Tastings at Racines - Vinotas, Chrystalline and Golden Vines

I knew I would be back at Racines soon - after our amazing meal there… but this was different. Today’s tasting menu, three full courses of it too, was purely liquid. I was here to taste the wines brought in by Vinotas Selections, Golden Vines and Crystalline Selections. Is there a better way to start the week than a romp through Germany, Austria, France and Italy, all in a glass? Those who know me can probably guess where I began… I admit - I just can’t say no to a good Riesling. 

Justin Christoph, of Crystalline Selections, led me through their lineup of Austrian and German wines. I have been known to preach the value and the amazing food-friendliness of Riesling. Allow me to do so again. Both the dry and the off-dry Rieslings can easily pair with any cuisine. The fruit cuts through spicy food, the bright acidity lifts the richer and meatier dishes and the minerality stands up to salads and pastas with ease. I cannot think of a more versatile wine, and where some may grab a bubbly, I reach for one of these tall and slender bottles. 

The first wine that stopped me in my tracks was the 2011 Schmelz Riesling Smaragd Durnsteiner Freiheit from the Wachau. Rieslings age magnificently, and this wine, while still rather young, is already showing a bit of that complexity that comes with age. It opens with a hint of petrol on the nose, but quickly reveals complex floral and mineral notes. The palate is bright, deceptively light, showing mineral components along with grapefruit and ripe citrus notes. The wine reaches the back palate, finally showing its breadth – textures of wet rocks and citrus – leading to a medium long finish. 

I have had the pleasure to taste wines of Weingut K.H. Schneider before, and am glad I have a few in my own cellar. These are brilliant expressions of Nahe Riesling – with crisp, bright acidity, loads of fruit and an elegant touch. The 2017 K.H. Schneider Riesling trocken is a perfect example: floral with ripe fruit on the nose, but a dry, white peach and stone palate. Bright, crisp wine that shows the depth of the vintage while staying pleasantly light and elegant. The 2015 K.H. Schneider Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling trocken is almost the exact opposite, still it shows the same hand – elegant (for all its power) and bright. Big, beautiful wine that opened with a note of blue cheese, savory herbs and ripe fruit. With a bit of time, the cheese blew off to reveal mineral and white peach notes. It showed bright mid-palate, with red berry and power over the stony, ripe and textured structure. The wine is very dry but without a hint of austerity – this is an absolute winner.  

I also tasted the 2016 Groebe Riesling 1763, a round, mouth-filling wine, with a ripe, fruity core. It showed good intensity in mid-palate, which turned softer toward the back-palate, offering a ripe citrus cream feel and a zesty finish. The 2015 Groebe Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs was another stunner, with a nose of bright peach and pear, with hints of tropical fruit. The mid-palate is bursting with power and notes of ripe citrus, stone fruit and mineral. Big, with a broad middle, the wine stays on its feet due to the depth of its structure. Savory herbs and zest follow through to a long dry finish. Needs time but is sure to reward the patience. The last wine I must mention is the 2015 Staffelter Hof Kröver Letterlay Riesling Kabinett feinherb, a style I have come to enjoy more and more in recent years. Feinherb allows for the creamy touches residual sugar brings without the opulence of fruit that requires aging. I am currently drinking lieblich Kabinetts from 2002 and 2004 vintages. This feinherb, on the other hand, is ready to go: juicy and ripe with melon and pineapple notes, light but with a lovely touch of cream in the mid palate, zesty with hints of herb and mint. A pretty, young Riesling from a wonderful year. 

Michel Abood’s passion for wine and his search for affordable, honest bottles led him to launch Vinotas Selections. I have seen his line-up grow and expand over the past decade but have never had the chance to actually taste through the wines. I was glad to grab the chance, and especially interested in tasting the new Italian selections. I was not disappointed, the Franco Conterno wines were delicious but the Sicilian wines blew me away. 

