Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cider Review: Aspall Cider's Grand Cru

Aspall Cider has been in the news this past week or so because the company was just sold to Molson(http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42595870). I have a few bottles of Aspall in my cupboard already, and I've been a fan since I discovered the brand in 2010. I found them when traveling to the Cambridge to present a paper. This blog was not yet a gleam in my eye because I thought I was going to be a literature professor who just happened to spend her evenings drinking cider when grading papers and thinking about Oscar Wilde. A lot has changed in eight years.

I don't know what will happen to the 300 plus year old brand under Molson's ownership. But I certainly feel motivated to review what I have by them now, in case things do change.

I've reviewed one other Aspall previously, the Imperial English Cider:http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/11/cider-review-aspall-imperial-english.html

That one made it to my 2nd favorite cider slot in 2015. It was wonderful. http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2015.html

Once before I reviewed a previous release of the Grand Cru. It was part of a roundup based on a Bellwether staff party tasting. http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/02/cider-review-roundup-virtue-slyboro.html

But since that bottle was years old in 2015, I'm really curious what this fresher bottle and newer release will be like.

Here's the Aspall official description of the Grand Cru:
Rich, golden colour. Traditional bittersweet cyder-apple aroma with orchard fruit and floral notes. 
Palate initially slightly sweet, then mouthfilling and full bodied.Complex array of fruit flavours balanced by gorgeous soft tannins, producing a bone dry finish. 
Very long aftertaste, a true sign of a classic cyder of the highest quality”. An ideal partner for highly flavoured meat dishes, especially duck confit and exotic food from Asia and North African with a hint of sweetness.

Appearance: brilliant, squash, some bubbles

The Grand Cru forms a delicate ring of bubbles at the borders of the glass, and a small nest of them seem to pool and wait at the bottom as well. I'll call the color somewhere between mango and pumpkin or squash flesh. The cider is totally brilliant

Aromas: overripe apples, leather, tea, orange

This cider smells as lovely as it looks. Notes in the aromas include overripe apples, soft leather, spicy tea, and orange. These notes play together harmoniously more than strike out on their own in any intense way. I also get a background blend of wet grass and leaves. Its a very pleasantly earthy set of aromas.

Sweetness/dryness: semi-sweet

This cider is what I think gets called medium sweet in English cider terminology (If I'm wrong, please let me know). I'd call it a semi-sweet for my palate and labelling conventions that the North American cider industry is headed toward. What's notable though is the type of sweetness; its mellow and fruity and very natural.

Flavors and drinking experience: very tannic, medium acid, chalky, soft

Like all of my favorite English ciders, this cider is very tannic and rich. It has apple flavors all over the place. Between the sweetness and the tannins, this mouthfeel is absolute dream. The cider is more than just that though. Its a touch chalky and a little more acidic than most english ciders. I'd say the chalkiness is easily attributable to the moderate levels of oxidation that are part of the regional maturation process for Aspall ciders.

That same process is what makes the cider taste mature, woody, and well balanced. The soft leather notes apparent in the aroma persist pleasantly in the drinking experience. I can also get some floral and spice notes. Guys, this is so yummy. I can describe the balance and the notes at length, but my overall impression is love. This cider pleases me to no end. I hope I can get this experience again and again for years to come.

I had my cider with a veggie casserole, affectionate dogs, and the best possible company. The Grand Cru was an integral element in lovely winter night.

Thank you, Aspall for making something special that delights me so much.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cider Review: Snowdrift Cider Co.'s Cornice

Whew! I don’t know about you, but much of the United States just made it through the #bombcyclone (Bombogenesis) and Winter Storm Grayson. It was snowy, windy, and seriously cold. Mostly, this was terrible. But this kind of weather really is perfect for curling up at home in a cozy fashion. And nothing goes better with cozying up than a glass of cider. And this time, it may have been the only way I survived cabin fever. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on one of the ciders that helped us in the cold.

I've not reviewed anything by Snowdrift Cider Co. before because I simply never see it for sale. I've been curious about them for ages. I finally picked up a bottle when traveling to San Francisco. They are based in Central Washington State on the Columbia River where they grow apples, make cider, and keep a tasting room open on weekends. Their orchard dates back to the 1960s and includes eating apples, heritage apple varieties, crabs, and apples best used for cider. The cidery dates from 2008.

