Category Archives: Michigan

Tandem Ciders Smackintosh Hard Apple Cider

Another cider

I’m really stepping up my cider game here, but I wanted to report briefly on this cider that we had over the weekend. Induced by J.K.’s Scrumpy we had last Thursday night, a friend who crashed with us for a couple of nights decided to buy this 750 ml bottle of Michigan cider and we drank it Sunday.

Tandem Ciders is located in Sutton Bay, MI. For the Smackintosh they use “old school Michigan apples” (whatever this is to mean…), in this case McIntosh apples (you kinda figured with that name), Rhode Island Greening and Northern Spy. The store we bought it at had several other varieties on shelf, but somehow we ended up with this one. At 5% ABV it sounded about right for a summer day.

It poured way lighter in color than the Scrumpy and the texture was also less thick. It tasted pretty yummy, refreshing and a nice amount of not make you burp bubbles. I did not get a “smack” or anything (I guess I expected something like that from a cider called Smackintosh). It was on the sweeter side, but still refreshing, a good drink on a Sunday afternoon.

What I could not get over however was its price. The bottle was sold to us for $12.99 (sic!). In my view, that is an outrageous price for a cider. Cider is supposed to be easy drinking, easy buying summer refreshment. At that price, I can get quite decent wines that provide me with more value than a cider…

So, all in all? Tasted good, glad it was a gift, because I would not pay that amount of money for a cider…

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J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider

Summer is not just wine time for me, it is also cider time. I only developed a soft spot for ciders in my 20s which is kind of curious because I grew up just 40 minutes West of Frankfurt, which is Germany’s cider capital (cider is called “Ebbelwoi” in the dialect of the region). I guess it is the fact that Frankfurt is on the “wrong” side of the Rhine (everything that is on the right bank of the river is considered the wrong side by people who live or grew up on the left bank of the river) that made me never dive into its apple wine culture. I also always loved “Apfelschorle”, which is mixture of apple juice and sparkling water, very refreshing when it is hot. Trier, where I lived for a long time, boasts its own culture of apple wine called “Viez”. Usually drier than the Frankfurt stuff, this mixes well with sparkling water or lemonade…

A friend of ours brought some of this Michigan cider to our place the other night. J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider is a USDA certified organic cider. The bottle claims that the cider is fermented naturally in small artisanal batches from apples harvested at Koan Family Orchards in Flushing, MI. The company boasts its history (since 1860), and states that the recipe is unchanged since the great depression.

The cider was of a honeyish, brown color; quite darker than I know ciders. That was definitely a surprise. The first taste I got was pretty sweet. It gave you a good mouthful of cider, the texture being rather thick. It tasted strongly of yellow apples, with honey notes towards the end.

For my taste, Scrumpy was too sweet and too heavy to be truly refreshing in summer heat. I am just looking for lighter refreshment these days. But I can imagine this one going down much better as the later fall days arrive…and be a really nice drink when the cold Michigan winters reach us.

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Fenn Valley Vidal Blanc 42 Ice Wine

The beautiful and fitting label was just the start for a great experience.

Having set the tone with my ice wine post yesterday, it is my pleasure to write about this particular one.

Fenn Valley winery is, according to its website, a family owned winery on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and has been in operation since 1973. The farm is spread over 230 acres (93 hectares for my European friends), quite sizeable when you consider that my usual winery at the Mosel works on between 5 and 15 hectares (between 12 and 40 acres). It has to be noted though that they also produce fruit wines (a common thing for a Michigan winery, as I had to learn when I started checking out local wineries), so not all the land is used for wine production. Fenn Valley has a proud history of exploring new varietals for the area, such as vidal and viognier, but also riesling and gewürztraminer.

Their wine list is extensive, and as you will notice the wines are all priced rather reasonably. And the wine I am going to talk about now definitely makes me want to try more of their stuff, and definitely visit the winery.

Friends of ours brought this bottle as a participant in one of our wine and cheese parties. Being the German wine snob I am, I was at first skeptical: an ice wine from Michigan…ha. Well, we’ll see…Once I read that the grapes were actually frozen on the vines before harvest (same as the method in Germany), I was pleasantly surprised. It was also my first go with the vidal grape (at least I cannot remember another instance I might have tried it). The wine has 10.5% vol. alcohol, which is rather high for an ice wine.

The color was a beautiful light honey. The nose had candied fruit and honey notes as well, which I liked a lot. Another taster remarked on tropical notes. Tastewise, it does not have the acidity structure that a riesling ice wine would have brought to the table which diminished the experience a bit, because it made the wine very very sweet without a counterbalancing acidity. The fruit however was very well concentrated and I liked the long lasting finish. I thought all in all it was a tad too one-dimensional, but it was still a great work of art and skill. When I later learned that the half-bottle is a mere $15 (that is an insanely low price), I was stunned. This wine could definitely retail at a much higher price.

Another taster who had tried the wine on winery remarked on cellartracker.com (oldest post) that Fenn Valley had agreed to produce that wine for a neighbouring land owner who, because of the economic crisis then could not buy back the finished product. So Fenn Valley retained it at a steep discount and decided to pass that discount along to customers…WOW!

This wine is a steal, and a very affordable way to try a well made ice wine. Unfortunately, it has sold out at the winery, but I have definitely seen it at a liquor store in Ann Arbor. That means it is still around, so go hunt! It is well worth it!!

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