I begin the Spring Okanagan Wine Fest at an unorthodox winery that uses mead to create wine. But what is unorthodox today is actually an ancient tradition being carried on by meaderies throughout the world.
Meadow Vista Winery is one of two Okanagan meaderies producing honey wines. Having never tried a mead/honey wine before I didn’t know what to expect. But Judie Barta, founder and “Queen Bee” of Meadow Vista kindly took 8 bewildered guests by the hand during the Mead 101 event.
Mead, if you don’t remember your Medieval history, is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey with water. Sounds pretty simple, but add different types of honey, stone fruits such as apricots, cherries or grapes and you’ve created a complex honey wine that could hold its own against any grape wine.
In fact, we tested the wines to see if they could pair well with various foods. Each participant sat before five glasses of honey wines, all of various colours, sweetness and weights. These were to be tasted and tested with samples of food. This sensory experience is something I highly recommend to do at home with friends or to simply hone your palate.
Take Brie dusted with pepper, blue cheese, dark chocolate, walnuts, lemon and green apple. Then with the wines of your choice taste one food then take a sip. Work your way around the plate until you have tried each portion of food with each wine. As you do you’ll find you prefer some pairings to others – make a note then compare with the result of your friends.
It’s a great way to see who has similar palates, discover what tastes you prefer and perhaps why.
Judie explained that your palate may change at certain times of the year making this easy at home experiment an experience that can change seasonally or as your palate matures.
A tour of the 6 month old winery provided insight to the bright future that both Judie and Meadow Vista has ahead. Look for upcoming honey tastings to be added to the honey wine tastings as well as spa therapy, bocce tournaments and the list goes on.
But what really made this Spring Okanagan Wine Fest event all the more special was Judie offering us all a taste of a ten year old mead she had made before starting her journey in 2009. Judie illustrated her struggle to us all, having been shut down and left to find an investor in order to arrive where she has established herself today; At the splendid natural setting just 15 minutes from the bustling city. We toasted to the new beginning of Meadow Vista and to the bees!
Honey, as I learned last summer, is the only non-perishable substance on this earth. It lasts forever. It has been used to preserve, to illuminate the skin/hair and even more recently has been determined to be a great aid to prevent and cure hangovers.
Judie even proclaimed that she has never received any headaches nor hangovers from her honey wines. Needless to say we all bought more than a few bottles to test her theory.
Notes & Favourites:
Mead can be brewed and fermented. If the mixture of honey and water is cooked then it is a brew, however if the mixture is stirred and ferments then it is a honey wine.
- Cloud Horse was the driest wine and one of my favourites for casual Summer evenings. It is also the most similar to what the Medieval mead as it is made with fermented water and honey.
- Libra was my second favourite as is made with the addition of fruit. It was about a 6 in sweetness and comes in an ice wine style bottle.
- A favourite of the evening was the Bliss Sparkling Honey Wine made with the addition of cherries. While it was a bit too sweet for me 5 bottles were spoken for by the time we were ready to purchase.
- Another popular favourite for the night was the very sweet Ostara made with late harvest Pinot Gris grapes. If you enjoy ice wines this is definitely the wine for you.
- As for the 10 year mead, it’s colour was deep auburn and smelled of a nutty cherry flavour. The taste reminded me of port. It was a great experience and I humbly thank Judie and her staff for inviting us to try such a treasured bottle.
Interested in trying these wines and more?
You can have them shipped to your door…click the link for the Meadow Vista website.
Meadow Vista Honey Wines is located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada in the heart of Okanagan wine country.
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