The weather is turning. Leaves are quickly trading their vibrant greens (or in New York City, summer-scorched tans) for their annual autumnal palate. Mornings are crisp, nights are cool and that can only mean one thing… it’s time for cider! While I’m a big fan of cider as a year round beverage, there is something so obvious about aligning them with apple picking, corn mazes and rustic meals after a long day of hiking.
I think this is going to be the year that cider sees a whole new bag of tricks akin to craft beer’s current facination. But for me, there is nothing better than a rock solid cider made from three ingredients; apples, yeast and (the unavoidable) sulfite. One vintner that excels in this category is Massachusetts West County Cider and their shining start this time of year is the West County Cider Kingston Black.
West County Cider continues the centuries-old cider making tradition and adds some modern refinements. We provide a wide variety of hard ciders for the table, from very dry to sweet. Some have a champagne-like flavor, while others are more robust with tannins from traditional American and European cider apples. We use fruit from our own orchard of traditional and untraditional cider varieties as well as apples grown by other New England orchards. Commercial yeast is added; occasionally we use the wild yeast on the apples. West County Ciders stand out by the simplicity of our ingredients: whole apples, a little yeast, and a bit of sulfite (found in nearly all wines). No sugars, water, flavorings, sorbate, carbon dioxide, or concentrates are used in any of our ciders, allowing for a crisp, clean apple taste in every bottle.
Kingston Black apples are notoriously difficult o grow despite their worldwide praise as one of the best bittersweet apples for cidermaking.They impart a classic British flavor to cider with nice tannins and a sharp bitterness that creates a very “wine-like” cider. The results can cut through the best stinky cheese or hold up to a grilled meats. West County Kingston Black is cut with 30% Russet apple to round out the flavor and create a drink that is accessible to cider newbies but well appreciated by the seasoned palate.
The result is a cider that pours a golden honey with subtle effervescence. The nose is full of fresh apples hinted with caramel, rubarb and a bit of lake-house funk attributed to the inclusion of the natural, wild yeast on the apples. The taste follows the nose with lots of green apple and bitter orange peel notes mixed with earthy undertones and a dry, almost chalky, tannic finish. The West County Kingston Black pairs like a champion with pork dishes, cheesecake and camembert cheese.
Drink Kingston Black now through the first frost. For more ambitious pallates, check out the West County Redfield – a cider make from an heirloom applesauce varietal which imparts a vibrant ruby color and balsamic, cranberry notes pefect for fans of the Flanders Red beer style – and for those just getting familiar with cider, look into the Roxbury Russet made entirely from West County’s base apple for a crisp, clean cider with a mineraly finish. All are available now from Astor Wines and Spirits.
Style: Cider, blended
Brewery: West County Cider (Colrain, MA)
Apple Variety: 70% Kingston Black, 30% Golden Russet
Yeast: Wild Yeast
Availability: Annually based on harvest