Thursday, December 8, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: MAINE - MAINE MEAD WORKS


Maine's wine industry is a tiny one, as is the case with many of the "other 47" American states.  Their 43,000 gallons per year production is ahead of only Montana in volume.  With only a handful of vineyards in the state, Maine's wine producers often rely on cold-weather hybrids or fruit other than grapes.  Grapes are also sourced from New York and California.  You are likely to find Maine wines made from cranberries or blueberries, or cider, made from apples.

Maine, unfortunately, led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes."   They are, to their credit, making up for that error.

Mead is also popular in Maine.  As we have learned in the Wine Country series, mead is wine made from honey, not grapes.  Not always sweet - as one might expect from a product made of honey - meads are produced using only honey, but are also produced using a mixture of honey and fruit.

Maine Mead Works operates out of Portland.  Portland is Maine’s largest city, with over 66,000 residents, but the Greater Portland metro area boasts a population of over 500,000.  One third of the people in Maine live near Portland.

Technology entrepreneur Ben Alexander founded Maine Mead Works in 2007 with the assistance of award-winning South African meadmaker Dr. Garth Cambray.  The meadery makes their meads using Maine wildflower honey and other locally-grown products.  Their meads are sold under the Honeymaker label, and the eight varieties all register a 12.5% abv number.

Honeymaker meads come in a variety of styles - Dry Mead, Blueberry, Semi Sweet, Apple Cyser, Cranberry, Lavender, Strawberry & Dry Hopped Mead.  They also do an Elderberry mead for the winter.  They recommend you enjoy their meads by the glass, as a mixer in a cocktail or as a secret ingredient in cooking.  Maine Mead Works provided me with two samples of their Honeymaker meads.

Honeymaker Apple CyserHoneymaker Apple Cyser is a blend of 84% apples and 16% honey.  It's a light golden color with a trace of efferevescence in the glass.   A very nice nose of apples and honey is no surprise.  A slight hint of caramel apple dipped in honey flutters beneath the fruit.  The caramel hint comes across on the apple-laden palate, too.  The cyser has a nice acidity and is quite refreshing.  They recommend a pairing with turkey or pork - sounds good to me - but it's born to pair with a cheese plate.  I find it really good with smoked cheese and almonds.

Honeymaker Dry MeadHoneymaker Dry Mead is 100% Maine wildflower honey.  It shows a pale greenish-gold hue in the glass and a nose offering an herbal quality right up front, with the notes of honey coming underneath.  It should be noted that the honey aroma is not sweet at all, and neither is the taste.  The mead’s palate is as dry as advertised.  The herbaceous quality found on the nose comes through as a flavor profile, too.  That taste becomes most prominent on the finish, where it lasts a good, long while.  There’s a fruity taste as well - a green apple component that stops just short of tartness - and the honey again plays a supporting role.  Pair it with shrimp, if you like, or a fruit salad chock full of herbs.  Frankly, though, this mead is great all by itself as an aperitif.  The lack of sweetness may take you by surprise, considering it is made from something sweet.  The taste reminds me a bit of white vermouth.