Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cider. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, October 10, 2016

101 Cider House: India Pale Cider

We had a hankering for some healthy food recently - yes, that does happen now and zin - so we went to one of the longest-running vegan food restaurants in Los Angeles, Real Food Daily. It features a menu full of items you’d find in many restaurants, but they are made meatless, eggless and usually anything but tasteless. There are lots of soy-based products to take the place of meat in dishes like lasagna, tacos, tuna salad and barbecue. Yes, meatless barbecue. Welcome to Los Angeles.

I broke the water tradition I usually employ at RFD and went with an alcoholic beverage to pair with my La-La lasagna. It was a hard cider from L.A. suburb Westlake Village. 101 Cider House uses "apples and quince grown up and down the 101" freeway that runs along the California coast like a fault line.

The version I had - they make a handful of different varieties, all sour - was called India Pale Cider and is dry-hopped. It hits 6.9% abv on the alcohol scale.

It’s a cloudy yellow - the probiotics, I'm told - with a quickly dissipating head. The nose is fruity and crisp, with a strong sense of apples. It is reminiscent of Prosecco or Albarino, except with a more floral element. It's super dry, very refreshing and loaded with citrus, apples and hops. There is also a lovely, dry finish.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

From Sweden With Love: Hard Cider

Sweden has given us some great gifts - Ingmar Bergman, Absolut vodka, IKEA - and some which are not so great - Dancing Queen, Pippi Longstocking, IKEA. Scandinavian beers have never excited me too much, vodka leaves me shaken not stirred and wine is almost nowhere to be found in Sweden’s upper latitude.

A company named Rekorderlig offered me a taste of their flavored hard cider, and I liked it even though I am not usually wowed by flavored alcoholic beverages. My wife, who favors sweet drinks a bit more than I, loved it.  Rekorderlig was created more than two decades ago at Åbro brewery in Vimmerby, just outside of Stockholm. Its promoters say it is delicious straight from the bottle, over ice with fresh fruit or mixed into cocktails, and they are right.

They suggest pouring their Strawberry-Lime hard cider over ice, garnished with a lime wedge. Spilling some vodka or gin into it is perfectly alright.

This beverage has a beautiful red color with a hint of orange, which makes it look very strawberry-like in the glass. The nose is a big strawberry festival all its own, and quite a natural one at that. It doesn't have the candy-coated Jolly Rancher aroma, but one of real strawberries and stems. The sip shows delightful fruit - no real complexity here - with that lime flavor making an appearance.

Friday, February 21, 2014

No Question - Querry Cider Is A Great Quaff

It's fitting that Bonny Doon Vineyard's leader, Randall Grahm, ventured into the hard cider market.  Ever the adventurer, Grahm has bravely pursued the elusive magic of wine with the grapes of Burgundy, the Rhône valley, Italy and Spain.  The trophies he has amassed for his achievements are numerous enough to fill a pretty fair-sized mantle.  His status as the premier Rhône Ranger was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

So when he decides to make cider, people are interested - even if they don't regard themselves as cider lovers.  And if they don't, it's probably because they have yet to try Grahm's cider, quizzically called ¿Querry?.

In his email message presaging the sample for review, Grahm explains that with the most recent vintage (2013) of Querry Cider, the production technique was changed slightly after the previous (2011) bottling.  He states that the 2011 Querry "derived its carbonation from bottle conditioning. This time we've gone with a less labor-intensive methodology, (i.e. bottling @ 30° F. and saturating w/ CO2), enabling us to offer the new vintage at a more accessible price."  That low, low price is $12, in a 750 ml bottle.  7,000 cases were produced.  Grahm adds that there is a "slightly wider range of pear and apple varieties in the blend, including a substantial percentage of Gala crabs, which along with the quince, has given the cider a slight bracing astringency, very appropriate to this style."  Alcohol stands at 6.9% abv.

In fact, the 2013 Querry is made up of 62% Pears, 36% Apples and 2% Quince.  The pear varieties used are Seckel, Bartlett, Forelle and Beurre Hardy.  A host of apple varieties are present: Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Gala, Autumn Greeting, Cripps Pink, McIntosh, Pink Pearl, Gala Crab, Pippin and Braeburn.  As for quince, Rosaceae and Pineapple are the two types used.

