By Erin James
Stephen Schuurman sorely missed the hard cider of his United Kingdom motherland. After moving for a job in 2004 to Winchester, Virginia, Schuurman found his new residence was strong in apple culture as well. Although it took nearly a decade, Schuurman drew upon his winemaking background, linked up with local fourth generation orchardist Diane Kearns and the two made their debut into the cider market with Winchester Ciderworks Malice cider. Since their inaugural release, Winchester has introduced a unique barrel-aging program where Virginia apples, exclusively from Kearns’ Fruit Hill Orchards in the Shenandoah Valley, are fermented and matured in varying types of barrels. Brandy, rum, rye and bourbon, this “Wicked Wiles” line of ciders take on the desired characteristics of the temporary refuge.
Pulling from the bourbon well of Kentucky, the Wicked Wiles Bourbon Barrel-Aged cider was aged in these southern barrels for nine months when Schuurman declared its level of maturation complete. Acetic and lambic aromas greet the nose initially, but tart apple, warm baking spices and lemon thyme quickly sweep in round out the bouquet. “Wicked” in a playful sense, this cider is more serious than it sounds, with complexities on the palate from the barrel (think deep ripe apple and vanilla spice), with a medium-full-body and a tart, tangy and tannic finish.
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