The 2016 Azienda Agricola Pianogrillo Grillo Terre Siciliane showed rich ripe citrus on the nose, broad but bright mineral and chalk on the palate, lovely texture, hint of sea breeze, long zesty finish. The 2016 Elios Modus Bibendi Grillo Terre Siciliane was a different expression of the grape, with bakes apple notes and a grape-y, high-toned fruit feel. There were some Mediterranean herb notes as well with time, and the palate broad and textured, like the first wine, but with more mineral edge. Finally the 2016 Elios Modus Bibendi Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane was a pleasantly fresh red wine, light on its feet, showing a dark cherry and earthy nose, but a bright red berry and herb mid palate and the fresh acidity to lead toward a tart and rustic finish. Really refreshing!

I was looking forward to trying the wines of Franco Conterno. After a spending close to two weeks in Piedmont this summer, I fell in love with its wines and its people. And Barbera is high on my list of favorite grapes – what’s not to love? It is bright, intense and has the potential to age. 2015 Franco Conterno Barbera d’Alba Superiore Cascina Sciulum is an excellent example: earthy, with notes of black and red fruit on the nose. A ripe core on the palate, cherries and earth, but with a mineral and structured feel that keeps the wine fresh. The 2013 Franco Conterno Barolo Panerole continued the earthy tones, but with more elegance and staying power. Floral on the nose, it showed the structure and dark cherry of a traditional Barolo on the palate. Earthy, leathery tones mixing with the ripe and juicy red cherry. Long, structured finish speaks to the years ahead. 

But on to France, and Champagne to be exact. The Fleury Champagnes were a list onto themselves, but if I had to choose just one… 2005 Fleury Pere & Fils Champagne Cuvée Robert Fleury Extra Brut was my favorite. With a hint of almond and citrus on the nose, the wine broadened significantly on the palate, showing ripe citrus, apple and red berry. Complex and deep, it envelops the senses as the soft bubbles add to the textural component. Really a beautiful wine. I also enjoyed both the Chinon Blanc and the Rouge from Thierry Landry. 2015 Thierry Landry Chinon Chenin des Puys showed notes of hay, honey and red berry on the nose and a lovely ripe gooseberry mid-palate. The 2015 Thierry Landry Chinon Cuvée Moulin de Rochette presented ripe red fruit, with hints of tobacco and savory herb, with mint and chewy rustic grip on the palate. Another set of wines not to miss were from Domaine A. Pegaz. The 2016 A. Pegaz Beaujolais Beaujolais Blanc had a nose of lime, with a creamy middle of lemon curd that lead to a zesty and peppery finish. The 2016 A. Pegaz Brouilly showed ripe raspberry, herbs and cherry on the nose with a lovely light and mineral palate, with sage and hints of spice. 2016 Domaine Baron de l’Ecluse Côte de Brouilly V.V. Les Garances Lieu Dit added elegance on top of the already pretty red fruit, with a rounder mid-palate and a bit riper cherry tone, but keeping the long, bright and spicy finish. And, finally, the 2016 Cellier de la Baraterie Cruet Jacquère Vin de Savoie, a wine showing yellow and white peaches, ripe pears, and a lovely pear cider and mineral palate. Quite unique!

The third course (portfolio) of the day was that of Golden Vines. Another absolutely stellar list of which I can only mention a few highlights. 2016 Le Clocher Petite Arvine surprised be off the bat with the unusual nose: notes of petrol and mineral that blew off to reveal high-toned pear and apple. The palate shows lots of texture, while staying bright with citrus and apple notes dominating. The red berry tones toward the back sold me on the wine, refreshing and complex, begging for another sip. Another impressive white wine was the 2017 Domaine San Guilhem Sauvignon Blanc, showing a rich, ripe citrus note over the traditional grassy nose of the grape. Rich on the palate, the wine shows itself with impressive balance, dry and bright on the finish with a hint of herb and citrus rind. 

