Monday, February 9, 2015

Meadow Vista Honey Wines raises its profile

Photo: Meadow Vista's Judie Barta

Until last summer, Meadow Vista Honey Wines, which opened in 2009, was tucked away in a nondescript industrial building in West Kelowna beside Highway 97.

It was hard to make a tasting room in that location appealing. That was not doing the business any good when mead still is a hand sell in British Columbia.

After search for several years, Judie Barta, Meadow Vista’s owner, finally found a silent investor that allowed her to move from what she called “cinder block city” to an attractive cottage on a small farm in East Kelowna last summer. Even the address is appealing: 3975 June Springs Road.

To be sure, there was more traffic on Highway 97, but most of it was just driving by. Visitors may have to work a little harder to find her in East Kelowna (a good GPS will help). When they do, they will find a bright and cheerful tasting room in a garden-like setting, along with such amenities as a bocce court.

The move also enabled her to convert from a commercial to a land-based winery license by virtue of the cultured blackberries and other fruit grown here. She is just releasing her first blackberry mead.

“I have a winery license like every other winery but I don't have the opportunity to be VQA because I am not 100% BC grapes,” she laments. The VQA designation, of course, applies only to grape wines, not fruit wines or mead.

Ironically, Judie and her staff will lead you through a tasting of meads that are surprisingly wine-like, including a bottle-fermented sparkling mead called Joy.  Michael Mosny, the mead maker at Meadow Vista, is actually a winemaker. He also works at Sonoran Estate Winery.

Judie recently hosted tastings in Vancouver’s Legacy Liquor Store, part of the strategy to raise Meadow Vista’s profile and to educate consumers on mead. She has a feeling of déjà vu about that.

“When I first worked for Sumac Ridge in 1993, there were 16 wineries and VQA was just launched,” she recounts. “I can tell you people had no clue what a grape varietal was. I am still in that position of education. I feel more like a teacher than a sales rep.”

Unlike most wines, the meads do not have vintage dates.

“We are not vintage dating anymore because it did not make sense,” Judie says. “Honey being the only non-perishable food on the planet, it won’t change. We are going to a batch program and you can reference each batch if the spices are different.”

Here are notes on Meadow Vista meads.

Meadow Vista Cloud Horse ($22). This is made just with blueberry honey and water. It is a crisp, refreshing mead with the weight of a white wine. The honey gives it a floral, almost spicy aroma and delivers a lingering fruitiness to the dry palate. 88.

Meadow Vista Mabon ($22). This spiced metheglin style honey wine combines coriander, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg with organic honey. The flavours are a blend of spice with fruity notes, such as strawberry. Medium-bodied, the mead is just slightly off-dry. 88. 

Meadow Vista Bliss ($15 for 500 ml, $27 for a litre). This is a carbonated sparkling cherry and honey wine. The cherries give it a vibrant colour and a cherry flavour. The impression of light oak comes from the cherry pits. This festive wine is very well balanced to dance lightly on the palate and finish fresh and dry. 90.

Meadow Vista Rubus ($22). This is a blackberry and honey melomel mead. Juicy and full-bodied, this is a red wine drinker’s mead. Tasting of blackberry, it finishes dry. 89.

Meadow Vista Ostara ($22). This is a floral, aromatic pyment style, with late harvest Pinot Gris wine grapes blended into this delicate honey wine. The wine has an appealing core of honeyed fruit flavours but is so well balanced that the finish is clean and refreshing. This mead is listed in select Liquor Distribution Branch stores. 90.  


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