Querry's nose delivers just what the percentages suggest - pears, apples and quince - but in a more complex manner than that description indicates.  It's a juicy and real fragrance, with a sweet, green herbal shading adding texture.  The quince comes through stronger than expected.  The palate is off-dry, not too fizzy and wonderfully fresh.  It so clearly delivers its fruit that it invites consumption at breakfast.  I don't usually recommend alcoholic beverages with the morning meal- not every day, anyway - but for Querry I would make an exception.  Grahm suggests a pairing with sushi or cheeses, perhaps at a more reasonable hour.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Bonny Doon Vineyard Querry Cider 2011

The Tasting Panel magazine says Heineken is betting on a revival of cider, with their Strongbow brand.  Bonny Doon Vineyards' Randall Grahm is apparently doing the same, with his Querry cider.

Querry is 58% Bartlett and Seckel pears, 33% apples (Pink Pearl, Macintosh, Pippin and crab apples) and 9% pineapple quince, along with some other unnamed quince.  Throw in some malic acid and sulfur dioxide and the Bonny Doon “tell-all ingredients” label is complete.This 2011 vintage clocks in with a beer-like alcohol content of 6.9% abv and retails for $14.  1,924 cases were made.

Grahm says he queried himself, “What might a blend of pear, apple and quince taste like naturally fermented (with indigenous yeast) ?”  Querry is the culmination of his quest to answer that question.  He thinks it's the “pungent, heady, dusky perfume of pear and earthy apple” that makes this quaff, but I like the quince in it.

Bone dry, the cider is naturally fermented with a second fermentation, as in sparkling wines.  It looks like apple juice with bubbles.  They dissipate quickly, leaving a huge nose of the aforementioned fruit.  For its small percentage, the quince makes a big play.

The palate is marked by a huge level of acidity.  Pears and apples show strongly in a beverage that drinks like a beer mixed with a fruity sparkling wine.  It is completely refreshing, and I wish I'd had some when I was mowing the lawn.  I wish I had a lawn, too, but let’s not quarrel.  Querry is festive, for sure.  If you like your sparklers on the fruity side, this would be a great choice.  Pair it with a cheese plate, serve it over the holidays, but don’t keep your guests in a quandary - display the bottle as a conversation starter.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Bristol's Hard Apple Cider

The Southern California thermometer nudged up over the 80 degree mark in early March, and the contacts on my Facebook page were all gassed about getting out and grilling a steak.  It always amazes me when that first 80-degree day rolls around.  The roads to the beaches are clogged, outdoor restaurants can’t get enough tables on the sidewalk and the grills are a-blazin’.
It amazes me because, generally speaking, Southern California weather is not too far off the 80-degree mark all winter.  Why people in Los Angeles feel they need to be “spared from old man winter” is confounding to me.  
Sure, Southern California has its share of days when the high temperature doesn’t get out of the 50s.  You should hear the complaining then.  Folks in Michigan and Vermont and Ohio consider a high in the 50s to be the harbinger of spring.   
The SoCal beaches are crowded all year, sidewalk tables are always an option and we can pretty much grill anytime we like. Why wait?
Even so, after a long winter of fighting off that 60-degree chill with a 65-degree red wine, I have my own little springtime celebration.  When that 80-degree mark hits SoCal - while other parts of the country are still having to shovel snow - I like to break out a summer beverage.  
I purchased Bristol’s Hard Apple Cider at the Lone Madrone tasting room in Paso Robles for $12.50 in the summer of 2011, and I understand the cider is sold out now.  
Credited on the label as being produced and bottled by the Traditional Company of Colfax, California,  I couldn't find any info about that organization.  The apples come from See Canyon in San Luis Obispo and the cider carries a 6.6% abv number.
The Lone Madrone website says this about the Bristol’s Hard Apple Cider:

“This Zummerzet style cider was fermented in retired oak wine barrels and stainless steel tank. The cider is finished in bottle with champagne yeast a practice which yield's tiny yet vigorous bubbles. Made with See Canyon apples, it is dry, dry, dry with with crisp apple on the palate.”
The bouquet is all apple, all the time.  I was a little surprised, since I expected the influence from the oak barrels to be more significant.  It’s a very nice aroma, quite fresh and intense.  The palate offers more apples, and a generous amount of bubbling action in the mouthfeel.  As advertised, it’s dry, not sweet, and it went quite well on a warm afternoon with a fresh tomato salad.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Traditional wine grapes don't grow too well in the very cold climate of Vermont.  The Vermont Grape and Wine Council reports only 14 wineries, some of which import juice from California.  The VGWC notes, though, that great wine is being made from cold-hardy varieties like Frontenac, Riesling, Cayuga and Lacrescent.

