This morning I had the opportunity to meet with John. He and his wife have built Sunset Heights Meadery in Fredericton's north-side. Now I don't usually attend tastings before 10am, but I made an exception today. With a drink like a Mead-mosa on the menu, how could I resist?
John is a talker and once he gets started telling me about the bees, honey, biology and chemistry, it's hard to ignore his enthusiasm. In John's own words, "There aren't many products (we're talking about wine, beer, cider, mead, etc.) where increasing what you pay the farmer affects the health of the whole".
I ask John about Colony Collapse Disorder. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that honeybees are struggling. John tells me this problem is caused by a mite that lives on the bees, but spends a good portion of its life-cycle feeding off the bee larvae in the hive. If you can kill the mites before putting the bees to bed for winter, then you can prevent the disease, however, treatment requires stopping honey collection earlier. John tells me that by offering a higher price for raw honey, apiarists can treat their bees earlier thereby protecting the health of the whole colony.
Back to the mead. What is it anyway? Classic mead is made from three ingredients - honey, water, and yeast. Its fermentation and production cycle is halfway between wine and beer, taking anywhere from 1-3 months. But unlike wine or beer, in addition to monitoring temperature and specific gravity, in the first two weeks additional care is given to "feeding" the yeast. Believe it or not, honey actually doesn't contain the types of nutrients and enzymes that yeast wants to consume, and so aerating and feeding the yeast is very important to keep everything fermenting right along.
To complicate the process even further Mead has many sub-categories: Acerglyn (made with maple), Bochet (carmelized honey), Braggot (with hops), Cyser (with apples), melomel (honey and fruit), methegin (with spices like ginger, orange peel, tea, cinnamon, cloves), oxymel (with wine vinegar), rhodomel (with roses) and frankenmel (doesn't fit into a category) - Just to name A FEW (source: American Mead Makers Association).
Sunset Heights Meadery has started distribution. Starting today, you should be able to find their Pollen Angels line-up available on tap at Isaac's Way in Fredericton. John hopes to expand distribution to both Moncton and Saint John in the near future and will have their Mead available in 375mL bottles at liquor stores as soon as possible.
Sunset Heights Meadery has 50 bee hives allowing them to be classified as a cottage winery. This classification affords special consideration allowing Sunset Heights to sell their products at Farmer's Markets across the province when production is ready.
If you want to know more about Sunset Heights or the Pollen Angels line up, check out their website and facebook pages.
Sunset Heights Meadery Facebook:Sunset Heights
Pollen Angels Facebook:Pollen Angels
We had a FABULOUS day for a winery tour and river cruise yesterday. Five guests joined me to visit Gillis of Belleisle Winery for a tour and tasting, followed by a two-hour adventure with Zelda's River Adventures. The sun was shining, the leaves were putting on a show, and while it was a little cool, we were all very comfortable. Of course I didn't take any photos, so you'll just have trust me that is was a great day!
We celebrated Thanksgiving this year on Saturday in between a full weekend of walking and winery tours. Adam and I tag-teamed the dinner and it turned out great. Of course, we paired our meal with some Cranberry Ceilidh from Gillis of Belleisle and some L'Acadie Blanc from Winegarden Estate.
Dunhams Run hosted their annual grape-picking party on Saturday this weekend as well. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it, but I heard that it was a great event. We're definitely looking forward to trying the new wines next year.
Most of our vineyards are in the final stages of harvesting their grapes. Grape-growing is a time-consuming business to be in. Currently, our grape wineries are using all the grapes grown in the province to produce wine. In order to see the industry grow there is a strong push to convert parcels of wild blueberries to grapes. More about the benefits of becoming a grape grower will be discussed in a future post, but for now, if you're thinking about it, be aware that there is a market for NB grapes.
As a final thought, please allow me to share how thankful I am for the continued support Uncorked Tours has received from locals and visitors as well as the NB wine and tourism communities. Thank you so much! Uncorked Tours has many events and tours happening as the weather gets a little colder. Explore this site to find a wine adventure suited to you or reach out to have a custom wine/beer/spirit tour created!
Thanksgiving is right around the corner here in Canada which means that if you're anything like me, you're already dreaming about the big, juicy turkey with thick, brown gravy, mashed potatoes glistening with butter, cheesy vegetable casseroles, stuffing and PIE. Of course a meal is only as good as its accouterments, and what turkey dinner is complete without pickles (at least 3 varieties), cranberry sauce and delicious wine?
Outside the realm of traditional white and red wines, which can sometimes be difficult to pair with all the trappings that accompany a turkey dinner, lie two of my favourite turkey dinner pairings: sparkling and fruit wines. This post give some suggestions for both. If you're not feeling adventurous, consider trying the Summer Solstice from Mott's Landing, Belleisle White from Gillis of Belleisle, L'Acadie Blanc from Winegarden Estate or Long Reach from Dunhams Run. These four white wines are all fairly dry and will appeal to most palates.
Don't let the name, or the fruit, fool you. Cranberry wines offer a clean finish that helps cut through all the heavy (read: best) parts of your holiday feast. Magnetic Hill Winery, Winegarden Estate and Waterside Winery all have dinner-friendly cranberry wines.
If you prefer your cranberries like your diamonds, SPARKLING, then look no further than Waterside Winery, Winegarden Estate and Mott's Landing Vineyard. If you prefer something a little sweeter, stop by Gillis of Belleisle Winery for their Cranberry Ceilidh, a cranberry dessert wine sweetened with unpasteurized honey.
Because of their carbonation, sparkling wines pair especially well with big flavours. We have several sparkling options here in NB. Winegarden Estate offers a selection of grape and fruit sparkling wines and Waterside has sparkling rhubarb and blueberry wines in addition to the cranberry mentioned earlier. Magnetic Hill Winery is releasing a line of sparkling fruit wines that will be ready in time for Christmas.
Dunhams Run Winery and Winegarden Estate both have traditional method (TM) sparkling wine made from NB grapes. TM sparkling wine is created when a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, causing pressure and carbon dioxide to build up. The process takes anywhere from 2 to 10 years. Dunhams currently has 4 different TM sparkling wines available and Winegarden has their Charm label which they've made since 2006.
*updated Oct 8, 2014
At Uncorked Tours we're all about sharing the fabulous food, wine, beer & spirits being produced in the Province of New Brunswick.
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