I could not pass up the chance to taste the Hayl zu Herrnsheim Rieslings, and found them once again, intriguing and hauntingly mineral. The “simple” 2016 Heyl zu Herrnsheim Riesling Trocken was an excellent example of Rheinhessen, with ripe tropical notes of pineapple and grapefruit, and a palate of ripe yellow peaches and grapefruit pith. The star was definitely the 2015 Heyl zu Herrnsheim Niersteiner Brudersberg Riesling Grosse Lage, with a ripe, rich core of stone fruit, pineapple, and citrus. The stellar vintage provided ample minerality and acidity to the wine, balancing it and providing a long, sweet and savory finish. I also tasted 2015 Contrada Irpinia Aglianico, which showed a ripe, dark fruit note along with deep minerality and a long, if slightly rustic finish. Its big brother, the 2012 Contrada Taurasi had a more elegant, balanced approach, with riper, richer fruit and hints of tobacco leaf on the nose. The dark berry and juicy mid-palate lead to a powerful sour cherry and mineral finish. This wine is clearly young, but it should only improve with age. And finally, because I cannot help myself, a Moscato d’Asti. Let me be clear here, this is no simple after dinner drink, the Azienda Agricola L’Armangia Moscato di Canelli is a powerhouse, showing green pear, fresh honey and ripe apricot. The rich and sweet palate was underscored by a bright, fresh streak of acidity, leading to a honey and golden raisin finish. 

Martin Scott Grand Portfolio Tasting 2018

To taste wine is a privilege by itself, and to do so in the halls of Lincoln center is always a special pleasure. Even the humid, late summer air and the dark, grey skies could not diminish the regal and somber atmosphere of the David H. Koch Theater. The Martin Scott Portfolio spans the globe, but I knew I could not taste everything - thus my notes are highlights of what I found intriguing and are in no way encompassing the entirety of the tasting. 

I met David Redondi in Barolo this summer, and it was a pleasure to see a familiar face right at table 1. While I haven’t finished my blog on the Marche wines just yet - I was already impressed by the wines of Gioacchino Garofoli back in June. They present an uncommon balance and a respect for the grape. The first wine I tasted was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Podium 2015. This 100% Verdicchio sees no oak and thus the immediate impression on the nose is that of ripe citrus fruits – sweet yellow grapefruit and pineapple. The broad mid-palate is impressive, offering both texture and mineral to combat the ample fruit of the wine. It finished with a long and dry note of bitter almond and citrus zest, making me think of cheese and salumi that would do so well with this wine, as well as the spicy hints of fresh olive oil. The second wine was the Rosso Conero Piancarda 2015 – a red wine from the Montepulciano grape. This is an absolute food wine, begging for a rich steak or chunks of roasted lamb. The wine opens with red and black fruit, plum and cherry dominating, but they are underscored by sweet herb and tobacco leaf. The mid-palate follows suit, with ripe black fruit notes and herbs, but drier, brisker than the nose suggests, with a strong, rustic tannin structure. 

I continued my Italian journey by falling back in love with Sangiovese. I am, by all accounts, a monogamist. However, that seems like a silly concept in Italian wine; how can one not love both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese (and Sagrantino, and Friesa, and Aglianico…and the other 200 grapes I have not listed)? I was faced with two absolutely different and yet excellent expressions of Sangiovese (without getting into the Sangiovese Grosso debate). On the one hand there was the Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico 2011, deeply savory, with meat and iron notes, showing some development already on the nose, while the core is still bright with ripe cherry and a plush, soft structure that envelops the mouth. Perfect now, but surely with years to go. On the other hand, the brilliant (and painfully young) Capanna Brunello di Montalcino 2013, if only you could bottle elegance – this would be it. The wine opens with lovely floral and red berry notes over a hint of iron and earthy tones. The mid-palate is mineral, bright and juicy, leaning toward red fruit and berry notes, with a hint of the silky tannin and structure hidden beneath. The wine clearly needs time to show itself – but it is already a beauty. 