I love this excerpt of how they introduce themselves and their cidermaking:
All of our ciders start with tree ripe fruit that we carefully crush and ferment. Often unsightly and a challenge to eat fresh, the French, English and old American cider apple varieties we grow to make our ciders carry intense aromatic flavors that shine through fermentation and aging. As the cider ages through the cold snowy winter, the bitter tannins that made the fruit so edgy while fresh give way to soft, complex and surprising flavors that linger and evolve on the palate. Our ciders are best served at a cool room temperature.

You can learn more on the company's website: http://www.snowdriftcider.com/

Today's cider is the Barrel-Aged Cornice. Here's the official description:
In our region, winter winds 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 in this off-dry cider.This cider's smooth complexity and luscious vanilla-toffee notes pair well with grilled meets, pulled pork, bacon-wrapped dates, as well as rich desserts. Alcohol 7.5% by volume.

Appearance: brilliant, deep copper, few bubbles

I don't see a lot of visible bubbles, here but I see some and an intense color. I love that deep copper hue. It's totally brillliant, as my bookshelf picture demonstrates clearly. 

Aromas: ripe apples, paper, dust

The Cornice smells bracing and bitter, though the apple presence in the aroma is undeniable. Something about the smell strikes me as brittle; I think perhaps its the barrel that gives the cider a wooden note. I could even call it paper or pencil shavings. Other notes make me think of a stone cracking. And yet amidst these hard things, I can still smell soft apples, wispy smoke, and vanilla.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

This cider is very nearly dry, and perhaps you could call it dry. I think its fruitiness makes me perceive it as off dry in a very natural and reserved way.

Flavors and drinking experience: high acid, plummy, warm, golden
Oh, this is a rich one! The Cornice offers up high acid zing but so much more. Some of the flavors remind me of rich golden dried fruits like sultanas or apricots. Some of the richness comes from beautiful fruit esters that make the cider feel so plummy.

Yes, I'd call it off-dry but with a lingering warmth because of the barrel qualities I'd be curious to know the actual levels of residual sugars, but not much.

Other flavors include baking spices, caramel, buttered toast crumbs. As for the mouthfeel, there are tannins and gentle bubbles. The high ABV makes it feel fuller still in the mouth. This is a decidedly decadent cider with fullsome fruitiness and powerful booziness. It just sweeps in from all sides, offering a pleasant degree of complexity, but not overpoweringly so. I found it extremely pleasing with a hearty vegetable stew and warm cats. I didn't eat the cats. They just sat on me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cider Review Carr's Ciderhouse Gingered Hard Cider

Good morning and happy 2018! I hope this year brings us all hope, happiness, and many tasty ciders. I write many days into a weather pattern called an “artic regime” by a local weather writer. I think he's right. This cold is more consistent and committed than dramatic, but it is cold. That guided my choice of cider for this week's review. I needed something warming and exciting.

Today is also my first review of anything by Carr's Ciderhouse. This small cidery operates in Hadley, Massachusetts. Their apples include many heritage varieties from a historic Massachusetts orchard. Here's how they describe themselves, “The results are elegant hard ciders–influenced by our choice of apples and how we blend the finished fermentations–that pair well with a variety of foods.”

You can read more about Carr's Ciderhouse on the website: http://www.carrsciderhouse.com

My wonderful sister-in-law brought this cider over during the holidays, so we could try it together. Thanks so much, Karen! I don't see Carr's ciders around here, so I was very excited to try something new and try to warm up the day with something gingery. We were totally stoked to try the Gingered Hard Cider.
Here's the official description:
Gingered Hard Cider - Spicy, dry, and perfect for cider cocktails and pouring over a few big ice cubes. It is like a dry ginger beer for grown-ups and our customers are crazy about it. Made with eco-grown "Fortune" apples. 6.5%ABV.

Appearance: warm applesauce, hazy, few bubbles

This has a slight haze that increased with each glass poured from the bottle. The first was nearly perfectly transparent, but the haze was increasingly noticeable for the second, third, and fourth glass. I'd call the color reminiscent of warm applesauce. I couldn't see many bubbles, but there were a few.

Aromas: gingery, tart, acid

Whoa! This smells tart and a bit like acetic acid. It also smells gingery. For fans of sour or extremely tart ciders, this aroma would be very exciting. It could even be described as having a touch of volatile acidity.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

This cider doesn't really place neatly of the sweetness dryness spectrum both because of its spice and its tartness, but I'd call it a semi-dry cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Candied lemon peel, ginger, semi dry

Ooh spicy! I taste so much ginger and candied lemon peel in the Gingered Dry Cider. Its really exciting. I love how pronounced the ginger presence remains from first note to final finish. Lovers of spice and ginger like myself will absolutely fall for this cider because it manages to be both appley and spicy with just the right intense ginger kick.

