Maker: Resort Pike, Petoskey, Michigan, USA (Mackinaw Trail Winery)
Style: Semi-dry farmhouse cider
Purchased for $7 (I think)/16 oz can
Appearance: Light in color with big initial fizz and then steady bubbles.
Nose: Clean, with cut apple and a little caramel.
Palate: Light and semi-dry. Green apple and sage, with some tannin and a little acid as it warms.
Finish: Sweetness and chewiness with a hint of funk.
Parting words: The last time Liz and I were Up North visiting friends-of-the-blog’s cottage on beautiful Walloon Lake near Boyne City, Michigan, we took an aftenoon side trip to Walloon Lake Winery. It was much too busy for our liking, so we drove to the new-ish cidery and winery Resort Pike, owned by the same folks who own Mackinaw Trail winery.
It was much less crowded but the indoor seating was already maxed out after ordering, so we sat outside at a picnic table in the pleasant courtyard outside the tasting room, near a pen with a couple well-behaved goats. We got a flight of ciders and they were all interesting but my favorite was this one, the House. It’s semi-dry with a touch of acid and tannin to hold it all together. The next time you’re in Petoskey, stop in and get some. Say hi to the goats for me, too.
Apples: Propietary blend of unspecified organic apples.
Place of origin: Koan Family Orchards, Flushing, Michigan, USA
Style: Semi-dry Farmhouse cider
Purchased for $13/4 pint cans
Appearance: Dark gold, slightly hazy. Lightly bubbly.
Nose: Apple juice, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch.
Palate: Tart apple, sweetened apple sauce, touch of tannin.
Finish: Tart and a little sweet.
Parting words: This is the flagship cider of JK’s Scrumpy and the easiest one to find. It’s got big apple flavors, is semi-dry to semi-sweet (depending on who you ask) with no additives, food friendly and accessible to newbies. There’s nothing not to like here unless you’re a dry cider diehard. I would appreciate a little more tannic grip on the back end of the palate and in the finish, but that’s a minor complaint. An excellent example of a middle of the road organic cider, JK’s Scrumpy Orchard Gate Gold is recommended.
Maker: Val de Race Cooperative, Pleudihen sur Rance, Brittany, France
Place of origin: 90% Brittany, 10% Normandy
Apples: 90% bittersweet, 10% bitter
Style: Semi-dry apple cider
Purchased for $9/750 ml (Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana)
Appearance: Light amber
Nose: Apple juice, leather, cut tart apple.
Palate: Effervescent and lightly sweet. Medium tannins, very little acid, no funk.
Finish: More tannin and a little sweetness.
Parting words: I picked this French cider up on one of my trips to Indianapolis. It’s solid, easy drinking and accessible. It has more depth than cheaper French ciders but isn’t going to knock you over with funk and tannin either. It works best as a table cider or an afternoon sipper. The price is pretty good for what it is, but I’d like it even better for a dollar or two less. Domaine du Verger Brut is recommended.
Style: Partially barrel-finished apple cider with Michigan honey added (Not a cyser or mead).
Price: $13/12 12 oz can variety pack (Binny’s)
Appearance: Pale gold, like a lager.
Nose: Honey, sliced golden apples.
Palate: Lightly fizzy, medium bodied. Semi-dry. More balanced than the nose. Honeyed golden apple slices, lemon meringue pie.
Finish: Honey, dry apple slices, tannin.
Parting words: This is another Virtue cider out of the variety pack I bought for my June party. It’s my least favorite of the four included in the pack, but it’s still good. The honey is too strong in the nose but it and the barrel notes add depth and grip to what would otherwise be a pretty mild cider on the palate and in the finish. Good price for a quality cider. Virtue’s Michigan Honey is recommended.
Price: $13/12 can case (variety pack including three other Virtue ciders at Binny’s)
Appearance: Light gold like a lager.
Nose: Apple wood sawdust, applesauce, gravel.
Palate: Effervescent and semi-dry. Chewy tannin, some sweetness and fruit.
Finish: Dry with a tart tang in the front.
Parting words: I’ve reviewed Virtue ciders before on this blog, but this is the first canned cider of theirs I’ve done. I bought a variety pack of Virtue cider for my annual party in early June (you’re all invited next year). A few were left over, so I’m planning on working my way through the survivors in a series of reviews.