One of the most memorable moments of this summer was our dinner with the Vajra family in Barolo as part of the Collisioni Festival. And it was not just the wines - it was the amazing family, their love for the region and their respect for the history that was evident to all of us attending the dinner. This passion is easy to see in their wines as well - from the “newcomer” Riesling (peachy, citrusy deliciousness in a glass) to their powerful and age-worthy single vineyard Baroli. However, let us take a step back in history – with the Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo JC Clare 2017. A wine made in the traditional lightly sparkling style going back centuries into history, which is now more frequently seen with Freisa wines. This was a very interesting wine - spicy, with a hint of effervescence. The mid-palate brought bright red fruit and sweet herbs, leading to a vibrant, refreshing finish. I compared it to the still and dry Freisa – the 2014 Kye, which also showed the bright red notes, but in a more floral, riper cherry tones. The elegance of the wines showed itself on the palate, with bright sour cherry and sweet herbs leading the way. I can see this aging well but I wouldn’t mind it even now – especially if paired with a lovely pasta or a pork dish. The Dolcetto Coste and Fossati really shined in 2017, brimming with ripe rich cherry fruit on the nose, the rich, bright wine is firing on all cylinders on the palate, a mix of dark and red fruit , hints of tannin and spice and a long, sweet-and-savory finish. Finally I must mention the 2014 Barolo Bricco delle Viole. A stunning wine – perhaps made more approachable by the softer structure of the year, but that has taken nothing away from the depth and complexity of this bottle. The rich and lush structure of the wine is balanced by the brightness of the cherry fruit at the core, leading one into the seamless, long finish that shows a good tannic grip. Don’t miss this one. 

I could not pass the Elio Grasso table without stopping by, especially seeing the 2013 Gavarini Chiniera open. But first I tried the 2014 Barolo, a bottling made in the more difficult vintage that combines the qualities (and the grapes) of both top sites – the Casa Maté and Gavarini Chiniera. The wine showed a ripe red fruit on the nose and a hint of violets and iris. The palate was elegant, with red currants and red berries along with a more rustic structural notes. This will be interesting to watch over time, as I expect the palate to become broader, with more earthy and deeper red tones coming with time. The Barolo Gavarini Chiniera 2013 on the other hand, bowled one over with its power and unabashed depth. Rich red cherries, sweet herbs and mineral notes dominate the palate, leading to a powerful, quite tannic but refined finish. A beauty, and one that will reward patience. 

My next stop was to taste the wines of the Dr. Hermann estate and to, finally, meet the winemaker - Christian Hermann in person. I have been looking forward to trying these wines and they did not disappoint. The 2016 Dr. Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett was a good example: the wine opened with a nose of ripe, rich peach and pear. Spicy notes hinted at the vineyard. But the mid-palate was lithe, bright, carrying the RS with aplomb. The 2013 Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese was another stellar example of Mosel Riesling. The wine was in an interesting place in term of development – showing some orange notes and a hint of petrol over the bright ripe apple and grapefruit tones. While the palate is surely ripe and creamy, and the botrytis is present - the wine drinks with impressive lightness and an edge of acidity to keep it very fresh. The last wine is a collaboration between Christian Hermann and Stefan Steinmetz, a powerful dry wine: 2016 Steinmetz und Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Alte Reben. The wine showed riper and richer than I had expected, with pink grapefruit, ripe citrus and orange notes, with sweet and savory herb to keep the big wine fresh. A hint of sweetness toward the back gives the wine a creamy touch and a long finish hints at the potential.  

Although Stefan was not at the tasting (slacking off by beginning harvest this week, the “easy job” surely), I was glad to taste a few of his wines as well. The 2016 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Brauneberger Juffer Riesling feinherb showed itself as a bright and juicy wine with lovely fresh florals and deep citrus and pear tones. There was a crunchy acidity present on the palate, hinting at a bright future, the wine punches well above its value. I am really enjoying these bright Mosel feinherbs, not only are they amazingly food friendly throughout their lifetime (I prefer to age the Kabinets and Spatlesen) – they age into sleek, mineral-laden beauties. The second wine was his 2016 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Pinot Noir Unfiltriert. Stefan is justly proud of his reds, and this wine is an excellent example: earthy, light, elegant, with a palate of cranberry, and raspberry notes. The earthy tones take over toward the back, leading to a spicy and fresh finish. Very pretty indeed – I can only imagine what the single vineyard wines are like. 

