We tasted quite a few new (to us) varieties this year, and the results were surprising. Our tasters lean toward the tarter and more distinctive varieties, so the older ones usually fair the best. This year, however, some of the newer varieties did extremely well.
Honeycrisp was the big surprise, scoring at or near the top of everyone's list. Other new varieties, Mutsu, Swiss Gourmet, and Braeburn also did well. Of these, Braeburn seems to keep the best (they are still excellent as of this writing, 2-22-00), and Swiss Gourmet seemed to be the most perishable.
Of the older varieties, Calville Blanc was the biggest disappointment, but we may not have gotten to them while they were at their best. The source for one of our favorites, Golden Russet, is a lone tree belonging to Versil White. He did some long overdue pruning last year, and the crop was smaller. The extended warm weather in October seemed to diminish the flavor of this and other older varieties. Spitzenburg wasn't quite what it was last year, but still was excellent. Ashmead Kernel, Ross Non-Pareil, Boskoop, and Cox Orange Pippin were all simply spectacular and it was a toss-up to pick one over the other.
We tested about three times as many apples this year compared to last year thanks in part to two new contributors, Glenn Brown and John Eastman. Unfortunately, we didn't get to Eastman Orchards soon enough in the season, and had to settle for scavenging through the "drops". Eastman's apples will score much higher next year. Glen Brown of Omena introduced us to Honeycrisp, Dayton and Williams Pride. Friske Orchards and King Orchards were accommodating, as always. John Kilcherman and Herb Teichman were generous and helpful. The problem is becoming one of "two many apples, too little time". It is difficult to get each variety tested while it is in its prime, especially in the middle of the season. Some varieties get overlooked or are not given a fair trial. Next year we will recruit more tasters for our panel.
All of the varieties listed were excellent, and to a large extent the rankings are dependent upon personal taste. The chart below shows the results from three of our tasters with widely differing preferences.