I think you can taste the cider syrup used for backsweetening, and I'm guessing that was a very necessary step for a cider this tart and spicy. I'd actually call this cider more tart than dry.
It offers up interesting fermentation notes, not a spartanly clean or transparent one but a very approachable gentle hint of funk.

All in all, this cider has some big tastes to it. The bubbles are medium and the body is very sharp and light. There's enough apple flavor to balance the ginger, but the ginger speaks up clearly throughout.

I hoped this woud be warm and exciting, and it certainly was. I had mine with a cold day and a house filled with family, but I could also see this cider with a creamy soup and some fun hibernation reading.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2017

This is my fifth annual roundup of favorite ciders for the year. Wow! That's 50 favorites recorded here, and my heart knows that there are many more. 2017 was a challenging year; I don't want to understate that. For me, though, it was also a healing and exploring year. I did more with cider than ever before: volunteering, pouring, teaching, writing, speaking, and consulting. I'm so grateful for all of those opportunities.

My cider highlight had to be judging two more cider competitions for the first time: The Pennsylvania Farm Show Competition (https://www.ciderculture.com/pennsylvania-farm-show-cider-competition/) and the cider category at the Good Food Awards (http://www.goodfoodawards.org/).

But one of my favorite at home cider activities each year has to be compiling this list of my 10 favorite ciders of the previous blogging year.

For context, here are my lists for the previous four years:

And I'll quote my own rules. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 2016. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

10. Virtue Percheron

Virtue Cider was started in 2011 by Greg Hall; This cidery is based out of Fennville, Michigan. They use a lot of international inspiration for their ciders and aren't afraid of a little funk.

My tasting notes include leather, dried tropical fruits and raisins, all as an overlay to overripe apples. The scents include something a little floral and a little spicy. The french oak barrel aging gently steers the flavors of the Percheron. The definites are high acid, medium high tannins, with a low intensity of bubble. What I especially like about this cider is the mutually supportive spice and richness.

9. Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider

Dunkerton's Cider is the only English company to have made the list this year. They make cider in Pembridge, Herefordshire and have done so since 1980. That has allowed them to see a lot of changes in the cider market both in the UK and abroad in that time.

The cider looks like dark tea but hazy; it had only a few visible bubbles. Gorgeous. When I first tasted it, I said the drinking experience like getting mildly whacked in the head, but assuredly in a good way. This is so dry and tannic that its level of bitterness was almost provoking, but since it offered up medium acid to go with those tannins, it brought me round. The aromas bring richness, and the whole experience is heavenly but this one is not for beginners.

8. E.Z. Orchards Poire

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. Now, they make Cidre and Perry as well, in a style much inspired by French ciders and perries. With the Cidre part of the business founded by Edward Zielinski, E. Z. Orchards has made a name for itself in the region for trees, fruit, Cidre, and shared knowledge.

The first thing I noticed after pouring this cider, is how it was ambiently sizzling with effervescence. The Poire reminds me immediately of French ciders and perries in its farmy yet fruity aromas. The keeving fermentation process can create some reductive notes in the aromas like fallen leaves, warm wet wood, and farmy scents. After the funky aromas, I was shocked by how cold and clean tasting it was. Sweet and distinctly like fermented fruit sweetness; its the only perry on this list, but it's here for a reason.

7. South Hill Prelude 3

I know, perhaps it seems unfair for them to get the stop spot last year and yet still appear on this year's list. I can't help it. I like South Hill's ciders. These are simple apple-centric ciders that only tweak or adjust in ways that I tend to enjoy. This cider is from a single tree, yet it still tastes great.

The Prelude #3 is dry and sparkling, but it's so much more. It smelled honeyed and floral. Other aromas include orange, but concentrated like Seville oranges or tangerines. The Prelude #3 offers up a strong tannic presence, but overall the cider is round and soft. The tannins are beautifully balanced with bright golden acidity. For flavors, I taste vanilla, citrus, ripe apples, and just a bit of soft leather.

6. 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cidre Bouche

2 Towns Ciderhouse has been operating as a cidery in Oregon since 2010. 2 Towns was founded by Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, focusing on local fruit and innovative cider processes and experiments.

