What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 24

Heidrun's California Orange Blossom mead.
Heidrun’s California Orange Blossom mead.

Heidrun Mead

For a real change of pace from the usual Napa or Sonoma Valley wine tasting, head to Point Reyes Station for a tasting of mead.

Yes, sparkling wines not made from grapes but honey.

Since 1997, Heidrun Meadery has specialized in this distinctive bubbly made in the French méthode champenoise tradition. It is one of North America’s oldest meaderies still in operation.

Mead is an ancient beverage that has been made far longer than either beer or wine. Owing to the different flower nectars gathered by the bees, the resulting meads boasts surprisingly intense and varied flavors, as I found when I was fortunate enough to try samples.

Heidrun recently partnered with the World Honey Exchange, a U.S.-based organization that helps honey cooperatives around the globe, particularly those in the threatened ecosystems of Patagonia, Ethiopia and Tanzania, gain access to larger markets.

Its three new limited-edition meads ($65 each) are produced from the nectar of Chilean Ulmo, Ethiopian Geteme and Tanzanian Miombo woodland flower blossoms respectively.

All of the sparkling meads are meant to be enjoyed ice cold in flutes, just like Champagne.

The Chilean Ulmo Blossom mead made with the thick, creamy raw honey has the aroma of brown bread made with beer. It tastes of cinnamon bark, toffee, vanilla, and sassafras with an almost medicinal undertone.

One of Heidrun's new meads made in partnership with the World Honey Exchange.
One of Heidrun’s new meads made in partnership with the World Honey Exchange.

With its potent taste, you want to pair it with an equally bold dish, such as Thai noodles, grilled meat or tofu skewers with spicy peanut sauce or Tandoori chicken with chutneys.

I also had a chance to try a bottle of Heidrun’s California Orange Blossom ($28), made from honey harvested from San Joaquin Valley orange groves.

A deep gold-hued mead with a very floral nose, it has some body and viscosity, along with notes of cloves, sassafras, and the bitter edge of orange marmalade. Try it alongside Indian curries.

Cheers: Did you know that Heidrun owner Gordon Hull’s first career was as a geologist? He first started experimenting with brewing beer. His first taste of a mead left him abhorred. So, he figured he could make one better. The rest is honey-sweet history.

The Betty

Who can resist a sparkling wine named in honor of the late-great singular comedian, Betty White?

As effervescent as she was, The Betty ($32) is the newest release by Une Femme Wines, a company founded by siblings Zach and Jen Pelka.

Get to know The Betty.
Get to know The Betty.

The latter was the founder of now-shuttered The Riddler, the all-women funded Champagne bars in San Francisco and New York. In keeping with that spirit, Une Femme Wines are made by women and in part support charitable organizations that enrich women’s lives.

When I poured the sample bottle of The Betty into glasses, its pale gold color revealed itself with vigorous bubbles.

The crisp, non-vintage sparkling wine, made from 80 percent Pinot Noir and 20 percent Chardonnay, had the lovely scent of lemon meringue pie and honeysuckle flowers. It was far fruitier tasting than most Champagnes, with Asian pear, peach, and a touch of mandarin orange on the palate.

Enjoy it with smoked salmon-topped bagels, avocado toast, creamy lobster pasta, grilled salmon, fish tacos, or roast chicken.

Cheers: For every bottle of The Betty sold, a portion of proceeds will be donated to Dress for Success.

2018 Primus The Blend

Primus, which means “the first of its kind” in Latin, is the chosen name for this Chilean winery that dared to create blends at a time when its country was known mostly for single-varietal wines.

We should all rejoice in Primus’ decision because its 2018 The Blend, of which I received a sample, is just the kind of wine you want to pull out during the holidays.

A red wine blend that pairs well with so many holiday centerpiece dishes.
A red wine blend that pairs well with so many holiday centerpiece dishes.

First, it’s Chilean, which is sure to impress friends and family who are used to nothing but Californian, French or Italian wines. Second, at about $20 per bottle, it’s a steal for the quality.

A blend of 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Carmenere, 10 percent Petit Verdot, 10 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Cabernet Franc from the Apalta region of the Colchagua Valley, is an extremely balanced and versatile medium-bodied red wine.

Dark garnet, it has structure and smooth tannins, along with an edge of earthiness plus a riot of dark fruits such as plums, cherries, plums, and cranberries. There’s a touch of black tea and graphite, too.

Pick up a bottle at Wine Chateau, Wine.com, Napa Cabs, and Vivino.

Cheers: What’s on the menu this holiday season? Prime rib? Duck? Goose? Ham? Porchetta? This wine sings alongside any and all of that.

More: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 21

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 22

And: What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 23

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  • I LOVE meads! Will def have to try Heidrun meads soon. Also, totally agree on the Chilean wines. So good and so affordable. Same with Argentinian wines. There are some really good reds there too!

  • Hi Nabeela: I have not had that many meads before, but this definitely makes me want to get to know honey wines a whole lot more. Happy holidays!

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