After that taste, I went searching for more Pinot. And I was glad to find some delicious examples from Oregon. I am a fan of the wines from Zenith Vineyard – they have the bright zesty red fruit that is impossible to resist. The 2014 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard provided just that: very pretty ripe but red fruit, with high toned, berry component. The mineral notes on the palate and the long finish really made it into a beautiful wine. The 2015 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Temperance Hill Willamette Valley was a different beast all together. Both the vintage and the site showed itself – the wine was riper, more rustic and much more chewy. Red and black cherry, ripe core of spicy and powerful fruit dominate the palate, but the wine is balanced and brought to a long, spicy and red-fruited finish. 

Cider in the Northeast - Tradition Through Innovation

(Originally published by The Cork Report)

I have to admit, I have been putting off this article for a year now. When I first visited Eve’s Cidery in August of 2017, I knew I wanted to say something about the emerging orchard-based cider culture in the US. But what? I asked Autumn Stoscheck of Eve’s about that – and her answer was deceptively simple – talk about the apples. She was right, of course, but I am no grower – more of a drinker of the product. I didn’t want to do a half-legible piece that tries to boil down decades and centuries of hard work into a digestible-for-the-masses bite. Rather, I could but I have only one sentence, “Drink More Cider – It’s Good!”…

Geneva Crab Apple

Catchy, surely, but I wanted more… I wanted something “profound”, something “deeper”. That was my own mistake: why try to dig deeper than the root? Cider is profoundly good, deeply refreshing, why would I seek some socio-economic angle? “An apple (cider) a day keeps the doctor away” – isn’t that enough? I should have seen the obvious sooner: every time I introduce a new person to fine cider, their first response is “THIS is cider? Wow… this is good!” Yes. It is. I should start right there. 

Orchard-based cider, both still and sparkling, can be stunningly complex, can age and develop, can be an excellent pairing for a variety of foods and, while it really is great on a warm summer day, can also be deeply satisfying on a cold, dreary evening, paired with a rich, warm stew. How do I know? I’ve done it. I have also enjoyed cider with a tasting menu at one of the top NYC restaurants, Agern, where they have Eve’s Cidery “Albee Hill” (still and dry) Cider on the menu; and it stood up to every course we consumed. In fact, that was the moment I realized that it was time to learn more about this beverage. Why was this cider so good? 

Eve’s Cidery Orchard

Now we can talk about the apples, as well as Tradition – using apples grown specifically for cider rather than for fruit consumption as they have done in England and France for centuries. These sharp, tannic apples are not really “tasty” in the traditional sense of the word, biting into them is likely to leave your mouth in a pucker. Many of these are smaller than the apples we are used to consuming, but with a more concentrated flavor, akin to grapes grown for wine. Not surprisingly, traditional cider in the Northeast looks back to English cider, not only for the apples, but stylistically as well. On the one hand there are the bright, crisp still ciders, austere and complex, recalling a traditional English cider and likely similar to the ones made in the colonies, as well as the use of honey to sweeten the cider, which harkens back to Anglo-Saxon period.

Yeast Spores in an Un-disgorged Bottle

However, Northeast cider is not all about reviving traditions, there is innovation afoot too. Modern winemaking has made strides in the cellar, and the cider makers are following suite. Making “Champagne Method” cider is not only expensive and time-consuming, it is also difficult. It requires a strictly hygienic environment and a lot of manual labor during disgorgement and dosage process. But the result is a beautiful, “wine-like” cider, with layers of yeasty notes mixing with the tropical and citrus fruit. The carbonation does not remind one of soda or beer; rather the bubbles are softer, adding a creamy texture to every sip. 

