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29 March, 2017

From Wine to William Tell Cider: The Scotto Brothers Can Juice!

Posted in : Cider, Mead, Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris on by : The Gourmez

If you’re wondering if I meant that post title to be a pun, wonder no longer—

William Tell Cider Blueberry Zin

Canned juice.

The pun works on so many levels, I couldn’t resist! Of course, your appreciation of my cleverness may be enhanced if you have some background information on Scotto Cellars, a fifth-generation, Lodi-based winemaking family that has climbed out of the grape vats and into the trees to create the Cider Brothers. That winemaking knowledge fully informs their approach to cider production, a truth that I witnessed firsthand a few months back at a dinner with brother Paul Scotto, his wife Whitney, and a gaggle of fellow wine bloggers and industry friends. Obligatory disclaimer: That means the food and drink I’m writing about in this post were entirely free to me.

William Tell Cider Diner Paul Scotto

Paul Scotto, center right, framed by Whitney, Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog, and Kerry of Grape Live.

I am a dry wine fan by nature, and that preference extends to cider. I much prefer the traditional English style over the juicier, sweeter American ones provided by the biggest cider companies out here — you shouldn’t have to think too hard to come up with some names. But there has been a craft cider awakening of late! And with it comes the Cider Brothers’ experimentation that isn’t afraid to go to either side of the dry/sweet divide under the Pacific Coast and William Tell Cider labels.

Because of my love of dry ciders, it’s a good thing we started out with the William Tell Bone Dry Cider.

William Tell Cider: Bone Dry

William Tell Cider Bone Dry

This one pleased me instantly. The flavor was all apple, yet I couldn’t help but think of chardonnay as I sipped, and not just any chardonnay, but the crisp, and yes, dry ones that I love to discover along with their acidic lemon, lime, and mineral notes. One taste, and I could already see how the Scotto family winemaking cred created a unique cider unlike others on the market. And that was before Paul dove into describing its influence on their cider flavor combinations.

Flavor combinations? That … that sounds like a gimmick, doesn’t it? Rest assured, readers, in the hands of knowledgeable producers who trust their instincts, it’s an adventure worth imbibing.

William Tell Cider: Apple Pinot Grigio

William Tell Cider Pinot Grigio

What? Wine *in* the cider? I was dubious too, but I declared this cider one of the highlights of my Wine Bloggers Conference last August, and it still impresses through sheer creativity. Pinot grigio is blended in with fermented apple juice before a final ferment together. A musty nose adds depth to what I’d call a wine-forward cider that ends as sparkling as a lime spritzer. It went great with a grilled calamari starter at Fish & Farm in San Francisco.

Grilled calamari Fish and Farm San Francisco

And wine isn’t all the Cider Brothers are playing with as cider add-ins.

William Tell Cider: Apple Wild Cherry

In addition to cherries, this cider gets a soft cinnamon dose that amplifies its intriguing combination of flavors. It’s tart, not treacly, and is aged in French oak. And with such a gorgeous color—

William Tell Cider Wild Cherry

— I’d recommend it for a refreshing afternoon drink any day.

So success at juice additions and wine additions to cider? Check. The next logical step? Both! With an eye toward complementary flavors, of course.

William Tell Cider: Blueberry Zin and Mango Muscat

William Tell Cider Mango Muscat

These two offerings are ones I can’t effuse about quite as enthusiastically, but that is largely due to my own preferences. Both ciders are solid, but they are the sweetest ones we tried, and I dislike the taste of blueberries and muscat grapes. The latter evokes the green haze of a bog, like stepping onto the plank-lined boardwalk in Eastern North Carolina’s marshlands. There’s a lot of mango to mask it, which is why I still enjoyed my taste, but ultimately, I am not your muscat market. The blueberry zin provided an intriguing combination that yielded more of a blackberry flair, but aside from the intriguing color—

William Tell Cider Blueberry Zin

— I likely wouldn’t pick it over the pinot grigio or bone-dry cider. But I sure as heck would pick it or the cherry anytime I’m looking for an easier, lower ABV option for a picnic than bringing along wine glasses and a corkscrew. And that is precisely what inspired all this cider creativity: a desire to bring the sophistication of a wine palate to the convenience and affordability of an $8.99/4-pk. If the William Tell Cider options available at your local specialty foods store aren’t good enough, you can also fill up growlers of seasonal flavors in the Chicago area or at the Scotto Brothers’ Lodi tasting room (14 South School Street). Pro tip: the cranberry cider with pie spices is a must for next year’s holidays.

William Tell Cider Cranberry Growler

And of course, for these ceaseless entrepreneurs, conquering wine and cider is not enough. Let’s just say my gulp of this next pictured concoction was enough for me to hope to find it and its cement nose, Semillon backbone, and Necco chocolate wafer, peach, honey, and graham cracker notes again soon.

Napa Meadery

Thanks, Scotto Cellars Cider Brothers, for always keeping my palate awake!

Dinner took place 23 January 2017.

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