve
Cidery:  Snowdrift
Cidery Location:  East Wenatchee WA
ABV:  9.0%
How Supplied:  750ml corked & caged champagne bottles
Style:  American artisan cider from heirloom & bittersweet apples (2014 harvest), Methode Champenoise, aged 3 years

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Availability:  Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (see here), although this is a more limited release.  They also have an online store

Cider Description:  Taking the best of the best of our ciders, Cidermaker’s Reserve is a celebration of all the rich complexity cider apples have to offer. After a year of maturation, this cider then begins the full Méthode Champenoise process of in-bottle fermentation, which develops further layers of nuance. The labor of love pays off; its months of conditioning, riddling, and finishing yield a dry cider with continuously unfolding layers of spicy bittersweet apple character, citrusy brightness, and subtleties of toffee, aromatic wood and earth. 

Cidery Description:  We craft our ciders from great cider apples that we grow on our orchard in sunny East Wenatchee, WA. Our incredible region gives our trees the ideal conditions to grow apples packed with the flavors necessary to produce fine ciders. Hot sunny summers and cold snowy winters result in apples that mature with incredible aromatics and delicious flavors. When ripened to perfection, we pick these apples and craft them with the utmost care into fine cider blends, resulting in rich ciders full of delicious complexity.

Price:  $19
Where Bought:  Schilling Cider House in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  I had tried it before, but my husband really wanted a bottle (this is probably his all time favorite cider).

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First Impression:  Light gold amber hue.  High carbonation.  Smells acidic and fruity/grapey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied with a fluffy fizzy texture.  Moderate tartness.  Moderate to high acidity.  Low bitterness.  Low to moderate tannins.  No sourness.  Hints of funk.  Notes of pomegranate, white grape, stone fruit, leather, butterscotch, lemon, and orange.  Moderate to long warming finish, the only time when the 9% ABV is noticeable.  Low apple flavor.  Moderate sessionability and flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity.

My Opinion:  Great!  I enjoy this cider.  Unique, complex, and bubbly, whats not to like?  However, to me it almost tastes more like champagne than sparkling cider, except for the tannins.

Most Similar to:  Nothing all that close, but in the same ballpark is AEppeltreow Appley Doux (slightly sweeter, and more green apple & floral), Alpenfire Cinders (much drier), and 2 Towns Traditions Riverwood Brut (more subtle)

Closing Notes:  My favorites from Snowdrift are the Red, Cornice, Cliffbreaks Blend, and Cidermaker’s Reserve.

Have you tried Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve?  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?

Snowdrift Cornice

This is an interesting barrel aged special release from Snowdrft, and my first time trying anything from them.


Cider:  Cornice
Cidery:  Snowdrift
Cidery Location:  East Wenatchee WA
ABV:  7.3%
How Supplied:  750ml bottle
Availability:  This appears to be a special release.  Although they could have done another run, the last run of this I see info about online was in 2013!  So, this may be an old bottle.

Description on Bottle:  In our region, winter tends to whip layers of snow into majestic formations called cornices.  They hang in a gravity-defying balance – ready to cascade at any moment into a rushing avalanche.  We wanted to craft a cider to carry these traits…So we aged cider in oak barrels, knitting tannins and aromas into an avalanche of flavors.  Notes of bourbon vanilla, fall fruit, and toffee coalesce into this off-dry cider.  60% culinary cider, 40% bittersharp cider, aged 12 months in oak barrels.  Bottle 107.  Batch 113.

Price:  $16.99 (yeah, ouch, but it is a large bottle of specialty local cider)
Where Bought:  The Wine Shop in Arlington WA (interesting place by the way, which out of about 10 ciders they had, I hadn’t seen 4 or 5 of them anywhere else!)
How Found: Browsing.  I had wanted to try something by Snowdrift, but was still deciding.
Where Drank:  home

Opinion:  This is a unique cider, quite different than what I usually try, although barrel aged varieties are my favorite.  It is more dry than I usually like, but I’d still only call it semi-dry.  The flavor is well-balanced, not too much oak taste, and some vanilla.  It is a bit on the tart side for my taste, but I imagine some of that is the dryness.  Very low carbonation, and a nice hue.  The label on the bottle and even the cork itself is well-designed and has their pretty logo.  I’m glad I tried this one, and I can definitely see how their ciders are very well received, but I don’t think its quite for me, mostly due to the dryness (or at least not worth the additional cost in my eyes).  I’d recommend it for those who like drier barrel aged ciders and who like to try what awesome craft ciders Washington has to offer.  It would be a good intro to barrel aged ciders as the barrel taste isn’t too strong.

Update:  In case anyone is curious, day 2 of being open was the sweet spot for this cider for me.  On the first day it had a bit more bite / tartness.  On the second day it seemed to have lost some of that.  By the third day however it was flat and pretty tasteless.  I imagine the flip closed stopper I have helped though.  Guess I need to drink quicker, or find someone to share it with!