Tasting Sparkling Honey Wine at Heidrun Meadery, Point Reyes, California

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Visiting Heidrun Winery

(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 Production Process

The Production Process

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

The Bee Hives & Garden

The Bee Hives & Garden

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.

IMG_1631The 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!

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The Innovative Wines of Delicato Family Vineyards

Liz Rice of Delicato

Liz Rice of Delicato

The Wine Sense Club had the honor of welcoming back Elizabeth Rice, an SSU alum and one of the founding members of the club, from Delicato Family Vineyards. She has worked at Delicato as their Director of International Marketing and Operations for the last 13 years. She has had the opportunity to travel all over the world representing the various brands under the Delicato portfolio.

Delicato Family Vineyards – 3rd Generation Family Growers in California

Delicato Family Vineyards is a 3rd generation family owned business with over 90 years of grape growing in California. They have a total of 3 wineries and 10 winemakers to create their amazing variety of wines. They are currently in over 70 international markets and have over 4,200 acres of grapes in Napa, Monterey and Lodi. They also proudly display their awards for Winery of the Year in 2011 and 2014.

The Innovative Wines of Delicato

Elizabeth brought 6 different wines from different branches of the Delicato brand, including a few that are only available internationally.

2012 LOFT Sauvignon Blanc: The first is a Sauvignon Blanc premium boxed wine called LOFT. Many people are often turned off by boxed wine, but Delicato is attempting to change this stigma. This wine is a premium wine retailing for about $30 and is for the savvy consumer, as it will stay good for up to three months after opening and even has the appellation on the box itself.

2014 Clay Station Viognier: Next we had a 2014 Viognier from the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi. This vineyard is made up of 1,300 acres, situated on the slopes 200 feet above the valley.

10169247_10153216514063540_7002120323978289103_n2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah: We had a 2013 Gnarly Head Petite Syrah, which is currently only available for purchase in Europe. It’s a wine filled with hints of blackberry, chocolate and coffee beans.

2012 Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel: The Brazin Zinfandel is big and bold, offering flavors of black fruit and mocha and hints of vanilla. It is grown in Lodi and has won many awards such as a Silver Medal in the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

2010 Black Stallion Estate Winery Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cabernet Sauvignon is a limited production wine (24 barrels total) to celebrate the Year of the Horse grown in Napa Valley.

2012 Earl Stevens Mango­scato: Finally, we tried the Earl Stevens Mango­scato wine, created by platinum selling recording artist, E­40. This wine has a very sweet aroma, 18% alcohol and is not for the faint of heart.

Favorite Wines of the Evening

The favorites of the night were the Clay Station Viognier and the 2010 Black Stallion Reserve Cabernet.

Thank you to Elizabeth for her impressive presentation and sharing many exclusive, innovative and rare Delicato wines!

This post was Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust.

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Which Foods Are Most Challenging to Match with Wine?

The right wine with the right dish can be heaven, but there are a few foods that are challenging to match with wine.  What are they?  According to a new infographic chart prepared by CorrChilled, the answers are:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Green Beans

However if you have the right seasonings, sauces, or cheese, even these more bitter tasting vegetables can pair well with wine.

CorrChilled‘s Infographic on Food & Wine Pairing

Check out the infographic below, which illustrates a simple way to pair your favorite wine style with food.  For example, if you have a dry white wine, the chart suggests raw vegetables, grilled vegetables or a fish dish as a great pairing. Just add a little salt or lemon, and you are ready to go!

The infographic, also shows you the temperature in which you should be keeping these different types of wine.

Feel free to print this out and hang it on the wall of your kitchen or wine cellar.  Feel free to share with friends.

Infographic on Wine Pairing

Infographic on Wine Pairing

 

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Do You Know Where to Buy WineGrape Vines to Start Your Vineyard?

Inside Novavine Nursery

Inside Novavine Nursery

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – The SSU Winesense club knows where to buy wine grape vines because they recently took a field trip to Novavine in Sonoma County.  Novavine is a nursery near Santa Rosa, California that is dedicated to helping people plant successful vineyards including grapes and olives.

The tour was led Ernie and Ophelia, both employees of Novavine. They explained the complete process of grafting, growing, and packaging winegrape vines, as well as installing of vineyards.

Novavine was started in 1996 by Ellen and Milton Heath because they wanted to create a knowledgeable and high quality nursery for the Northern California area. In 2002 Jay Jensen took over as CEO and has been a key component of growing the Novavine brand to what it is today.

Rootstock

Rootstock

Novavine is made up of a 27 acre site with 45,000 square feet of greenhouse space, offices and production facility in Santa Rosa and an additional 90 acres in Yolo County. They have a great selection of rootstocks and clones because they have partnered with various nurseries in the United States and internationally to offer the best for their customers.

All of their vines are grown with symbiotic mycorrhizae in soil with a rich microbial food web to promote healthy and hearty roots. Novavine has also pioneered the sustainable aspect of the nursery industry, using many non­chemical methods to grow and protect the plants.

It was a fascinating field trip, and now everyone knows how much care and attention it takes to grow healthy winegrape vines.

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Learning How to Build Wine Barrels with Yann, Master Cooper with Barrel Builders

20516_10200355661250693_9123931652686203822_n(Contributed by  Erica Schreckenghaust) In the second installment of our field trip series, we had the honor of going to Barrel Builders, a barrel cooperage, in St. Helena.

About Barrel Builders

Barrel Builders was created in 1972, by a handful of French coopers who were sent over to assist Robert Mondavi’s people in the assembly, finish and care of the barrels. At the time Mondavi was one of the few people to begin using French oak barrels and soon after, their popularity spiraled.

