Showing posts with label honey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label honey. Show all posts

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. 



Thursday, September 15, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: NEW HAMPSHIRE - MOONLIGHT MEADERY

New Hampshire is a relatively new entry to Wine Country.  The Granite State's wine industry didn't get started until 1994.  The New Hampshire Winery Association membership includes not only grape wine producers, but also makers of mead and cider.

Moonlight Meadery is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, near the southeast corner of the state.  The town's name originated from its early settlers, many of whom were from Londonderry, Ireland.  The first American potato was grown there in 1719.

Londonderry was the birthplace of several governors and congressmen, but we'll try not to hold that against them.  San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson is from Londonderry, too.  As a Dodger fan, I'll try not to hold that against them, either.

The town is known for its apple orchards, and a meadery - Moonlight Meadery - which produces what they call "Romance by the glass."

Moonlight's mead maker Michael Fairbrother states on his meadery's website, "Mead, to me, is passion.  It's about living and love, it's about enjoyment, family and friends, and sharing."  Sounds good to us.  You can see Fairbrother in this video story from WMUR.

We have covered mead before in the Wine Country series.  Mead is wine made from honey, water and yeast.  It can range from sweet to dry and be produced as still, slightly fizzy - p├ętillant - or sparkling.  A melomel is a mead made with the addition of fruit.  A cyser is a melomel made with apples, and a pyment is a melomel where grapes are used in addition to the honey.

Fairbrother gives his meads names like Smitten, Desire and Sensual, playing off that "romance in a glass" analogy.  He supplied me with four samples of his meads for this article.

Moonlight Meadery WildThe mead he calls Wild is honey and blueberry wine made from unprocessed New Hampshire wildflower honey and mountain grown blueberries.  It carries an alcohol level of 14.2% abv.

Wild's medium ruby color allows light to pass through easily.  The nose shows a strong herbal note leading the way with blueberry aromas underneath and honey and flowers trailing.

The taste is completely dry and the blueberries really come forward on the palate. There's a strong sense of greenness on the palate, too.  Nice, gentle tannic structure matches well with a good acidity level.  It's very fresh and clean tasting.  I had blueberry wine from Florida which was much sweeter and more juice like than this honey and blueberry wine.  The Moonlight mead is much more like a red wine than a fruit juice.  I tried it chilled and not, and was pleased with the experience both ways.  The herbal finish is fairly lengthy.

Moonlight Meadery UtopianUtopian
 is the strongest of the quartet I tried at 16.9% abv.  It’s a semi-sweet, limited edition mead which is fermented and aged in Samuel Adams Utopias barrels.

The color gives a beautiful, rich, golden glow.  On the nose, the honey gets down to business.  It smells much like a dark honey, maybe chestnut honey.  There’s a bit of sherry and a bit of coffee, too, in what strikes me as quite a complex package of aromas.

On the palate, Utopian's sweetness is delicate and the mouthfeel quite viscous, like a dessert wine.  There’s a sherry-like flavor that’s pretty incredible and the finish is looong with a note of coffee mocha in it.  It's really nice paired with almonds - you could even pour this over vanilla ice cream or a have it with pound cake.  Once again a very nice acidity is present.

Moonlight Meadery DesireDesire is a beautiful deep ruby color.  The nose again has a firm underpinning of honey aroma with a pretty straightforward display of the fruit used in making this melomel - black currant, black cherry and blueberry.  The palate is dominated by the currant to the degree that it bears a striking similarity to cassis.  It's not as viscous as Wild, but it definitely sits very full in the mouth.  The 16.7% alcohol content means it's a fairly stiff drink, at least in the realm of wine.  There's good acidity here, but I don't think I could bring myself to eat while savoring the texture and flavor of Desire. Well, maybe some chocolate.  Desire beat out 352 other wines in a New England competition.

Moonlight Meadery SensualThe golden mead called Sensual shows a whole honeycomb full of honey aroma.   That’s no surprise, since it is a traditional mead, made only from wildflower honey, water and yeast.  The palate is dripping with honey, too.  Once again, a resounding acidity is present and the finish is very long and ridiculously satisfying.  The taste of pure honey is all that remains after a drink, and it’s there for quite a while.  The alcohol level for Sensual is 15.3% abv.  It's the simplest of the four featured here, but it may be my favorite.

Once again one of the American states brings mead to Wine Country, and once again I am floored by the quality.


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Friday, May 7, 2010

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2009

Spring has already made its presence known in Southern California.  Really, it seems at times that summer is trying to crash the party.  There's no need to rush things along.  At my place, we have already begun the spring planting routine.  I use the word "we" loosely.  Denise has actually been doing most of the heavy lifting in that area while I take care of other springtime activities.  Taking a nap on the couch, for instance.  Taking a nap in the lawn chair on the deck.  There are lots of places that need to get napped in before spring gets away from us, and I'm working diligently to cover those places while Mrs. Green Jeans sees to it that we can get yellow corn this summer.  It sure is hard to find it anywhere else.

I expect my work load to get a little heavier after she reads this, so let's quickly find a nice white wine to refresh us after toting a hundred pounds of mulch up the hill.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes will do nicely.  Balbo makes wine in the Mendoza region of Argentina. I'm told the word "crios" means "offspring," so she's letting us know right up front that she considers her wine to be more than a product.  But, just between you and me, it's a really good product.  And Torrontes is a favorite grape for me in the warmer months.

The wine is a pale golden color in the glass, with a nose of ripe apricots, peaches and pears bathed in honey.  There is a sort of oleander aroma, too.  It's such a lovely smell, it almost made me think I had opened a late harvest wine by mistake.

Sipping it at room temperature, a lively acidity is the first thing I notice.  Bracing and fresh, the flavor of peaches with orange peel takes over.  There is no oak in this wine, so the fruit is there in all its glory.  It fills the mouth well and has a rather creamy texture, especially when chilled.  That's how I'm going to have it - after I tote that mulch up the hill.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Consilience Roussanne Santa Barbara County 2006

On a recent trip to the Consilience tasting room in Los Olivos, I was mesmerized by their Roussanne.  Fellow wine blogger Erin McGrath (@vintwined) tweeted me on my favorable comments, mentioning that she had always heard that if it was high in alcohol, it was low on grace.  As I responded to her, I am not a fan of wine that is over-amped with alcohol.  And certainly, Consilience has a roster of wines that are not shy about their stratospheric alcohol levels.  But I always let my palate be my guide.  My palate told me to take home some Roussanne.

It is a beautiful, rich, golden color in the glass.  The nose is very floral, explosively so, featuring notes of honey and a flower stem component I find exhilarating.  The floral aspect hits me with not just the petals but the stalk, too.

The taste is vibrant.  I find apricot and honey in there with an almond paste flavor working the sidelines.  The wine had me at the color, but I found it delightful all the way to the nice, lengthy finish.

I had it with a simple lettuce salad sprinkled with pecans and feta cheese in oil and vinegar, and I loved the pairing.  I may have a new favorite white wine, despite the 15.9% abv number.  To be honest, I would not have guessed it to be that high.  It simply didn't taste like it.

The Consilience Roussanne contains 90% Camp Four Vineyard Roussanne, 5% Camp Four Vineyard Grenache Blanc and 5% Daniels Vineyard Viognier.  The bottle cost $20 in the tasting room.

Appellation: California > Central Coast > Santa Barbara County
Vintage: 2006
Alcohol Level: 15.9% abv
Acquisition disclaimer: Purchased by the author