Friday, September 27, 2013

THE APPLE AS ART: A VISIT TO LA FACE CACHEE DE LA POMME

I recently had lunch with a friend who lamented that he was making a lot of money, but wasting his life. What was he doing with his life? What am I building for my children? How am I spending my energies? Sounds like middle age, yes, but it is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another.
 Then there’s the side of that conversation. There are some things you experience, that you realize as they are happening, that have reached a moment of perfection. That you are in the presence of professionals, yes, but also that of artisans. That the work they are perfecting transcends their industry, or their medium. To be in the presence of that kind of achievement is inspiring.

As someone who works both sides of the tastingroom bar, I am constantly looking for the cracks in the façade when I am traveling. When I am behind the bar, I have always found honesty to be the best policy. Then there’s nothing to discuss but the wine. Because if you’re excited about that you’re doing then other people will pick up that same enthusiasm. If it’s genuine, you never have to worry about it. When traveling my radar is constantly probing. At the same time, I am constantly looking for the telltale detail that can confirm my best hopes and/or worst fears. Sometimes it’s the smallest details, or the simplest things that do this for someone. And sometimes plain and simple you run into a work of art.
La Face Cachee De La Pomme makes art. The medium they work in is apples. And the art they produce is of the liquid kind. And make no mistake – they make art. And they are artisans.


I arrived there with a troupe of wine writers and bloggers. A gang of us, who were treated and feted with great care. There was no question, that one of the prerequisites of the winery is that you must be beautiful, for we saw no one who worked there that day who wasn’t fit and chic. I actually found it quite disconcerting like being in a Abercrombie & Fitch, knowing they didn’t have anything that would fit me. But we quickly got passed this.
 
The first experience we had was when the director of sales took us on a tour of the vineyards to explain their farming techniques. They showed us a traditional orchard, and the new orchards where they grow apples like grapes, on trellises designed for effective spraying and easy harvesting an increased production, as well as maximum sunshine.


 

Then we went on a tour of the facilities, and then ultimately to the tasting room.

The rooms again were incredibly stylish and impeccably decorated. In the back, there was a giant black chalkboard wall, with a diagram on it and a gorgeous rustic table with local cheeses and honey were paired with the ciders. This is where it got incredibly interesting.

 
 
 
There were two sparkling ciders to start off the tasting. The one that made the biggest impression on me was the La Face Cachée de la Pomme Bulle Rosé which is a pink cider made from
80% Geneva and 20% Honeygold apples. Big nose of apples and strawberries. But there’s also a touch of yeast here, like a fine sparkling. Beautiful on the palate, with nice fruit, fry and creamy (like a fine rose’), but tart with nice acidity. Great balance. A lovely, lovely wine….errr, cider! This was an exquisite cider.....funny I keep wanting to say and write wine because these ciders had the nose of cider but the finesse of wine. I keep comparing them in my mind to champagne and sparkling wines....but they are ciders. That's house good these ciders are. You put these in a pint glass and I'll come to your house and shoot you! Champagne flutes, please! 
 

 La Face Cachée de la Pomme Neige Bubbles is made from fresh hand-picked 100% McIntosh (apples known for their sweet and acidic taste) and Spartan (very sweet apples with a slight pear flavor) through a dosage of Neige apple ice wine. The cider is a golden yellow with light reflections. Bubbles are fine, sharp and generous. The tasting notes say, “Pure and clean, the aroma reminds fresh apple and white flower.,” and it’s absolutely true! It’s light, effervescent, and absolutely delicious! A perfect balance of sugar and acidity.

 
Inspired by the technique used to make ice wine and by our very particular climate, ice cider (also known as apple ice wine) was born out of the Québec terroir, which has the extreme cold winter temperatures needed to produce the concentration of sugars for its creation. La Face Cachée de la Pomme makes ice cider using two natural processes that they contributed to developed — cryoconcentration and cryoextraction. They also led the conversation as to what the definition of "ice cider" can or cannot be.

La Face Cachée de la Pomme Neige Premiere was next. Autumn harvest. Blend of McIntosh (80%) and Spartan (20%) apples. Golden yellow in color like a good dessert wine. The nose is all freshly picked ripe apples. It’s incredibly intense. Hints of pear and apricot. Sweet but with great acidity. Perfectly balanced. An excellent dessert wine....err, cider. 
 
But don't take my word for it, here's the quotes from a couple of other wine writers who liked Premiere:
 
Sweet wines just aren’t my thing, but Neige is so unexpected. Who would have thought apple ice wine could turn me on to sweet wines? Incredible fragrance from the apples combined with piercing acidity makes this so sippable and not cloying. Very good with cheddar!” - Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng, Cravings, Dec. 12th, 2008
 
“Neige is pure enjoyment in a bottle.” - Jean-Louis Doucet, Les Meilleurs Vins de 10 à 30$, 2010.
 
“Who would have believed that one day cider could compete with grand dessert wines?” - Bruno Quenioux, Head Sommelier, Lafayette Gourmet, Paris.
 



This is the premiere product of La Face Cachee De La Pomme. Produced since 1994, La Face Cachee De La Pomme Neige Récolte d’hiver it is the very first ice cider (also known as apple ice wine) to be commercialized in Québec and throughout the world. Neige Récolte d’hiver – produced from a variety of apples that do not fall during the autumn season – is available in a limited edition series of 5866 bottles for the 2007 harvest. Edition 2008 is limited at 10 560 bottles.
 
 
According to the tasting notes, "Picked between December and January, while the temperature was approximately -15°C, the fruits still hanging on trees were dehydrated by the sun and literally cooked by the cold and wind. Sugars were concentrated through natural cryoextraction. Frozen apples were then pressed in order to extract the precious nectar. The extracted must was then placed in stainless steel tanks where it fermented for a period of approximately eight months, at low temperatures, before being bottled."
 
This is the ultimate in ice-cider. Easily the best Canada, and the world, produces. There are other good and very good ones to be sure. But this is the Cahteau Y'Quem of ice-cider. Big, rich, opulent, unctuous. Apple and pear are complimented by notes of honey, apricot and mango. This is one of the best dessert wines you will ever try! Damn...ice-ciders you will try anywhere time any where. 
 
 
Neige Noir is essentially a apple cider port at 20% alcohol. Dark, deep, and mysterious, it' a cousin to apple jack but much more flavorful. 60% autumn apples 40% winter apples and aged three years in oak. This is a big complex liquor. Caramelized apple, pear, fig, and candied fruit. Spice. A hint of nuttiness. A very lovely, sophisticated port-styled or sherry-style cider, meant to be drunk by the fire with a wheel of Stilton. Made in small batch, limited edition bottlings.
 
 
La Face Cachee De La Pomme should officially be named a holy place for those that make or enjoy cider. All should make a pilgrimage before declaring anything about how cider is made or how ti is revered. This is place is sophisticated for a winery, let alone a cidery. Cider has long been the province of those making a Colonial drink. And rightfully so, as it was. There are those ciders who belong with the beer crowd, and are very, very good. This is no knock on them.
 
 But there are those who make exquisite ciders, who elevate the tradition into an art. Farnum Hill in New Hampshire is one such a place. La Face Cachee De La Pomme is another.

 
 
And so the "framed" photo of our contingent was appropriate at the end of the day, for we had all discovered the apple, framed as art. And the living museum is La Face Cachee De La Pomme.