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Aeppeltreow Winery and Distillery

Burlington, WI

 

Crusin' Rating: B+

Booze Rating: C-

 
Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Aeppeltreow Winery

For this week, we all have lots to be thankful for. For me, it’s the opportunity to combine two of my passions, tasting libations throughout the greatest state in the nation, and writing. So, I thought, in that spirit, we would visit the place that started it all.


On the outskirts of Burlington lies Aeppeltreow (pronounced “apple true”) Winery and Distillery and, like I said, this was the place that started it all. Years before the blog, this was the first alcohol producer I ever visited and what I consider the first step on this journey. This predates everything except the Prankster, really. It was at this very orchard that I became enamored with what alcohol could be, what it could truly say about the farming community, agriculture, and industry of our state.


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Aeppeltreow

It was here that I saw fruit going directly from orchard to goblet and grain to glass. This was long before it became trendy to be locally sourced on the food scene, and now the booze scene. This was an orchard producing its own spirits and my very first foray into this deep and varied world of booze that we traverse. From my first visit, I knew, that this is what Wisconsin was all about: great people, locally-grown produce, and exemplary offerings. This was my hometown, and this is where I realized how much this industry can be ingrained into a community, thrive off of it, depend on it, and represent it.


As much as this is a trip down memory lane for me; this isn’t entirely a love-letter to my roots. I have learned a lot since that first trip, started a blog, visited near fifty wineries, almost double that in breweries, and dozens of distilleries with a healthy portion of cider and mead along the way. I’ve learned the ins and outs, tricks behind the scenes, the risks involved, the failures, and the successes of small places that are really just someone’s dream that’s become reality. I’ve gone back to Aeppeltreow several times over the years, and while I will almost certainly keep going back, I have learned that no place is perfect, even though, I will always hold it in a special place.


Thanksgiving is first and foremost about the bounty of the harvest. What better evokes a plentiful harvest than an orchard brimming with apples and spirits and cider made directly from that bounty?


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Aeppeltreow

Fall, my favorite season, always seems to slip through my fingers so quickly. We were lucky to be blessed with a windy, but mild fall day in the lower fifties when we visited. Apple trees vibrantly painted with rich foliage in the throes of change cower under a mighty oak tree that sits in the middle of this farm. A cider donut truck nearby pumps out the sweet smell of fried dough and cinnamon. The apples are ripe, Brightonwood, the aforementioned and affiliated orchard, has a small farm store brimming with dozens and dozens of apple varieties. It’s not a trip out here in fall without filling a few bags of succulent Galas and Fujis along with exotic varieties I’ve never heard of before. Grabbing mulled cider and a donut, Hannah, the Prankster, and me all sit at a table and take in the wonderful scents of the season.



Inside the barn that serves as both production room, tasting room(s), and shop, we are ushered past racks of bottles to a newer addition, a little tasting room with an oval bar where there are others eagerly awaiting there turn. Thus, my first negative note. I don’t like group tastings. First and foremost, it doesn’t give you an intimate experience at your own pace. This is confounded even more when you’re trying to take your time with each sample and scribble down notes as you go. They do offer outdoor tastings, but that day was a bit too windy to leave the small plastic cups on the table for a even a moment. I really wish there were more indoor seating, if any, available here. There was one instance, Hannah and I’s first trip, that we were able to sit outside on warm spring day but honestly, the wind again took most scents away when the blossoming orchard wasn’t eagerly lapping at our noses.



There have been times where we got lucky with the small tasting room with one of the ladies that worked there, and honestly, it was the prime experience. Being able to sit and talk to someone about each sample who helps produce it, joke around, learn about the history of the spot, and even try some samples straight from a barrel will always be the preferred style of tasting, but that’s not realistic to expect from everyone running a business. The fact remains though, group tastings are simply not the way to go. I always, always feel rushed at a group tasting here and it causes a distinct lack of enjoyment in the experience.



Outside of that, it is a barn, through and through. While there are no animals in it or around it, and it’s quite clean, there isn’t much you can do in the way of decorating a barn which has the majority of it’s space dedicated to storage and production. I am torn. I would love to see a larger tasting room and some decorations, but I worry about how that would balance the authenticity of the place.