Barrel Builders were the pioneers within the industry as they were the only cooperage represented in the US for years to come. Phil Burton started in the shop and has worked his way up in the company to become the sole owner in 2001.  Today, Barrel Builders is still one of the most popular cooperages in the area making quality barrels, tanks, casks and more.

Our Tour of Barrel Builder’s Workshop

11046768_10200355664330770_4861109673719685346_nOn a sunny Friday afternoon a group of Wine Sense members were given a tour of the shop and facility.  The shop manager Yann taught the students the complicated process of assembling a barrel, the process to prepare the barrels to be filled with wine and the common tools used. Yann is a Master Cooper from France and attended Ecole de Tonnellerie de Cognac, a cooper training college where his final exam required him to build a barrel from scratch in 10 hours. To say that he knows his stuff is an understatement.

The student’s feedback on the trip was excellent and we loved the opportunity to see the behind the scenes of the wonderful containers that hold and develop our favorite beverages.

We owe a huge thank you to Barrel Builders for allowing us to come visit!

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SSU Wine Sense Club Students Take Field Trip to Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

Hamel Family Vineyards

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust ) – One of the main goals of the Wine Sense Club is to create connections between wine professionals, wineries, and students. We appreciate all of the people who have come to visit us on campus over the years but wanted to create an organic way for students to get the all-encompassing experience of a brand. In attempt to do this the Executive Board have organized fieldtrips all over Sonoma and Napa Valley during the Spring semester.

Hamel Family/ Brand History:

To kick off our series of field trips we had the honor of visiting Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma. The 124-acre Hamel property has been within the family for many generations and they began making wine in 2006. The entire Hamel operation is very much a family affair, with George II and Pam as the owners, their oldest son George III the Managing Director, John the winemaker and their daughter Casey helping with administration duties.

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

Caves at Hamel Family Vineyards

The new tasting room was completed in June and opened to the public. The beautiful tasting room blends into the environment perfectly, so much so that you can’t even see it from Highway 12. The Hamel’s wanted the tasting room to blend in and add to the natural beauty of the property which is very evident when you step on the gorgeous patio with large minimalist couches to allow the breathtaking views of Sonoma county take the main stage.

Tour Details:

A group of students were led on a tour by Kirstie Dyer, Operations Manager, a recent Sonoma State and Wine Sense Club alum. Kirstie showed us their stunning 12,000 square foot cave, where they have invested in many concrete egg-shaped tanks. These types of tanks are breathable like regular barrels but don’t give off any of the oak characteristics to the wine. The egg shape also gives a natural stirring effect during fermentation.

The Hamel’s see the environment as an extremely important, if not the most important part of their venture so they have attempted to bring organic and biodynamic styles in their wine growing and gardens. They have a large garden full of fruits and vegetables in addition to various livestock that live on the property including baby goats and cows.

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

Tasting at Hamel Family Vineyards

At the end of the tour the group was treated to a tasting on the patio of their four current releases: the 2013 Rosé, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Zinfandel and 2011 Isthmus, a red wine blend.

We owe a huge thank you to the wonderful Kirstie Dyer and the Hamel Family for showing us a fantastic afternoon at their beautiful new facility. We can’t wait to go back!

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Which Do You Prefer? Dry Creek Valley AVA or Alexander Valley AVA

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

SSU Wine Sense Board and Guests

(Contributed by Erica Schreckenghaust) – Which do you prefer – Dry Creek or Alexander Valley? This was the question on the minds of the more than 40 students who attended the SSU Wine Sense tasting last Thursday. In the end it was impossible to choose a favorite, because they were both excellent! But everyone learned much about these two distinctive and different AVAs located in Northern Sonoma County.

Dry Creek Valley Wine Association 

Location in Northern Sonoma County on the West side of 101, the Dry Creek Valley Wine Association was created in 1989. It is made up of 60+ wineries and 150 grape growers. They share a commitment to growing high-quality fruit to produce world-class wines and an interest in sustainable farming practices to ensure a pristine valley for future generations.   Dry Creek Valley is world-famous for its big, hearty Zinfandels, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals.

Ann, a representative from the Dry Creek Valley AVA, led the students through a virtual tour of the Dry Creek Valley, explaining the typically foggy climate, metamorphic and sedimentary soils and the most common varietals, which are Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Sonoma AVA Map from Sonomawine.com

Next she poured three of the most popular wines from the Dry Creek Valley for us. The first, being an organically grown 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Quivira Winery. Followed by a 2011 Grenache from Mounts Winery and a 2012 Zinfandel from Mazzacco Winery.  

Alexander Valley and Stryker Sonoma Winery

Located in Northern Sonoma County on the East side of 101, the Alexander Valley is 22 miles long, has 26 wineries and 130 grape growers. It is known for its world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon, and other Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, the gravelly loam soil produces well-rounded Chardonnay wines, as well as some Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. 

Brian Shapiro from Stryker Sonoma Winery represented the Alexander Valley that evening.  Stryker mixes tradition with modern technology to create award-winning wines. The winemaking is focused on creating wines that speak for themselves. The tasting room won the Architectural Design Award for Northern California by AIA, due to its beauty and harmony within the landscape.  Their philosophy is “bold but thoughtful” which is evident in everything from their wines to their tasting room.

Brian poured three amazing wines, a 2012 Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon – all made in small quantities to ensure the highest quality wines. 

Favorite Wines of the Evening

At the end of the tasting, the students were asked to vote on their favorite wines.  The winners were:

ZinmalbecMazzacco Winery Zinfandel 2012 ($52): Composed of 95% Zinfandel grapes and 5% Petite Syrah, this wine offers hints of raspberry, boysenberry and currants, with a bit of habanero pepper.

Stryker Sonoma Malbec 2012 ($50): Blueberries, pepper jam and cedar give this wine a rustic bouquet followed with cherries and a hint of baker’s cocoa.

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