A new restaurant can wow first-time visitors with flashy food; a chef can pull out all the stops for a one-time tasting menu. But can they keep it up over time? Quality and consistency over months and years are what separate the great eatery from the flash in the pan. But cider is a different story: the apple harvest may have been months ago, and what's now in the bottle is what the cider maker must rely on to attract customers for the remainder of the year. There's no room to tinker, no such thing as a second chance at a first impression.
The first sip in the tasting room at Aurora's brand-new Haykin Family Cider (located at 12001 East 33rd Avenue, in a semi-industrial area just minutes from the hot new Stanley Marketplace and the restaurants of Eastbridge Stapleton) is a revelation. An heirloom apple called Cox's Orange Pippen, grown on the Western Slope by Ela Family Farms, is the star of one of several single-apple ciders made by Daniel and Talia Haykin. The word "orange" in the apple's unwieldy name hints at what's in the bottle, because notes of orange zest ride along with the lively effervescence of the cider. Described as "medium" on Haykin's dry-to-sweet scale, the Cox's Orange Pippen cider floods the palate with refreshing tartness, a touch of sugar and a complex blend of tropical fruits, much like a German spätlese riesling.
It's a positively mouthwatering cider, which proclaims its apple-ness in much the same way that wine is the obvious product of the grape: The apple is there, but there's so much more, with the spirit of the orchard on a sunny autumn day conveyed in each sip.
The Haykins don't use apple juice or concentrate to make their ciders, so all of the apple varieties are pressed and fermented in the fall and winter after they're harvested. That means the couple must have absolute faith in the apples before they ever start the cider-making process, so they visit the orchards and talk to the farmers they work with extensively before buying fruit.
The results are evident in the glass, with a cider that tastes alive and ready to make an impact at the dinner table or just on its own. The tasting room is only open on Thursday and Saturday evenings, but you can track down bottles of Haykin Family Cider at Joy Wine & Spirits (1302 East Sixth Avenue), Pearl Wine Company (1886 South Pearl Street), and the Proper Pour inside the Source (3350 Brighton Boulevard).