"While we weren't blown away, Tomasello had the best flavor of the bunch: unquestionably cherry in the Manischewitz vein, with a slightly syrupy, almost artificial taste..."
Perhaps we should have quit while we were ahead. Last week, we excitedly canvassed a small collection of locally available blueberry beverages - wine, beer, and tea - and laid plans for a series of Bubbly articles on beverages from around the area. This week, we again visited a large local wine store, and tried to pick up as many locally produced dessert wines as we could find in one flavor: Cherry. As you'll see in our very brief review, our haul was a grand total of one local wine and one local hard cider, with the best available option a bottle that was produced outside of Western New York. Since we know there are fantastic alternatives available on the Niagara Wine Trail, it looks like it's time to go on a tour to find the really good local stuff.
Based on our experiences last week, we weren't surprised that our top pick of the Cherry group was Tomasello Winery's simply titled Cherry Wine ($10). Like the Tomasello Blueberry Wine we covered last week, it comes in a fancy but comparatively sparing 500ml bottle, and boasts 100% cherry content, with 9% alcohol.
While we weren't blown away by any of these bottles by comparison with last week's, the Tomasello Cherry had the best overall flavor of the bunch: it was unquestionably cherry in the Manischewitz vein, with a slightly syrupy, almost artificial taste that wasn't off-putting, but wasn't great, either. We concurred that it was "nice-ish," possessing a slightly bitter aftertaste, and making a far more positive overall impression than its direct competitor. We'd give it 2.5 stars overall, though the similarly-rated Blueberry would be our pick of the two; once again, it's produced in Hammonton, New Jersey.
While similar in name, the Vizcarra Vineyards Emperor Cherry Wine ($9.34) wasn't anywhere near as impressive. Produced in Gasport, New York, it comes in a 750ml bottle with no specified proof or level of alcohol content.
One of us disliked the Emperor immensely, deeming it the worst dessert wine we've ever had, and describing the flavor as like cough syrup. The other noted that while it was way too thin to really resemble cough syrup, it didn't taste very good; once in the mouth, it oddly separated distinctly into the flavors of alcohol, light fruit, and bitter cherry pits. An unpleasant, bitter aftertaste was left at the end. It certainly wasn't worth purchasing again; we'd give it one star, perhaps only a half.
Finally, we picked up a 750ml bottle of Bellwether Hard Cider's Cherry Street Hard Cider with Cherry ($10), produced in Trumansburg, New York. With 5.5% alcohol content, Cherry Street is halfway between a beer and a wine, lacking in sweetness but possessing a strong, obviously fruity flavor; like all "hard ciders," and unlike the heavily cherry-based wines above, it's made substantially from fermented apples.
Thus, the company's description is accurate: you taste apples first, then a very light, sour cherry flavor at the end. Like many ciders, Cherry Street would unquestionably appeal to fans of Belgian lambics, particularly gueuze beers, but it's not the top pick for cherry fanatics. Both of us thought it was a nice cider, but emphasizing its cherry content seemed like a real stretch given how strong the apple flavor was; only by comparison to completely apple hard ciders would this qualify as an especially cherry beverage. It rates two stars overall.
It should be noted that this week's selections were purchased from the Premier Group's Premium Wines in Williamsville, a large store with a sizable collection of wines from all over the state, country, and world; the lack of numerous locally produced cherry wines at this store may be as much a statement about demand as the store's stocking policies. Still, we have strong reason to believe that we'll find better options on the Wine Trail, and if so, we'll update this article to let you know what they are. Next week, Bubbly will focus on Raspberry Wines, and we hope to have some more exciting results to share with you then.