Autumn and Ezra of Eve’s Cidery

Eve’s Cidery – Van Etten, NY

Autumn Stoscheck and Ezra Sherman’s cidery in Van Etten was the first one I visited. I tried their cider in New York City and was in love immediately – complex, lithe, bright… I went on their website and ordered a mixed case of the different ciders they make, from still and dry to sparkling and even to the sweet (Ice Cider). When the opportunity came to visit the Finger Lakes region, I emailed Autumn to set up an appointment. Instead, I was invited to join a family lunch. I met the most warm, humble and genuine people, both Autumn and Ezra (and, of course, their kids) were open, hospitable and in love not only with what they do, but with the land itself. Autumn’s working on making their own orchards fully organic and promoting biointensive agriculture in the region (check out her work in the vineyards @myvineyardyear on IG). Ezra is the man with the golden hands; his work on, and in, “the Barn” is honestly astonishing. That is what I taste in their cider – true appreciation for nature.

“The Barn” at Eve’s

Ezra Sherman of Eve’s Cidery

Ciders of Note (any and every cider they make is excellent but if I had to talk about just a few): 2017 Albee Hill (still & dry) – I found this year’s version to be lightly floral, with tea and peach notes; the mid-palate more ripe with a core of white and yellow apple flesh, hints of sweet citrus and a firm, tannic finish with mineral and stone. 2017 Perry Pear (pear cider) – floral with white and yellow flowers, and sweet stone fruit on the nose, light and bright mid palate, crisp – with mineral and acid – and finishing with a ripe pear and cream touch. 2017 Autumn’s Gold (dry and sparkling) – broad, rich cider, with funky and yeasty notes – leaning toward brioche; tropical on the palate, with pineapple and dry mango; serious grip on the long, dry finish. 2017 Kingston Black (sparkling and dry) – this year’s version is sparkling and not still. I have a bottle of the ‘16 in my cellar and cannot wait to taste them side by side. The ‘17 showed a powerful, broad character, leaning toward dry fruits and savory, tart herbs. The palate was rich but with hints of tart melon rind and nutty, sour apples. Kingston Black produces some of the most complex ciders and this is a great example. Essence (Ice Cider) – just a quick note, get it. It is not overly sweet, but rather rich, creamy and truly the essence of the apple. If you love sweet wines with a bite, this is a must try. 

Finger Lakes Cider House

Melissa Madden of Kite&String

Jimmy Miller of Kite&String

Finger Lakes Cider House: Kite and String – Interlaken, NY

I met Melissa Madden at this spring’s Skurnik Portfolio tasting and, after trying their Northern Spy (one of my favorite American cider apples) and their Ice Cider – I knew I had to visit them. Melissa is surely one of the hardest working people I have ever met (just take a look at her Instagram - @kiteandstringcider), and the team at Good Life Farm shows the same care and love for the land that I have come to admire. The Finger Lakes Cider House itself is a beautiful space, not only for cider, but for an amazing, fresh and vibrant lunch as well. The tasting room, airy, with bright windows, has a cozy, family feel and an amazing view of the farm and the lake. Bring the family – there are plenty of options for all ages. I would also suggest taking a look at their cider club, which is not only generous but also allows access to some unique limited release bottlings. Melissa gifted me a bottle of one such cider, King of Hector (dry and sparkling), made from foraged apples… and it was stunning. Rich, deep and complex with haunting cider and tropical fruit notes and hints of ginger and clove.

Tasting Room at Finger Lakes Cider House

Ciders of Note: I have to start with the absolute, incredible, guilty pleasure. I usually don’t even like Rosé wines, and this… 2017 Rosé (semi-sweet & sparkling), a cider spiked with Riesling juice and Marechal Foch red wine… but it is so good… sweet with peach and strawberry, ripe, light but persistent… truly a moment of don’t judge, drink! The other unique cider was the 2017 Cyser (semi-dry and sparkling): a champagne method cider with local honey – a hint of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman coming together! It showed aromas of peaches and honey, with a ripe, rounded palate and a pleasing, orchard fruit core. The 2016 Cazenovia (dry and sparking) was a very different animal – bone dry, elegant, bright with ripe citrus and flowers. Long tannic and herbal finish – a beauty. The 2017 Baldwin (dry and sparking) played in the same sphere, but rounder, with tropical touches and white peach. The palate had a persistent note of lime and ginger leading to a complex finish. Finally, the 2017 Northern Spy (semi-dry and sparking) bright but on the fully tropical gamut of flavors, with mango and melon, richer and rounder yet still keeping a core of ripe acidity to keep the fruit at bay. 

