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Entries in review (3)


Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

In Michigan apples and cider are just as serious business as they are in the Northeast or the Northwest. The Michigan cider scene also seems to be vibrant, well organized and also showing signs of growth. Locally they organize the Michigan Cider Guild which looks to be made up of juice makers and hard cider producers. Annually the Great Lakes Cider and Perry Association puts on the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition which will be held next in early April 2011. Thus far the "GLINT CAP" is the only exclusively International cider and perry competition in North America. This contest has become an important yearly event on the North American cider calendar and is likely considered the most prestigious contest amongst fellow cidermakers here.

Michigan cidermaking/winemaking boys Mike Beck of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery and Lee Lutes of Black Star FarmsIf you know Michigan cider, then you probably know about Mike Beck and Uncle John's Fruit House Winery. Mike is easily one of the best cider folks I've become acquainted with. From the get-go it was obvious he was very passionate about cider. He was also one of the first to reach out to me with conversation, kind words, support, and even cider. I finally had the pleasure to meet Mike in person at CiderDays in Western Massachussets. I tell you something about Mike... This guy seems to be everywhere, doing everything he can to promote cider as a whole, not just his own products. I'd be shocked if he wasn't considered one of the major forces within and behind the Michigan cider community these days.

In Michigan Uncle John's is one of the best places to go to for craft cider. Each year Mike presents a solid lineup of ciders to choose from. Regular offerings include Apple, Pear, Apple Cherry and other Seasonal cider varieties. If that weren't enough Uncle John's also have an array of wines from grapes, fruit, and yes even honey wines. I also should mention Uncle John's "dabbles" in some delectable custom distillates like Apple Vodka and Apple Brandy. If you'd like to take a peek I have a good number of the Uncle John's bottles, including the distillates, photographed and posted in my Cider Gallery.

A couple months back we tasted and discussed Uncle John's Seasonal 2008 that sent by Mike to me this early last year. Heather and I took some solid tasting notes and this is what we thought...


Uncle John's Fruit House Winery - Seasonal Cider 2008

Uncle John's 2008 Seasonal Cider is a beautiful bright, vivid, pale straw color. We found the appearance of this cider to clear, near brilliant, and it seemed to almost be glistening . It had a steady stream of good effervescence, slightly stronger than fizzy and closer to sparkling.

The cider's aroma was light, delicate and subtle with fresh floral characteristics and of a good and pleasant quality. Very clean, dry and herbaceous, with glimmers of fresh herb and spices, ripe pears, thyme, lemongrass, lemon and other zesty citrus.

The 2008 Seasonal is a somewhat dry cider with only a kiss of sweetness, a refreshing acidic bite complimented by a very light touch of briny saltiness. We found this to be a buttery cider, laced with flavors of citrus, lemon, and pear. In fact it also had an interesting slight "pickle-like" quality that I've come to associate with perry.

There was an good amount of tannic astringency and bitterness to enjoy. Cider body was balanced and near perfect for my taste. A tad past medium bodied with some respectable heft and substance to it, yet not too heavy, with good length and a pleasant finish... Right where one would hope to find a high quality craft cider.

Overall we really enjoyed this cider. It only got better once we were both able to put the pencils down and just kick back with it. A delicious balanced cider on the drier side with lots of character. It possessed a fantastic mouth watering acidity followed conversely by a near mouth drying tannin astringency inevitably leaving us wanting more.

Uncle John's Fruit House Winery Seasonal Cider 2008 has everything I like in a good craft cider. Character, tannin, acid. If you enjoy a solid dry cider this one is for you.


Farnum Hill Cider ~ Kingston Black Reserve '07 Single Variety Still Cider 

Farnum Hill Kingston Black in the bright sunshine. Farnum Hill Kingston Black in the bright sunshine.Since last Fall I have been anxiously awaiting the perfect occasion to crack open this very special bottle of cider sent to me by my buddy Al. Thanks Al! Waiting patiently all the while eying the calendar. Cider reaches an early peak when compared to wines and should generally be enjoyed young. I thought Heather and my recent 5 year anniversary and trip to the beach about met the needs of the special occasion requirement so we brought packed it up and brought it on with us to the beach to taste.

You just don't run across single variety in these parts. I personally hope that changes. West County Ciders in Colrain Massachusetts has an astonishing line up of 10 single varietal ciders from both heirloom and cider apple varieties listed on their website. Including their own Kingston Black.

Kingston Black Cider Apple Kingston Black Cider AppleAlthough debated, the Kingston Black variety of "cider" apple is touted to be THE CIDER APPLE. The one with the most balanced flavors and substantial complexity, it has what most consider to be a perfectly balanced trifecta of sweetness, acidity, and tannin characteristics. It has acceptable sugar levels for adequately strong cider. The Kingston Black is a popular choice in nearly any cider orchard and a favored selection for making a single varietal cider. Is it the most popular single varietal cider? I couldn't say but I would suspect it is or among the top 2 or 3.

If you read this blog at all you'll soon find out that I think Farnum Hill Cider is at the top of the North American Cider list. At one time it was available to me in Oregon, sadly Farnum Hill is no longer available to us here on the Left Coast. Some of us are holding out hope that one day they will return.


