Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Mead!

Earlier this fall we received word that we had been awarded a Value Added grant from the US Department of Agriculture.

I applied for the grant last March. The idea behind "Value Added" is to help diversify an agriculture-based business. The Value Added product we proposed to add was mead.

Those who know us are probably saying, "but they already make mead." Yep, it's true. But we make it on such a small scale -- and with the successful completion of this grant we'll be making lots more mead!

Are you familiar with mead? It's believed to be the oldest type of fermented beverage known to man. Mead was made before people raised grapes for wine and grains and hops for beer.

Our first adventures with mead allowed us to try the process and find out whether our customers were interested in the product. They certainly were! Miel Amour, our first mead made with Asian pears and spices, sold out in a few months. Our next product was Apple Mead, made from our own apples and sweetened with a touch of cider from the Dexter Cider Mill.

What will we be making as a result of this grant? More Miel Amour and Apple Mead along with lots of new things. Already this fall Holly has started a raspberry melomel (mead) and a pyment (mead with grapes) with estate-grown Vignoles grapes.

Because honey doesn't spoil, you can start batches all through the year. After we move away from the craziness of the grape harvest, she'll be able to look into making other meads. We'll probably do a straight honey mead plus others. Maybe something with estate-grown hot peppers, maybe lavender and honey, the variations are pretty much unlimited.

So check back next fall for the first releases of the new meads!

Some mead terms:
Capiscumel - mead made with chile peppers
Cyser - honey and apple juice fermented together
Great mead - mead that is intended to be aged several years
Melomel - mead made with honey and any fruit
Metheglin - traditional mead with herbs or spices added
Pyment - honey and grapes
Rhodomel - honey and rose hips and/or rose petals

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Large Flying Objects

Cranes and mosquitoes. Who would've guessed that the skies would be filled with both at the end of October? Cranes, yes. Mosquitoes.... huh?

It's the weekend of the Crane Watch at the Haehnle Bird Sanctuary about 5 miles to the north of us. We love partnering with them every year -- introducing wine tasting to bird watchers and crane watching to wine tasters. Because of the popularity of the event, it has now grown to 2 days.

People meet at the Sanctuary at 4 pm on either day, Saturday or Sunday. First they drive around the area in caravans to watch the cranes feeding in newly cut corn fields. Yesterday they were able to spot our local celebrity, the Whooping Crane, on Wooster Road, about a mile or so directly north of us. He showed up last year with a group of Sandhills migrating from Florida and has decided to make Michigan his home. (photo above)

Next they return to the Sanctuary to watch the cranes fly in just before dusk.

We stay open late both days and encourage the crane watchers to visit us before or after the event.

The weather this weekend has been absolutely lovely. Crisp air and gorgeous fall colors. The only downfall this year has been the mosquitoes. They flourished after the heavy rains we had in mid-September (Raspberry Festival/Hurricane Ike weekend). We've had another generation since then and they're almost unbearable. Yesterday we welcomed quite a few crane watchers who came back early -- they couldn't stand the mosquitoes any longer.

It's always something, isn't it?

Photo of Sandhill Crane and Whooping Crane by Tom Hodgson