This is a French inspired cider through and through. Its semi-sweet, smelling of overripe apples, lemons, leather, hay, and wood. I love this ciders fine bubbles and full mouthfeel. It's my absolute favorite from this producer!

5. Champlain Heirloom

The Heirloom comes from Champlain Orchards out of Shoreham, Vermont. This cidery is truly a fruit farm that happens to make really great cider, among other things, on stunning land. All of the stages--growing, milling, pressing, fermenting and bottling--happen right there. They grow many fruits and more than 100 varieties of apples.

This semi-dry cider smells bready and tart but tastes stony and grassy with notes of green grapes. It absolutely wowed me. I love the light and vivacious body on the Heirloom. The esters from the smell remain as pleasant and clean flavors, and I find the acidity bright and high without ever being sharp or pointed. This is fruity sort of acid, balanced with medium tannins. Such a pleasurable and drinkable cider.

4. Blue Bee Charred Ordinary

Blue Bee is Richmond's first urban cider--in fact, it's Virginia's first. They focus on heritage fruit, incorporating varieties that can bring both acidity and tannin to their finished ciders. You can visit their tasting room year round.

The Charred Ordinary's aromas remind me of barn wood, barrel, and overripe cider apples. This aroma is extraordinarily rich: frankly outstanding. There's definitely something citrusy going on, specifically lemon. Once I tasted it, I could tell that the Charred Ordinary is 100% New World in style and not old. This cider is defined by high acid, mid-level tannins, and almost no sweetness. This cider ZINGs and keeps on zinging. And that's a very good thing.

3. Quebrada del Chucao Sidra Espumante Brut Nature


The company, Quebrada del Chucao, has been around since 2010 in Chile. It is a collaboration between a fruit-producing family and a university-trained winemaker. The back of the bottle describes the orchards from which the apples came as being more than 60 years old.

Though I expected sweeter, this cider is on the dry side of off dry with 7.5%ABV. I love how bubbly it is, and we can thank bottle conditioning for that natural sparkle. I'd expected it to be sweet because the sidra smelled both sweet and briney reminding me a little bit of both French and English ciders.

2. Black Diamond Solstice

Another strong cider maker from the Finger Lakes Region, Black Diamond is the small family cidery of Ian and Jackie Merwin. They have had a cidery since 2003, and a 150+ variety strong orchard near Trumansburg, New York since long before then. Cider is a natural focus for Ian Merwin as a Pomology Professor Emeritus at Cornell.

In this cider, the aroma notes included overripe apples, sun-warmed rocks, late-summer dust, and caramel. The Solstice tastes fruity, beautiful, and complex while also being uncompromisingly dry. The mouthfeel is fully and boozy. The Solstice's high acids are balanced with high tannins, making the Solstice come across as astonishing and rich. This is a mature and balanced cider, an absolute favorite.

1. Eden's Imperial 11 Degree Rose

Their logo reads “Unique expressions of extraordinary apples,” and Eden Specialty Ciders certainly supports that by making some of the finest cider I have ever tasted. It's astonishing to me that this is their first appearance in a top 3, but it wasn't hard to choose this cider as my absolute favorite of the year. Eleanor and Albert Leger have been helming their cidery since 2007. But for this year, I have to pay homage to the Imperial 11 Degree Rose, which is a blend of heritage apples and red currants.

This cider is off dry, dripping with fruit, and 11% ABV, making the Imperial 11 Degree Rose a big big cider. It's zesty, sprightly, tart and extremely bubbly. I love its flavorful intensity, and I know I'm a sucker for really good bubbles. High acid ciders with lots of fruit and some tannic structure are often among my favorites, so my love for this cider should come as no surprise. I could drink this all the time and never be sad about it.

But most of all, I want to end this post with gratitude for the cider experiences and people. From farmers to restauranteurs and every flavor of cider maker, cider writer, cider seller, and cider fan in between, you all enrich my life so much with your ciders and your stories. Here's to even more in the coming year! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cider Review: Blue Bee Cider's Hopsap Shandy

I know most folks associate hops with beer and with summertime. But a hopped cider doesn't have to wait for warm weather. This style is one of my favorite modern variations on cider, so I make an effort to include them in my personal rotation year round. Perhaps a way to think of it would be drinking a brief window onto bright skies and sappy green leaves. That sounds nice to me.

