Cache Valley beekeeper turns honey to wine
Cache Valley beekeeper Martin James just can't leave his honey alone.
About a year ago, the owner of Slide Ridge Honey in Mendon began using some of the golden nectar from his hives to make a gourmet honey wine vinegar.
Now he is turning honey as well as local apples into an old-time "cysir" wine. Slide Ridge calls its version CaCysir in honor of its Cache Valley roots.
Wine-making is a natural progression for Slide Ridge, since making vinegar requires fermenting ingredients into a mead or a low-alcohol wine. Before being able to produce and sell a high-alcohol offering, James spent several months getting all the required federal permits and state licenses.
During a recent interview, he shared these details about CaCysir.
Why make cysir, a traditional apple wine? • There are 60,000 labels of wine; as a business I have to think about how I'm going to stand apart from the competition. Most all of the wines on the market are grape wines. One of the places we take our bees to pollinate is a local apple orchard. I thought a honey wine with some apple in it would be unique, especially a honey wine from the Beehive State.
How is it made? • From a blend of seven different apple varieties all grown in Utah. We blend it to create a tart apple cider, then we add honey for sweetness and let it ferment for about a year. I researched textbooks and old writings and experimented a lot to get the apples and honey blended right. We didn't want it to be too sweet, but there is some residual sugar. (According to the label CaCysir contains 75 percent apple; 24 percent honey; and about 1 percent grape.)
Taste • The amber-colored wine has aromas of baked apple and honeyed-tangerine zest and undertones of cloves, allspice and cinnamon. It has a juicy sweet mouth-feel with balanced acidity and a remarkable finish.
Food pairings • I like it with cheese or pasta. It goes well with caramel, custard or fruit desserts; or drizzle a little over vanilla ice cream.
Cost • $49 for a 750-ml bottle. CaCysir qualifies for Utah's small winery price discount, so consumers in other states will pay $60 a bottle.
Where to buy • For now, it is available only by special order at Utah liquor stores. However, James is waiting on tasters at the state Division of Alcohol Beverage Control. If approved, it will become available on a test basis in select Utah stores.
Any other wines on the horizon? • Yes. We've been fermenting a true mead made with honey, water and yeast.
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