Ontario Orchards’ Traditional Hard Cider

Good morning, cider friends! Back to school is the main topic in my world these days, and that calls for a cider. I don’t even have any kids, so my heart goes out to all the parents dealing with back-to-school in a pandemic (again). It’s still a challenge as a university employee with a faculty spouse at another nearby college. We take breaks from meetings and emails, even this time of year, and cider can play a starring role in after-work treats. I’m happy to be reviewing a totally unexpected cider shared with me by dear friends. Thank you!

Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Ontario Orchards’ Traditional Hard Cider. This is my first review of any thing by Ontario Orchards. This cidery is based in Oswego, New York.

Visit them online here:

There’s not a ton of info about the cider, but I found this much, “A traditional hard cider made from our own apples and bottled for us by local winery, Bella Fattoria!” 8.2% ABV.

I wish I knew what apples go into this!

I noticed the ABV when my friends showed me the bottle. Many hard ciders end up with an ABV of 6.9% or lower, so I was curious about what made this cider end up just a notch higher. It could be any number of things, but often they correlate to a particularly tasty beverage. It’s not that ABV inherently tastes any particular way, but ripe apples often have more sugar content. Sugar is what is transformed into alcohol by yeast. Please forgive all of this total oversimplification, friends, but it’s one reason to look at ABVs.

Appearance: transparent, pale straw, no visible bubbles

This cider looks elegant and restrained. The Traditional Hard cider is transparent with a mild hue that looks like palest straw stems. I don’t see any bubbles, but that doesn’t mean its not sparkly.

Aromas: minerals, overripe apples, baking spices

Ontario Orchard’s cider smells of clean minerals and overripe apples. I’m reminded of sun-warmed apples sitting on a limestone fence. When I sniff again, I notice baking spice notes. Nothing is overwhelming, but these aromas are enough to whet my curiosity.

Dryness/sweetness: semi-dry

This is a pleasingly semi-dry cider. It’s not austere, but neither is it bursting juicy. The flavors come from fermentation as well as the fresh juice.

Flavors and drinking experience: bubbly, mellow, balanced,

The Traditional Hard Cider by Ontario Orchards certainly brings all the fun of good strong bubbles even though I couldn’t see any bubbles in the poured glass. This cider comes across as mellow and beautifully balanced. We all enjoyed it so much. I was shocked that I’d never heard anyone singing its praises before now. Oswego isn’t that far away.

Something in this cider reminds me of the very few Quebecois ciders I’ve tried that use heat to concentrate the apple flavors. They are called fire ciders but they aren’t to be confused with the vinegar-based cold remedy that goes by the same name. It’s an intriguing set of flavors.

We had the cider with savory shortbread biscuits, and this simple pairing was a perfect way to unwind after lots of busy brain time. I’ll highly recommend it to any one who has the chance to try it, and when I’m near Oswego, I’ll have to check out Ontario Orchards!


Montana Ciderworks’ North Fork Traditional

Continuing last week’s excitement for a new cider brand, I’m moving my focus westward to Montana with Montana Ciderworks’ North Fork Traditional. Amidst our first real dip of the season into genuinely cold temperatures, I felt ready to hunker down with a cider that might be very different from what I can regularly access in upstate New York. I reached for a bottle of Montana Ciderworks’ North Fork Traditional to see what surprises might be in store.

Darby, Montana is where this week’s cidery calls home. Montana Ciderworks has been producing here since 2002! Here’s some of what I found on Montana Ciderworks’ website. It’s the cidery’s succinct introduction to cider and to their style of the beverage.

Traditional cider is a naturally fermented beverage made from apple juice. It was THE drink for Americans from Revolutionary times until Prohibition. Montana CiderWorks honors 100 years of sustainable agriculture in Montana by offering exceptional English-style ciders crafted from Bitterroot Valley apples.

You can visit Montana Ciderworks online to learn about all of the ciders they produce:

Here’s the official description for North Fork Traditional.

Semi-Dry English Style Cider. Golden, gently bubbly, with true cider flavor. Expressive bittersweet apple character with wood, grass & smoke notes; This semi-dry cider balances faintest sweetness against sharpness, astringency, and tart fruit…Our North Fork traditional cider received a Gold Medal at the 2013 Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition. The blend includes hard-to-find traditional cider apples & crab apples alongside Bitterroot Valley apples. North Fork offers a clean, aromatic finish that enhances the flavor of savory foods. Pairs wonderfully with spicy (ethnic) foods, game bird dishes, and hor d’oeuvres with strong cheeses.

Appearance: warm ochre, brilliant, bubbly

The North Fork Traditional brings a lovely intensity of color; it’s a warm ochre. The cider looks both brilliant and bubbly.

Aromas: overripe apples, baking spices, dark berries

This cider smells delightfully mellow and like overripe apples. I get secondary notes of minerals, soft muffin spices, and dark berries.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

This is just on the sweet enough side that I’ll call it semi-sweet rather than semi-dry, but I understand that my perception might skew a bit from the average here. It’s also important to note that the cider is bitter as well as sweet. That certainly affects how its sweetness plays into the full cider experience.

Flavors and drinking experience: Bittersweet, very tannic, medium high acid

Montana Ciderworks’ North Fork Traditional makes a big and bittersweet first impression. My hopes for the week are realized as this profile is quite a bit different from what I drink most often. This cider very tannic with medium-high acid and a fair bit of sweetness. It’s a clean fermentation, but otherwise I’m seeing lots of UK influence.

I don’t habitually reach for a semi-sweet cider but the bitterness of the North Traditional Fork could change my mind! I love how very uk the profile remains sip after sip. The cider lingers with an amazing applesauce finish. This cider has plenty of bubble and a medium full body. I enjoyed the North Fork Traditional with vegetarian borscht and pierogi. It was a delightful combination.