Farnum Hill Kingston Black Reserve 2007
Farnum Hill Cider ~ Kingston Black Reserve '07 Single Variety Still Cider Farnum Hill Cider ~ Kingston Black Reserve '07 Single Variety Still Cider

I was a little surprised by the color of this cider, and believe me I've been wondering what it was going to look like and what color it would be. I thought we would see a bit of gold or amber in the glass. What we got was a pure, bright, light gold/pale straw color. The clarity was very clear, bordering brilliant. The Farnum Hill Kingston Black is still cider but we did observe tiny micro-bubble effervescence. I can't say it was detectable in the mouthfeel so maybe just a byproduct of pouring or the drive to the beach. Overall impression of appearance was "Very Good".

Aroma was fairly intense and of an exceptional quality. Direct, fresh, very clean, bright and refreshing. Started with a nose of apricot and dried apricot transitioning to honey and floral notes of jasmine and honeysuckle. I find well made ciders to be entrancing sometimes. You close your eyes, breathe in deep, and don't ever want the sensation of that bouquet to disappear.

Farnum Hill Ciders are generally speaking from my experience very punchy and in your face. Strong acidity. The single varietal Kingston Black was much more subdued, lighter, and more delicate than I presumed. Impressive and delicious none the less. We got flavors of lemon, lemon verbena, fresh herb, basil, lime, green apple. We detected a very Perry-like fresh cucumber quality.  Sweetness was certainly light to slight but detectable and yup it did have some of that characteristic Farnum Hill acidity too. Like the color and the aroma, the flavor was also very clean, refreshing, and crisp. While tannins were present, they weren't overwhelming. Middle of the road I'd say but fitting for this cider and about par with most of the fresh Kingston Blacks I've ever tasted.

The mouthfeel and body was still, medium to light bodied, very balanced with moderate astringency and medium length. As stellar as the rest of course. Completely in sync with the whole of this cider. 'nough said.

Overall we deemed it was a "Very Good Plus". Unoffensive, approachable, friendly cider with tons of character if you take the time to hear it out. The kind of delicate cider to be savored, sipped slowly from a fine wine glass. It may not be for everyone but everyone should buy it and try it. Stands up to and is a great counterpart to dry salami, prosciutto or charcuterie of nearly any kind I imagine. Sharp cheeses as with most ciders are a plus too.

Check back soon. I have a ton more ciders out in my "cider fridge" waiting to be looked at, sniffed, tasted, over analyzed and written about. During this same trip we also tasted the aptly named Rumrunner (oddly enough from 2007 too) from Sea Cider on Vancouver Island of Canada's West Coast which need written about. We have some Uncle John's Fruit House Winery Ciders that were sent to me some time ago that I'm anxious to write about. I also received a generous sample pack from Diane at Foggy Ridge Cider that needs serious attention.


Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider

Blossomwood Cidery - Farmhouse Sem-Sweet Blossomwood Cidery - Farmhouse Sem-Sweet Label Art

This cider came to attention and my doorstep through what I can only call divine intervention. I think... Let's just call it a wonder of the internet. Whatever the case I'm very glad it it did. I sat down on a nice Summer evening with my girlfriend Heather and her brother Dave and had what I would consider real cider tasting. Tasting, focusing, concentrating, translating and recording the data with the sole purpose of writing this. I only hope we did it the justice it deserves.

In the bottle and then subsequently in the glass Blossomwood's Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider had an absolute crystal clear brilliance and light straw-like golden colored luminance. As clear as you could hope for with a clear pale gold with a sort of warm peachy rosé hue. Nice to look at. I know you can't judge a cider by it's clarity but as I looked at this cider it was hard not to get excited about what was to come.

The Aroma. As I recorded it we thought the cider had a clean sweet oakiness character with sweet aromas of brown sugar, caramel, apple pie, apple crisp. natural, clean, slightly baked and fresh baked.

Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider Blossomwood Cidery - Semi-Sweet Farmhouse Cider

I generally prefer dry cider but Blossomwood's Semi-Sweet Farmhouse really skewed my impression of what a "sweeter" cider could offer. Far from the "tastes like fresh apple juice" cider  or "hard cider" cliche I found it to be intensely refreshing and not overly sweet. Crisp fresh baked tangy apple flavors and well rounded grilled pineapple sweet acidity. Gracefully almost unnoticeably it finishes gently, nice and dry leaving just enough of an oaky tannin sort of impression behind. A little earthy even. Golden, baked, crisp, clean, refreshing, sort of earthy... Sounds like Colorado to me.

I don't know of much cider activity out Colorado way but they can rest assured Blossomwood seems like a traditional cider maker that does it right. Given chance and availability this cider could be a hit with just about anyone, from the hardcore discriminate cider traditionalist to the cider new-comer you are longing to ween off the Woodchuck. Approachable levels of complexity, oakiness and character, this semi-sweet can surely hold his own against some of the best North American ciders I've tasted. Given the chance I'd pick it up again in a second and drink it nearly as fast. If I had any criticism I might say it really didn't push the envelope, then again I do find myself wondering if semi-sweet ciders should.

If you live in or near Western Colorado look for it...