Black Raspberry Nectar, a pleasant alternative to wine

The Colorado Statesman

At another recent informal meeting of our office tasting club, SWISH, (The Statesman Wine Sampling Hour), I broke open a self-sealable bottle of Black Raspberry Nectar from Redstone Meadery, one of just a few bottles I have left in my office from Doug Caskey, president of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board. I decided to wait until the winter holiday season since the name of this nectar seemed so festive and perfect after a long Tuesday workday.

Black Raspberry Nectar is produced by the Redstone Meadery.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

Per the bottle’s directions, I chilled it in the refrigerator all day. Sara and I flinched as Marianne engineered the top off this curious purple container as if she were about to pop open a bottle of Champagne. It was anti-climatic. The top was very similar to the top of a Grolsch bottle. Don’t know what that is either? Well, it’s a ceramic “flip-top.” It works very much like the jars your grandmother used to store things that needed to stay fresh over long periods of time. It has metal hinges and a rubber washer to seal it for freshness.

Anyway, as it turns out, our very own Marianne Goodland has been known to attend the Renaissance Festival, and is very familiar with mead and Redstone Meadery. For those of you who aren’t sure what mead is, it is fermented honey wine, not made from grapes. Marianne took the first sip. “That’s nice. It’s different than traditional meads, not sweet, and it’s carbonated and not syrupy. This also doesn’t smell like honey.”

Sara mentioned that it has a nice rose color, and we all agreed. She thought it had an apricot aroma, and said she wouldn’t necessarily drink it with food. I personally think it would go with anything light, like a salad or bruschetta. While Sara looked up some possible suggestions on Redstone’s website such as pairings with mild cheeses and barbeque, or as a mixer in cocktails, I pondered how the Redstone concept began…

Redstone Meadery owner David Myers told me that he had experimented with making his own beer in the 1980s as a hobby, then tried homemade mead. Myers’ original plan was to start a brewery. However, he really took to making mead and decided to sell that instead. His mead is now sold in 29 states. Myers is pretty proud of the fact that there are no sulfites added to his meads, and they are made with real fruits and spices. They are also 100 percent gluten free, for those of you who watch that sort of thing.

Myers explained that raspberry vinaigrette has even been made with his Black Raspberry Nectar. In fact, many different recipes included the Black Raspberry. Madoka Myers told me that since this product is carbonated it is “not a grape wine, not beer, but somewhere in between.” Apparently the Black Raspberry was the first mead to be released by Redstone in June of 2001, and it is still their bestselling product to date.

The tasting notes on the site says it has a “mouthfeel and texture of beer and the light taste of lower alcohol mead.” Made with five parts clover honey and one part wildflower honey, you would think it might taste sweeter. Therein lies the art of making mead.

When it comes to politics, Myers says he has been known to dabble, especially a few years ago when liquor laws were even more complicated and confusing than they are today. Myers told me that at certain festivals, he was made to keep his mead separate from the wine areas by roping off his booth. Not only could his customers not take their glasses of mead past a certain point, but wine tasters could not bring wine into his area, either. It just wasn’t classified as wine, and thus a separate liquor license was needed for a time. Myers helped support changes at the state House and now it is recognized and sold the same way that wine is.

When he spoke at the Capitol, he argued that the way the law was written, it caused difficulties for his customers. They couldn’t just walk around with his mead because they couldn’t go past the ropes into the wine areas, and of course, it goes without saying that there are usually more wine tables around than mead tables. Myers recalled that after he was told that he must obey the laws, that he also had the power to try and change them.

Myers says that about five years ago, Mark Beran of Medovina Meadery was the real driver behind getting this done, and that he was happy to help. Myers recalled that he said he “believes in the unity of Colorado wines, and mead is still relatively unknown.” The fermentation processes involving mead needs to be similar to that of wine and thought the laws should be reflective of that in a fair manner. With that and other things said, it was changed.

Myers considers himself a part of the “Artisinal Beverage Industry” to coin a phrase. Redstone is one of, and supports, the microbreweries and boutique wineries in Colorado. And he is very proud of that. He even thinks it’s great that “micro-distilleries” are starting to pop up around the state. For example, Peak Spirits, owned by Lance and Anna Hanson, make vodka and gin out of locally-sourced, organic fruit. They also own Jack Rabbit Hill winery, which has been covered extensively in this column regarding their farming practices and Demeter certification, not to mention the changing of a packaging law in Colorado, where small business seems to have a voice when it speaks.

Redstone Meadery now boasts it is the largest craft meadery in the country, and the second largest producer of mead. “I like to treat everyone like they are in my living room,” Myers says about his tasting room in Boulder. Somehow making it work through this economy, he is holding it together and hoping for a more profitable year in 2011. I think you can credit his unique product and reasonable price points. If you like wine and have never tried mead, what are you waiting for? Black raspberry? Boysenberry? Sunshine Nectar? How can you go wrong?