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Wine of the Week: Tilted Shed January Barbecue Smoked Cider

The first time I leaned into a glass of Tilted Shed Ciderworks January Barbecue Smoked Cider, made with Sonoma County-grown heritage apples, it took me back to some good, old Sonoma County memories.

That smell my favorite old, green heather wool sweater had after a night around the campfire with friends at Doran Beach.

Or farther back, that salty, smoky aroma that greeted me when I stepped into the cottage at Salmon Creek, near Sonoma Coast State Beach, that used to be in the family. A fine sand was always crunching underfoot, no matter how we swept, and the saline ocean breeze mixed with chimney smoke clung to everything like a heavily-applied perfume.

I sure do miss that place, but why am I spending so much time talking about an old beach cottage lost to memory in this cider of the week review? Because this is serious cider and while it might be a touch of hyperbole to say that cider can be as evocative as a fine old Burgundy — well, for the hard apple cider category, this Shed is not too shabby.

Tilted Shed’s Ellen Cavalli and Scott Heath make this cider by first sticking a portion of their apples in a smoker with oak, pear, and apple wood, then pressing and fermenting those with other Sonoma County apples.

Because of a quirk in the beverage laws, their 2014 January Barbecue Smoked Cider cannot be vintage dated — look for the “batch number,” instead.

Coming in at 8 percent ABV, this is a tad less smoky than the last batch on the nose, though still saline, and evocative of sea breeze, plus fresh baking apple and apricot. It’s rich, somewhat tannic, and medium-effervescent on the palate. This is not a sweet cider. I wouldn’t mind more smoke here but, all in all, this is one of their better efforts I’ve tasted.

For food pairings, think of something that you can’t quite fit with wine, but beer won’t cut it, either. Potato au gratin comes to mind, and Sonoma County’s artisan sheep creamy Bellwether Farms has just the thing.


Recipe: Carmody Cheese & Potato Au Gratin

From Bellwether Farms Artisan Creamery

    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 cup fresh leeks, washed and cut into thin rounds
    ½ cup fresh fennel, sliced ¼ inch thick
    2 cups red potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
    2 tablespoons fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
    7 ounces Bellwether Farms Carmody Cheese
    1 cup cream or milk of choice
    Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté leeks and fennel until golden, approximately 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Brush an 8x12-inch, 2-inch deep baking pan with olive oil. Arrange potato slices in baking dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese and evenly spread leek mixture over cheese and potatoes. Sprinkle remaining cheese and drizzle with cream. Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until golden on top and potatoes are completely cooked. Serve hot and enjoy.

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