I was very impressed with Virtue’s Michigan Apple. It has a tannic grip that a lot of other American ciders in its category and price range don’t have. There’s no yeasty funk, but this is Michigan Apple, not Pomme de Normandie. This is a very enjoyable cider and I highly recommend it.
Maker: Sidreria Gurutzeta, Astigarraga, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain
Style: Natural Basque Spanish cider
Purchased for $12/750 ml at Vine & Table in Carmel, Indiana.
Appearance: Very hazy gold.
Nose: Apple cores, dried flowers, apricot, lemon thyme.
Palate: Apricot, Golden Delicious apple, chalk dust, pinch of sweetness.
Finish: Tangy. Siracha burn in the back of the throat as it warms in the glass.
Parting words: This is the second Basque cider (or Sagardoa as they call it) I’ve reviewed. The other one was in November of 2017. It was Isastegi Sagardo Naturala, made in Tolosa about 17 miles (27 km) south of Astigarraga. The two ciders are similar in style but Gurutzeta is more acidic and less funky than Isastegi. Neither have more than a trace of sweetness.
Basque ciders are not what I’d call good entryway ciders for most North American drinkers. While they’re not as dominated by tannin as Norman ciders, they do have much more of it than most English or American ones. and they tend to have high levels of acid and funk with virturally no sweetness. It may sound silly, but for those new to Basque cider I would suggest getting a solid feel for French cider before venturing into Basque Country. It will help you understand this unique tradition better. At any rate, Gurutzeta Original Basque Cider is recommended!
Maker: Left Foot Charley, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Variety: 100% Bartlett perry
Style: Dry American perry.
Price: $8 (winery IIRC)
Appearance: Very pale straw.
Nose: Pear, cedar, yeast.
Palate: Light & dry with a few bubbles. Hint of pear, apple core, yeast.
Finish: Dry. A little tannin and funk.
Parting words: At this point in my cider-tasting career I’ve had a good number of perries and all but a couple of them have been very sweet. When I saw that this perry was 100% Bartlett, I assumed that I was in for another sweet, one-dimensional perry. I was wrong. LFC’s perry is pleasantly dry with a little yeast and even what tastes like tannin! It was a very pleasant surprise. The winery that makes some of my favorite Michigan wines now also makes my favorite Michigan perry. LFC’s Perry is highly recommended.
Maker: Domaine Dupont, Victot-Pontfol, Normandy, France
Style: Calvados-barrel-aged cider.
Apples: 67% bittersweet, 33% acidic
Place of origin: (Pays d’Auge) Normandy, France.
Vintage: 2016 (bottled 2017)
Notes: Unpasteurized, wild yeast fermented. Aged in Calvados barrels for six months.
Purchased for $25/750 ml (Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana)
Parting words: Domaine Dupont is one of the big cheeses of Calvados and like many other Calvados houses, they make cider and pommeau as well. The domaine has been owned by the Dupont family since 1917. Current patriarch Éitienne Dupont modernized the estate when he took over from his father Jules in the 1980s. He handed the business over to his son Jérôme and daughter Ann-Pamy in 2002. Sadly, Jérôme was killed in an accident in August of 2018. Éitienne has come out of retirement to help Ann-Pamy and the management team to lead the company.
Dupont’s line of ciders consists of the entry-level Cidre Bouche (reviewed in 2014), an organic cider, Triple (triple fermented from 100% bittersweets), Cuvée Colette (champagne method), and this one, the Calvados-barrel aged Reserve. I didn’t care for the Cidre Bouche when I tried it (too dry and funky) but I really enjoy this cider. The barrel aging adds a wonderful creamy sweetness that balances out the chalky funk. The result is a well-rounded, complex but easy-drinking cider that anyone can enjoy.
That doesn’t come cheap, but Dupont Reserve is easily worth the price. Dupont Reserve is highly recommended.
Palate: Dry. Leather, Meyer lemon juice, clove, filtered apple juice.
Finish: Dry and leathery. Lingers faintly in the cheeks.
Parting words: I reviewed Dunkerton’s Perry back in August. I enjoyed it quite a bit. This is even better. It’s a good example of a well-balanced, dry cider. It has big tannins, funk, acid, spice and sweetness, in that order. While the tannins and funk may turn off some casual cider drinkers, I can see Dunkerton’s being a an easy (and easy to find) first step into the world of dry, wild-fermented ciders. I can also see it becoming one of my go-tos. $7 for 6.9% (just under the line for apple wine) is a great price too. Dunkerton’s Dry Organic cider is highly recommended.