Rieslings, ice wines, and others might get the attention of the Niagara Wine Trail, but cider is making waves of its own. Barker’s Blackbird Cider Works opened its doors in 2011 after 6 years of planning, preparation, and a lot of work by Scott Donovan and his team.
To the benefit of our experiences we’ve always visited Blackbird Cider Works during quiet moments. Our tastings have focused on conversations with engaging staff and an educational session on how cider is evolving. Not all hard cider is carbonated, it’s not all sweet, and just like wine and beer there’s a very diverse flavor profile. Don’t be discouraged or put off by smaller crowds believing that it is somehow indicative of a less than stellar product. If you haven’t already noticed, this cider is everywhere; you’ll find it in stores, restaurants, and bars across the area.
What should you taste and then what should you buy? This is easy. Try to spread out your tasting so you can experience something from each classification. Also, rely on the staff. Let them know what you typically enjoy, so they can craft a tasting in and just out of your comfort zone. Personally, I think the Buffalo Bluegrass Kentucky Barrel Aged Hard Cider and the Dabinett English Style Cider, though both limited, should be part of your purchase. We took two of the barrel aged bottles, and had the opportunity to taste the Dabinett just prior to its release.
While hard ciders are growing in popularity, some still believe all conversations begin and end with Angry Orchard and other mainstream options. Adding this stop on your next outing will certainly help to expand your view beyond what you’ll find in the grocery store.
Side note: Jeff (@firstelder22) conducted our tasting and did a fantastic job. If you stop out and see either Jeff or Scott, let them know we said hello.