Bellweather – Trumansburg, NY

Our “home away from home” in the Finger Lakes region is Trumansburg. I ended up here rather randomly the first time: it seemed to be convenient to the places I wanted to visit, but I fell in love with the little cozy town. The food, the people and the fact I could walk out in the morning and get some excellent coffee – what else can one ask for? Bellweather Cidery is five minutes out of town and I couldn’t pass up a chance to stop by. What I found was a quite serious lineup of ciders, including some more of my favorite Northern Spy. After tasting, I felt inclined to research further, or that was the best way to explain why so many bottles were coming home with me.
Ciders of Note: Heritage (still and dry): made from a blend of traditional cider apples, it showed a complex nose of citrus and orchard fruit. The mid-palate is bright, on the lighter side, showing green and yellow apple tones and citrus. Nice bright finish, with palate-cleansing acidity and a hint of lemon. King Baldwin (off-dry and sparking): a blend of Tompkins King and Baldwin apples. This cider showed bright, riper fruit, leaning toward peach and pear, ripe on the palate, with a roundness from a bit of sweet orchard fruit. Finishes long and with a great tart note. Black Magic (semi-sweet and sparkling): cider with black currants – which lend it a rich, black fruit quality and broader body. Dominant note here is currant, with the apple providing depth and acidity, keeping the sweetness in check, which would allow the cider to do well with a variety of dishes. 

South Hill Cider – Finger Lakes Region, NY

I stopped by Northside Wine and Spirits while in Ithaca to meet Dave Pohl and talk about the region. He suggested I grab a bottle of South Hill Cider… so I took two. Now that both bottles are empty, I will be looking forward to meeting Steve Selin in person next time I am in the region. Cider doesn’t leave you much to hide behind, especially still cider – thus the passion and the care shows clearly when it is present. Both of the ciders were excellent, I will be looking for more. Ciders of Note: Russet Dabinett (still and dry): deeply colored (honey), with notes of baked apple and cinnamon. Mid-palate is broad, ripe but quite dry, tropical fruit coming to the front, with mango and dry apricot. Ripe yellow peaches show up toward the back of the palate, finishing clean, with a zing of citrus and a hint of tannin. Packbasket (still and dry): made from foraged apples from wild seedling trees, unusual is not the right word – unique? Surely one of a kind. Complex, bright, tangy, with herbal notes and a stony mineral component. Clearly still apple cider, with hints of baked apple and ripe yellow apple skins, but the herbal tones take it somewhere else entirely. A quite intriguing result!

Poverty Lane Orchards: Farnum Hill – Lebanon, NH

I must admit, I have yet to make a true pilgrimage to the cideries of New Hampshire and Vermont. That trip is on my short list – I promise! However, I was lucky enough to meet Louisa Spencer in New York City, at the Skurnik Porfolio tasting. That meant I was able to taste through their lineup of ciders as well as discuss the intriguing development of fine cider on the US market. I cannot wait to visit the orchards for myself. Ciders of Note: Extra Dry Still Cider – really bright, floral nose of apple skins, white flowers and mineral. The high acidity shows itself in this lithe, bristling cider, sour apples and ginger notes dominate, with a clean, tart and tannic finish. Absolutely refreshing. Semi-Dry Sparkling Cider – this is quite dry as well, with lemon and mineral notes dominating the nose. The mid-palate is broader, with hints of tropical fruit and touch of creamy texture over the bright, mineral laden body. The carbonation adds to the creamy feel on the palate without the need to rely on sugar, thus balancing the cider. Kingston Black Reserve (extra dry and still) – incredible nose of smoke, yeasty notes and cantaloupe. Mid-palate reminds one of Sauvignon Blanc, with a lithe core of herbs and fruit and a broader, richer texture. This is a prizefighter, ready for a match. A wonderful expression of a classic cider apple. 

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