Showing posts with label mead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mead. 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.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Follow Moonlight Meadery on Twitter

Thursday, May 19, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: MONTANA - HIDDEN LEGEND WINERY MEAD

When the Now And Zin Wine Country series kicked off - I'm trying to taste 50 wines from 50 states - Montana was one of the states I feared might not be represented too well.  The wine industry in Montana is very small - the winery count was 13 earlier this year - and the weather is just not conducive to growing traditional wine grapes.

An article from Fresh Vino reports that there is work being done in Montana to concentrate on cold weather grapes like Marquette, Frontenac, Traminette and Marechal Foch.  They are getting some help from Pat McGlynn, who is the agricultural extension agent at Montana State University.  She comes to Montana with experience at Cornell University and New York's Finger Lakes area, so she knows about cold-weather grape growing.

Many climatically-challenged areas make tasty wine from other types of fruit, like cherries, peaches and bluberries.  Some take a different approach altogether.  Mead.

King Tut drank mead, as did Eric The Red and Queen Elizabeth I.  The story goes that someone stumbled upon a beehive that had been out in the rain.  The honey inside had fermented, and that was the beginning of mead.  Mead is sometimes known as honeywine.  Rather than fermenting grapes, or other fruit, it's honey which undergoes fermentation and becomes "nectar of the gods," or "man's oldest drink."  Joe Schultz says people were making mead a thousand years before grapes came into play.

Joe Schultz at Hidden Legend Winery makes award-winning mead using Montana honey which is not boiled, thereby avoiding the scorched flavors he says are common in meads.  The Hidden Legend mead is all natural, no sulfites are added and Schultz describes his mead as "straddling the fence between dry grape wine and traditional mead."  His meads all carry a modest alcohol content of 12.5% abv.

Mead can dry, sweet, still or sparkling.  It can also be mixed with fruits or spices for different flavor variations.  Hidden Legend Winery makes all kinds of mead.  The two varieties they supplied for the Wine Country series are Wild Chokecherry and Spiced Honey Mead.

Hidden Legend Spiced MeadHidden Legend Spiced MeadLabelled as "honeywine with spices" this beverage carries a suggestion that you "heat it with a stick of cinnamon or serve it over ice with a sprig of mint."  It’s a beautiful reddish-brown color, rich, dark and inviting in the glass.  The nose is fascinating, with honey dripping from it and spices coloring, but not covering those notes.  The aromas remind me first of a Bit-O-Honey candy, then of cinnamon and allspice, and finally a waxy scent wafting up.  The honey aromas aren’t really sweet - they are reminiscent of dark honey, like avocado honey or even chestnut honey.

On the palate, the flavor of the honey comes forward first, without the sweetness.  This is an off-dry honeywine with a good level of acidity and nice flavors of the spice rack which make themselves known, but don’t take over in a "holiday beverage" sort of way.  This is really tasty!

Hidden Legend Wild Choklecherry MeadHidden Legend Wild Chokecherry Mead

This mead is made from 60% honey mead and 40% chokecherry wine.  I’ve never been to Montana, so I was unfamiliar with that fruit.  It sounds like a cousin to Frankenberry, the made-up breakfast cereal fruit from childhood.

According to Schultz, the chokecherry is a wild cherry which grows throughout Montana and does not turn sweet until after a frost.  Schultz says Montanans have been using chokecherries to make syrup and jam for years.  He thought it would be nice to blend some chokecherry wine with his honey mead.

Its color is even redder than the Spiced Mead - a translucent cherry-red.  There’s a little more of an herbal aroma on the nose, but the honey is still fully present and a layer of cherries joins in to form a truly beautiful  bouquet.

The wine tastes much drier than the spiced version.  The palate shows a blast of cherry Starburst candy, but in a completely dry framework.  Great acidity leaves my mouth watering.  I can’t help but think this chokecherry mead would pair very well with a chicken breast or pork chop.

When tasting a wine, I look mainly for four things: color, aroma, taste and acidity.  The Wild Chokecherry Mead scores well on all four points.  An amazing red color is joined by an intense nose and flavor package, all highlighted by a wonderful feeling of acidity in the mouth.  This  mead was truly a surprise for me, and it was a delight to drink.

The Hidden Legend Wild Chokecherry Mead won a gold medal in the Tasters Guild International Wine Judging, and after tasting it, I don’t wonder why.