My tasting notes, are unfortunately, not entirely up to par with what we are used to here:


Ciders:

Barn Swallow (6% ABV) - This is a semi dry cider, champagne white with a pear aroma and medium tannin content and medium-high carbonation with some definite notes of pears and some type of apple (Cortland in the description). I think it tastes closer to applesauce, that sort of mellowed sweetness.


Scrumpy (6% ABV) - This cider was fun. It smelled of sweet Southern Carolina-style barbecue and smoked bacon. Yes, you read that right, it smelled like a cookout. It’s wild fermented and had distinct tasting notes of bacon and grilled peaches. What a ride, but maybe not everyone’s cup of tea.


Blackbird (6% ABV) - This cider is made of black currants and elderberries, two of my favorite fruits. Dark ruby in color, this cider featured high carbonation and tartness with the scent of bright berries. There are notes on the tongue of black currants for sure that give way to rich cherry pie filling and finishes dry. Hannah, Armando, and I all agreed this was our favorite of the tasting. Hands-down.


Wine:

Poirissimo (19% ABV) - This pear wine had a decidedly floral nose with, of course, notes of pear. The taste was mellow pear, like one that’s been sitting on the counter for a while and then moves into a turnover with a slight buttery sweetness.


Pommeaux (19% ABV) - This Apple Dessert wine had a very similar aroma to the orchard in bloom, with hints of oak on the tongue, full, sweet apples, and rich apple butter


Other:

Peach Brandy (40% ABV) - I am all for a brandy. I’m even all for a fruited brandy. Birthday shots of Leroux or fine cocktails with Apple Brandy, I’m usually not too picky. I’ll do Boston 5 Star or Korbel or even some niche 5-year aged from varying distilleries. This Peach Brandy though missed the mark for me, and it’s one I have tried on several trips. There’s a very high-oak nose and the peach is just barely there. Not in a subtle-understated way, but in a way that it would be rough to call this Peach brandy, and honestly, it is, unfortunately, a brandy I cannot recommend whatsoever.


I have always been of the mind when it comes to Aeppeltreow (true to apples or apple tree), why do they not focus on Cider? While there are cideries in Wisconsin, as far as I am aware it’s the smallest pool of competition outside of mead. To me, where this place really shines is it’s cider. I can understand the apple wine, or the apple brandy, maybe even the pear brandy. But I think when you are slinging cider, wine, and hard spirits it’s just a little too much and I have really always thought that. I honestly think they should stick to Cider. I have bought bottles of wine and brandy and brought them home to put up next to others and while I understand the need to diversify, I can really only recommend the cider there, which brings me to my last review.


Sparrow (6.2% ABV) - This is easily one of my top three ciders and you know, in fall and winter, it may just be my favorite cider. This cider is filled with a custom spice blend featuring Mace, Cassia, cinnamon and other secrets that bring out a flavor close to Chai tea. It is a the perfect holiday and fall beverage that hits all the right notes of sweetness, tannin content, and carbonation level. I absolutely cannot recommend this cider enough, if they have it in stock (it goes fast!).


Looking back, yes, I love Aeppeltreow, and it will always hold a spot as the first step on what hopefully becomes a lifelong journey. It’s difficult to assign grades to this place and tough to be objective, so I am, again, consulting with Hannah and the Prankster to give more unbiased opinions here. No place is without its flaws and as beautiful as this place is, there is room for improvement in more than one spot.



That being said, I cannot recommend enough a trip to Burlington. Come in summer to check out the lake. Come in fall to check out the leaves, hell, come in Winter to get the feeling of small-town Christmas. All in one day you can visit Gooseberries for an amazing sandwich, enjoy the afternoon at Aeppeltreow, head downtown for some brews at the Runaway and Low Daily, Grab dinner at Fred’s, walk around the corner to get famous custard at Adrian’s, and then hit up Rustic Roots for a classy night-cap. It’s all right there, in the the home-town I love so much. No, I am not in cahoots with the Chamber of Commerce, I really do think it’s that damned good.


It is absolutely worth a day trip to Burlington. You will not regret it. Who knows, if you’re in one of those haunts, you might just run into yours truly and company.


Until that time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Aeppeltreow please visit their website at: aeppeltreow.com or on Facebook: @Aeppeltreow.Ciders

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