Mead proves one honey of a complex wine

Mead proves one honey of a complex wineBy Dan and Krista Stockman

Forget everything you think you know about honey wine.

Because if you’re like us – or like we were until recently – you think that honey wine is heavy, sweet and simple.

A visit to New Day Meadery in Elwood changed our minds, and one taste of their light, complex wines will change yours, too.

Mead is wine made from honey – probably the oldest wine in the world. Back in the Middle Ages, mead was a traditional wedding gift, which is where the term “honeymoon” got its start.

But when husband-and-wife team Brett Canaday and Tia Agnew started making mead, they didn’t even realize it: They were making fruit wines, but fruit doesn’t have enough natural sugars to ferment successfully, so you have to add either sugar or honey. As amateur beekeepers, using honey was the easy choice. Now, they make honey-only wines, too, but most of their offerings are fruit and honey.

And the fruit? Like the raw honey they use, it is all Indiana grown. In fact, because of the late frost last year, some of last season’s fruit came from Leo-Cedarville and Churubusco.

The couple are committed to running a business that strengthens other local businesses, so much so that you can find profiles of all their growers on their Web site, www.newdaymeadery.com .

“We’re making mead, but we’re cultivating community,” Tia said.

Because the meadery is so small – Tia and Brett are the only employees – they have been picking the fruit themselves and with friends and relatives, although they’re hoping to use more already-picked fruit this year. Last fall they spent 13 hours pitting plums.

But the results are amazing – mostly because they make honey wines that will appeal to everyone.

“It’s fun to watch people in the tasting room,” Brett said. “They can’t believe it.”

Tia said people have preconceived notions of what mead will taste like, and when they tell dry-wine lovers they’re going to like it “they don’t believe you.”

The fact is, the meadery usually has about six wines available at a time, and two-thirds of them are dry. Their best-seller is the Dry Red Raspberry Honey Wine, and it is completely dry, but so flavorful it appeals to even sweet-wine drinkers.

“They’re astounded,” Tia said. “They like the sweetest ones the best, of course, but they like the dry, too.”

It turns out that it’s not the dryness that sweet-wine drinkers dislike in most dry wines; it’s the tannins and astringency.

So how do they taste? Amazing.

The Dry Peach Honey Wine ($20) has some of the same flavors that Pinot Grigio does, but it feels very different in your mouth. While the flavors are delicate, the wine has a real weight to it. Although it smells like peaches, the flavors change dramatically during fermentation, so if you didn’t know it was made from honey and 750 pounds of peaches, you might not guess.

The Dry Blueberry Honey Wine ($20) is a true rosé wine – deep pink in color, with the body of a red wine but the delicate flavors of a white. This one was almost like a dry, dry port, but with mouthwatering acids and floral notes.

The Dry Red Raspberry Honey Wine ($24) is their biggest, boldest dry mead, and – despite being completely dry – is packed with fruit flavors. Although it is light-bodied, it has huge raspberry and cherry flavors that just go on and on.

The Semi-Dry Mead ($18) is their only honey-only wine until another batch of Dry Mead is ready. The Semi-Dry Mead is heavier-bodied than most whites, but has delicate flavors of flowers and minerals and has a lot of acid to balance the sweetness. Despite being sweet, it is complex and interesting, and it will evolve in your glass as it is exposed to air.

The Semi-Sweet Black Raspberry Honey Wine ($25) was a limited edition holiday wine that is almost gone. We can see why – the smell is heavenly, and in your mouth it is all fruit and acids balancing the sweetness. The finish is long and sweet with flavors of raspberries, honey and vanilla.

In May, they’ll be releasing the Plum Honey Wine and an old world-style hard apple cider.

It takes a little more than an hour to get to Elwood, but it’s well worth the drive. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else – New Day is the only meadery in Indiana and one of only 60 in the United States.

If you want to make a day of your trip, plan to stop by Prestige Glass, The House of Glass, Spencer Lapidary or Venus Chocolate Shop, too, while you’re there. And for serious food for dinner, Bonge’s Tavern is in nearby Perkinsville.

The days are getting warmer, and it’s time to get out have some fun. Why not make it a trip to Elwood?

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