Western North Carolina, I find our foodshed diversity exciting. It is not just the food, or the wine, or the distilleries, but all these together. Now we have local Honey Wine, also known as Mead. Honey, a gift from our bees, and unfortunately a dwindling natural resource, and I’m just discovering how wonderful and diverse Honey Wines can be. Mead is one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world and in Marshall we have a producer, who is purchasing local honey (mostly from Woodfin) and producing a quality product that is available for sale in neighboring stores.
I’ve just been to Fox Hill Meadery and our host and owner, Jason Russ was very generous with his expertise and his meads. This was a tasting arranged by the French Broad Vignerons to explore the process of making wine with honey. I drove to Marshall this evening, crossed the island bridge, and then cautiously wandered on winding and twisting roads to find Fox Hill Meadery. For two years I’ve been hoping to make just such a visit. They have a tasting room but it is by appointment only. I’m impressed both by the size of their production (about 1,000 cases a year), and their dedication to their product.
We tasted six meads, light to dark, different flavors, different attributes. Many of Jason’s meads are lightly oaked and aged for six months or longer prior to bottling. These meads may be stored for many years to continue. All were most enjoyable but let me try and tell you about what I tasted.
The first was a Blackberry Honey Wine available for $16. The dryness of the blackberries blended well with this mead. There are many meads that lend themselves to fruits. Following that we sampled an Ginger-Apricot Honey Wine which was 12% alcohol. The aroma of ginger along with the full body taste of ginger was breathtaking. Anyone who loves ginger will make sure to have this wine in their cellar.
Traditional Mead Honey Wine was golden in color, alcohol about 13% and while sweet, not overpowering. The Apple Honey wine was a Semi-Sweet Traditional Mead with a spark of spices. It allowed the apple fruit flavor to come forth and I found it a bit dryer than the Traditional Mead. To add to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays we tasted a Spiced Mead, bursting with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon; holiday flavors. Warm this up slightly and serve with any holiday dinner.
What really got my attention was the Special Reserve Mead. A 16% alcohol (that didn’t hurt!) made with buckwheat honey and aged the longest of his wines with oak . It was a beautiful color of dark amber and when opened it had the smell of a fresh farm yard. I bought two bottles of this to enjoy and share on a cold winter day.
But wait, did I tell you this was a meeting of a wine making group! Someone also brought a Service Berry wine, almost like cherry without the cherry flavor. It will make a great desert wine and these berries are free for the picking as they are found plentiful in our mountains. Someone also brought a Petit Verdot, although young at only 2 months, it should finish at 6 months as dry and full of flavor. This grape has been found to produce well in the “new world” and make some surprising wines, especially if you enjoy tannins in your wine.
Fox Hill Meadery’s tasting room is open by appointment and their wines may be purchased there or at most wine stores in Asheville, Maggie B’s in Weaverville, and Good Stuff in Marshall. To make a tasting room appointment or to place orders you may go to www.foxhillmead.com/ or call 828-683-3387.
What I found out this evening is there are hundreds of different Meads out there waiting for us, and we have to look no further than our own backyard to experience some of the best. So, get a group together, call Fox Hill Meadery, and prepare to spend an enjoyable time learning about meads and enjoying the “Taste of WNC”