(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) On a beautiful sunny day a small group of Wine Sense Members visited Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes. We were on a quest to taste “the wine of the Norse gods” – wine made from honey. Mead was the only beverage that the Norwegian god Odin would drink, and it had to be from Heidrun, a special goat that would produce mead in her udder.
About Heidrun Meadery
Heidrun Meadery is one of the few, if not the only, meaderies, who make their mead in the Methode Champenoise style, which creates a champagne style mead. Heidrun Meadery was first founded by Gordon Hull in 1997 in Arcata, CA. Over the years the popularity of their mead increased steadily and soon reached their production capacity, so they 2011 they relocated to their current property, a 16acre farm in Point Reyes, only a mile from the Pacific Ocean.
How to Make Sparkling Honey
The Heidrun Team consists of five people who do everything from taking care of the bees and landscaping the property with native flowers, to hand disgorging and bottling the mead. In the production facility there are large vats of honey stored in steel drums, the size of oil drums. These contain honey made onsite, as well as honey they buy from around the world. The flavor of the wine depends on the type of flowers the bees feed on.
The first step is to melt the honey in order to begin the fermentation process. They take a large tool that looks similar to a banana masher and place it on top of the large vat of honey. Over the next three days the tool will sink down to the bottom, heating the honey along the way. The liquefied honey is then placed into stainless tanks with 4 parts water, yeast, and yeast food so that it can ferment and create mead. Then the mead is boiled to remove any wax elements.
Next the mead is transferred to sparkling wine bottles and more yeast and sugar is added so the wine can go through secondary fermentation in bottle. The bottles are placed in large crates for aging, and after 4 months the crate is rotated on a gyro-palate so the yeast falls to the top of the bottle. Then the bottle top is frozen and the team disgorges the mead by hand and recorks it. No dosage is added. A label is applied and the mead is allowed to rest for a few more weeks before it is ready to be sold in the tasting room or to local restaurants and grocery stores.
The Honey Bee Garden and Hives
We then visited the true stars of the whole operation, the honey bees. Towards the back of the property there are hives that contain thousands of bees entering and exiting all day long. The bees can travel as far as five miles a day to find nectar and always return to their queen in the same exact hive. There is also a beautiful garden with various flowers to attract the bees.
Tasting the Sparkling Honey Wine of Heidrun
After seeing the incredible partnership between the Heidrun Team and honey bees, we were excited to try the final product. We headed into the tasting room to try five of their most popular meads: Hawaiian Lehua Blossom, Oregon Radish Blossom, Hawaiian Macadamia Nut, California Orange Blossom, and Alfalfa & Clover Blossom. We were also allowed to taste jars of honey made from each of these ingredients as well.
The sparkling meads were surprisingly dry and refreshing, considering they had such sweetly beautiful aromatics. There were no clear favorites among our group, as everyone liked different wines, but the two that stood out the most were the Oregon Radish Mead and the Alfalfa & Clover Mead. We had a fantastic afternoon in Point Reyes and cannot thank the Heidrun Meadery Team for taking the time to show us around!