Tasting Notes: West County’s Redfield

  • West County Cider, Shelburne, MA.
  • Unknown Harvest Year.
  • Apples: 100% Redfield (Red Geneva).
  • 750 ml w/ champagne cork and cage.

First a confession.  West County Cider’s Redfield was one of my bucket list ciders.  I first learned of the beverage in a post by its maker, Terry Maloney, to the Cider Digest list-serve sometime back around 2008.  I never had a chance to meet Terry, who passed away in 2010, but I have certainly benefited from his generosity of knowledge and experience shared as regular contributor to the list-serve.  Terry stated that he discovered the Redfield at the Cornell orchards in the 1980’s.  According to Cornell, the Redfield apple was developed in 1938 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva as an ornamental (it has beautiful burgundy leaves) from a cross of Wolf River and Malus niedzwetzkyana (a red-fleshed apple from central Asia).  Terry claimed that the tree was easy to grow (which I can confirm from my own orchard) and highly productive. It is also obvious to me through his comments that Terry put a lot of effort into developing a process for managing the cider’s high acidity and maintaining it’s brilliant ruby-red color. By all accounts, West County’s Redfield was the first red-fleshed cider produced in the US. Today there are many other offerings including Uncle John’s Cider Rose’ and Alpinefire’s Aerlie Red. Terry’s son, Field Maloney continues the production of West County’s Redfield.

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Tasting Notes:

In the glass, the cider displayed as a clear, brilliant ruby-red, reflecting highlights of gold, with a reddish-orange rim.  It contained a gentle effervescence, with bubbles accumulating at the margin, yet lacking enough vigor to form a head.

The light carbonation resulted in a subtle, understated aroma of pleasant fruit and honey, implying cotton candy, taffy, or even candied apple or crab apple jelly. There was a fleeting acetic/vinegar character though certainly not to a level which felt like a flaw. In fact, to my nose, the acetic character complimented the sweet fruit, rounding out the aroma quite beautifully.

In the mouth, the light carbonation gave way to a mellow sweetness, followed by a mild crab apple-like soft astringency and lingering balanced tartness. The restrained acidity was quite surprising given my experiences with other red-fleshed apple ciders. A malo-lactic fermentation certainly must have been involved, yet the characteristic creamy, mouth-coating texture you would expect from this process was not readily apparent to my tastes.

I have enjoyed a number of red-fleshed apple ciders through the years and though each has been fun and interesting, as a whole they tend to be quite sharp or acidic and very “crab-appley” in character. My expectations were admittedly high (bucket list, remember) yet I was still extremely surprised and impressed by West County’s Redfield, particularly at the precise balance and tempered acidity.

Do yourself a favor and grab a bottle of this unique, finely crafted cider.  According to West County’s website, their cider’s can be purchased throughout Massachusetts and the greater-Boston area.  They are also sold through a number of online bottle shops. I purchased mine from an online source in Chicago.

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