Time for part 3 American Cider review series. Sonoma Cider is all about the organic fruits and bringing the best flavours from the orchard to the bottle. This week I’m reviewing their “The Hatchet Cider”, Sonoma’s apple cider.

The back of Sonoma' The Hatchet Cider bottleSonoma’s Cidermaster has learnt the skills of fruit fermentation on the New World of Californian wine making scene. Down in the Napa valley David Cordtz worked with champagne yeast in methode traditionalle sparkling wines. Now he is using his knowledge on apples.

The Apples are sourced from the Pacific North West states of Oregon and Washington as well as more locally from the Sonoma County. All the apples are organic and the varieties change depending on the season. Borrowing a technique from wine making where smaller berries are preferred because gram for gram they pack more flavour. Here Sonoma also favours the smaller apples. The fact that organic apples probably means they’re not grown in soils pumped up with artificial nitrogen. Nitrogen spurs on growth in many plants but it can create apples that are “hollow” in flavour.

David’s son is the mechanic of the family. Restoring an old bottling line has meant that Sonoma can grow faster as less time is spent bottling.

The Nose

First up I’ve got to say I’m getting a big hit of stewed apple. Whenever I see this I start to look for a best before date or a batch number. I don’t fully understand the process but ciders left in the bottle too long can develop stewed or cooked apple flavour. I cant find a batch number so I can’t tell you how long this bottle as been sitting on the shelf. I did, however find out that it doesn’t contain sulphites. Sulphites are normally used as a preservative, a practice that’s been used since roman times. The downside is that some people can have allergic reactions to sulphites in the form of asthma. The lack of sulphites may speed up the stewing of the flavours.

The Taste

There is no getting away from the baked apples here. But underneath that there are layers of softness and just a bit of bitterness for balance. All the way round this is a soft cider, soft on the bubbles, a soft mouth feel, soft in the finish. There seems like there could be more to this cider, if i had just caught it early.

Final Thoughts on The Hatchet Cider

The cider I tasted didn’t match the description on Sonoma’s web site. They describe “fresh, ripe apple aromas, … a clean, refreshing hard cider with noticeable complexity and a lively finish.” I wasn’t getting the freshness. It was complex but complex like doing a jigsaw in the dark not complex as in finding your towel on the beach after a swim, much darker and missing the bright freshness.

I don’t think this is a very fair review. This cider could have been sitting on a shelf for a while, it’s travelled half way around the world. The Hatchet ticks a lot of boxes that should make for a good cider, carefully selected organic apple and sulphite free, among other factors. Wine fans go to great lengths to keep there wines the perfect temperatures for peak flavour. My bottle has not had that loving.

If I ever travel to the US I’m going to time my trip to arrive just as a new vintages ciders hit the shelves. I’ll be hunting down a pub that stocks Sonoma, just so I can give The Hatchet apple cider a second chance.

Product The Hatchet
Company Sonoma
Sweetness Medium Sweet
Alc/Vol 6%
Website SonomaCider.com
Country of Origin USA
Region Heldsburg, Northern California

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