Today's hopped cider is from Blue Bee Cider in Virginia. This is the first urban cidery in the state, near Richmond. They have a tasting room and give tours when scheduled in advance. Blue Bee Cider earned a Good Food award for 2016.

Check out the website here: http://www.bluebeecider.com/

You can also learn about their processes by reading their blog: http://www.bluebeecider.com/blog/

You can see my previous review of the Charred Ordinary from this March: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/03/cider-review-blue-bee-cider-charred.html

This is Blue Bee's official description for the Hopsap Shandy: 
Cascade hops and heirloom cider apples unite in Blue Bee Cider’s HOPSAP SHANDY, a traditional cider with a modern twist. After a light dry-hopping, this Winesap blend takes on floral, grassy and zesty citrus notes with an assertive apple finish. Borne of a whim, Hopsap Shandy is something refreshingly unexpected that can appeal to aficionados of beer, wine and cider alike.

Appearance: hazy, visible bubbles, warm nectarine flesh

Aromas: grapefruit, green, wet, green

This cider smells burstingly grapefruity, like the grapefruit is about to climb out of the glass! It's juicy herbal, green, wet, and cold. So interesting! All of these notes are solely from the aroma of this and not yet from drinking. I find this intensity and this zooming freshness utterly compellingly. Like a truly good perfume, you just want to keep sniffing it. 

Dryness/sweetness: Dry

This is one dry hopped cider!

Flavors and drinking experience: dry, high acid, lemon

Oh wow. Drinking this cider tastes tremendously good. It's lemony, citrusy, and fruity. Some drinkers might say that this level of acid is too high, but not me. I like that it has a little fun yeasty character. The first note is dry and dark and almost sweet, but then a wave of real tannins and acids hit. It gets brighter immediately and the tannins linger.

Tannic hopped ciders are rare (in some ways this cider reminds me of Tom Oliver's English hopped cider, which is also fantastic). I can taste lots of wood flavors. There are a relatively small number of little bubbles (but that maybe age?). The 8% ABV is apparent when drinking it, but its not hot. The Hopsap Shandy offers up citrus bitterness that's both quick-acting but also has some lingering power.

The cascade hops and Winesap apples make for that insane aroma. This cider is simply too good not to share even outside of this style's usual season.

A thing to note is that Blue Bee has done multiple version of their Hopsap Shandy, and mine is of an older edition, but I cannot imagine that either the age has hurt it or that their current edition would be any less interesting.

I had mind through a peaceful late afternoon with a fun fantasy novel and a little plate of cheese and crackers. One could pair this in a dozen more sophisticated ways, but the satisfaction of that simple spread was ideal. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cider Review: Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse's Pippins

I don't actually get to taste very many ciders from Canada even though the border isn't that far away. I always get excited about anything new and out of the ordinary, so picking up this bottle of Sea Cider when traveling to San Francisco was an easy choice. I've heard about Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse for years, but this is the first time they've been reviewed here. 

For a bit about the cidery, Sea Cider joined the Canadian cider scene in 2007. Sea Cider is a farm and cidery on Vancouver Island, in Western Canada, growing more than 50 varieties of organically-grown heritage apples. They have a tasting room open to share cider and tours year round. I've heard great things, and many of their ciders are covered in medals from GLINTCAP and other cider competitions.

I love that Sea Cider has an explicitly stated mission, “Sociability, sustainability, and community involvement have been the three pillars of Sea Cider’s business philosophy and mission.” And what a lovely one at that.

Here's a link to the website where you can read more about them: http://seacider.ca                         
The official description of Pippins reads, 

Pippins is a “sharp” style cider, thanks to the Yellow Newton Pippin apples we use and cool fermentation from champagne yeast. Off-dry and chapitalized to 9.5%, it is an example of a New England style of cider that was meant to be as strong and robust as North America’s pioneers. Pippins features pineapple and confectionery notes, and is incredibly food friendly. It fits just about every occasion and its crisp bite will pair perfectly with everything from steak and salad to spicy curries. 9.5% ABV.
Let me just draw attention to that higher than usual ABV and suggest pouring this one is a more wine-like serving size.  

Appearance: radiant, bright, jewelers brass

This cider shines. I forget sometimes the difference between a transparent cider and a truly brilliant one until I see something like this. The radiance is enticing. I could see many bubbles in the clarity.