The weather that throws a curve to grape growers happens to be pretty good for beekeepers and apple farmers, though.  Mead (made from honey) and cider ( from apples) are a big part of the Vermont wine scene.  Ice wine is also a local favorite, as is ice cider.

Eden Ice Cider Company operates from a former dairy farm in the Northeast Kingdom village of West Charleston, Vermont.  "Northeast Kingdom" refers to a three-county area in the northeastern corner of Vermont.  Vermonters refer to it simply as "The Kingdom."

Eleanor and Albert Léger established Eden in 2007.  Since then, they have planted over 1,000 apple trees and produced three vintages of their ice cider.  The cider is produced from 100% Vermont-grown apples - some are estate fruit, some are purchased from other vermont orchards.

Ice cider is not made exactly like ice wine, but the processes are similar.  Ice wine is made by harvesting frozen grapes and bringing them in for fementation.  For ice cider, the apples are pressed in early winter but the juice is left outdoors to freeze for four to six weeks.  The frozen juice is then brought indoors, melted and fermented.  This brings out the sweetest juice.  The Légers are proud of their natural approach to cider making.  "We don't add coloring, sugar or any other flavoring.  We blend (apple) varieties to achieve complexity of flavor with sufficient natural acidity and structure to balance the residual sugar."

It takes more than eight pounds of apples to make a bottle of cider.  The result, according to Erin Zimmer of Serious Eats Blog, is like "drinking the juice of ten apples in one gulp."

The Légers provided me with several of their Eden Vermont Ice Ciders to sample:

Eden Vermont Ice CiderEden Cidre de Glace du Vermont Calville Blend 2010Eleven different apple varieties go into this blend: Empire, Macintosh, Roxbury Russett, Calville Blanc, Cox's Orange Pippin, Hudson's Gem, Ashmead's Kernel, Esopus Spitzenberg, Black Oxford, Belle de Boskoop and Reinettes.  Whew!  This cider has a 10% abv number and 15% residual sugar.

The color is a beautiful golden hue, deep and rich looking, a little darker than apple juice.  The aromas the ice cider offers are of baked apples, pure and simple.  It's a lovely nose.  The taste is sweet and much more concentrated than apples or even apple juice.  After all, you're drinking ten apples at once.  The acidity level is fantastic - you'd never get this in apple juice. Sometimes I dont get it in wine!  It's a slightly viscous drink with a full mouthfeel and a bit of zippiness on the finish.  It's great on it's own, but is more than ready to pair with cheese or even meats.

Eden Vermont Ice CiderEden Cidre de Glace du Vermont Northern Spy 2009This one is a single-variety ice cider made from 100% Northern Spy apples and aged in French oak for a year.  The color is extremely rich looking, darker than the unoaked cider.  It looks quite like bourbon in the glass and it smells like a holiday apple pie, with that baked apple aroma drenched in cinnamon and nutmeg.  Much oak nuance graces the palate, too.  It's viscous, like the unoaked, but a bit more tart on the finish.  I find it quite complex with maybe a bit more of a "grownup" taste.  They advise you pair it with cheddar or creamy blue cheese.

Eden Orleans Aperitif Cider

Orleans is a dry wine made in collaboration with Caleb Barber and Deirdre Heekin, owners and - respectively - the head chef and maître liquoriste of Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont.  It is infused with Vermont-grown herbs.  The alcohol content is a bit higher than the other two I tasted, 15.5%, and there is only 1% residual sugar.  The comparison to Vermouth comes quickly, and Eden has a booklet of suggested mixed drinks utilizing Orleans.  It's also been mentioned as a great mix with Prosecco and lime, or all by itself on the rocks.

I tasted it chilled, straight up.  Orleans is slightly lighter in color than the Northern Spy.  The aroma profile shows herbs on apples - sage, thyme and oregano leap forward.  The apple flavors have the herbs coloring the taste, too - as if Vermouth were made from apples.  The finish is tart and zingy.  And the herbal quality stays around long after the sip.

My introduction to Vermont cider was indeed an enjoyable one.  All three of these ciders would be welcome any time of the year, but the Northern Spy seems particularly suited to the holiday season.  Its aromas and flavors mirror those found in holiday foods, especially desserts.  The Orleans Aperitif Cider could easily be a mainstay on your bar for mixing, although it's great all by itself.

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