Aromas: overripe apples, vinous, vanilla, spices

This smells dusty, vinous, and apply. Aromas include caramel, baking spices, and vanilla. The overall impression is boozy, barreled, powered overripe apples. Based on the aromas, I anticipate that this cider will be very tart indeed and on the drier side of off-dry.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi dry

I was misled by the tartness in the aroma! This is a semi-dry cider but not as dry as I expected at all. The sweetness is very natural: all apples. There's more going on though than either the sweetness or dryness of this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: complex, rich, fruity, tart

I found Pippins complex and sweeter than the smell had prepared me for. Though the description doesn't include it, something about both the aromas and the flavors struck me as barrel related. That could be the higher than usual ABV, but more likely the richness, vanilla, and maple notes that accompany the fruit. Pippins offers up high acid, as described but that was less striking to me than the balanced maple finish. 

So much about this cider was warm, pleasant, rich, and more than simple. It reminded me of some white wines in its weight and fermented fruit esters. The mouthfeel was full and satisfying. The texture was crisply bubbly. I so enjoyed drinking it.

I had this cider with fantastic homemade black-bean burritos. Perhaps not the most predictable combination for a Canadian cider, but the sweetness of corn and beans was absolutely delightful with the richness of the cider. I'd absolutely recommend this pairing to anyone. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cider Review: South Hill Cider's Prelude Cider #3

Perhaps you don’t care for the holidays, or current events have gotten you down, way down. I hear ya; I’m feeling it. But I refuse to let my blues keep the cider reviews from their weekly date with the internet. Thanks, Readers. You keep me going. The cider world gives me so much to be thankful for. Many special thanks to the Cider Guild of Pennsylvania and the PA Farm Expo for giving me a chance to judge cider last week. It was a great time. I'll share more about it once we're closer to the Farm Show.

Recently two good friends of mine shared one of their Cider Club bottles from South Hill Cider with me. That’s how I got to taste a cider so specialized that all of its apples come from one tree.

Here’s how South Hill Cider describes themselves and their cidermaker, “Fine and well-crafted hard cider from the Fingerlakes. Made in small batches, with attention to detail. Steve Selin: apple-hunter, cidermaker, orchardist.”

I've previously reviewed a few ciders from South Hill Cider:

Most recently, they appear in my Finger Lakes Cider pairing dinner: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2017/09/finger-lakes-cider-week-and-birthday.html

My top cider of 2016, the Stone Fence Farm: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/08/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-stone.html

I also really enjoyed the 2014 Packbasket: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2016/04/cider-review-south-hill-ciders-2014.html

And my first review for them was the hyper-limited Hypothesis: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/05/cider-review-south-hill-ciders.html

The back label describes the Prelude series; here’s the official description from the website.
#3- (2015) Sparkling and dry. This rare cider is produced from one single mysterious tree whose origin and variety are unknown. It is located in West Danby, NY and Steve has been making single tree cider from it since 2013. It is now being propagated for South Hill’s orchard and in a decade we can look forward to more than the 4 cases per year average that this one tree produces. The prelude label was glued over the original label which was printed as a private label - we never expected to be able to share this cider as widely as the cider club allowed. Thank you, cider club member for giving us the opportunity!

Apologies for not getting more pictures.

Appearance: transparent, warm straw, not many visible bubbles

This cider looks very true to the appearance of most South Hill Ciders. It isn't brilliant, but it is transparent. I don't see much in the way of bubbles but it does have a warm creamy straw color.

Aromas: floral, citrus honey

This is where this cider starts becoming magical. It smells so floral with intense honey notes. There are summer flowers like jasmine and honeysuckle all over this. Other aroms include orange, but concentrated like Seville oranges or tangerines. 

Sweetness/dryness: dry

This doesn't have a dry first edge, but the cider seems to become dry in the mouth very quickly.

Flavors and drinking experience: tannic, bubbly, soft yet structured

Mmmm, what a delight. The Prelude #3 offers up a strong tannic note, but overall it is still round and soft. The tannins are beautifully balanced with bright golden acidity. For flavors, I taste vanilla, citrus, ripe apples, and just a bit of soft leather. All the citrus one smells is here in the taste too. Wow. 

The texture offers up a plenitude of small bubbles. The Prelude's mouthfeel is a little astringent with a nice mouthcoat that is rich but not syrupy. Overall, this is just a fantastic cider. I know I'm biased toward ciders that are both tannic and strongly bubbly, so this is playing to just about my favorite flavor profile, but the fermentation is clean without being sterile, the cider is balanced yet interesting. I loved it.