Did you know that around a third of the food you eat has been pollinated by bees? Well, it’s true! If it weren’t for bees we would not have many of the fruits or veggies that you and I enjoy each day.
At Rosewood Estates they know almost everything there is to know about bees (even scientists don’t know everything about these unique and mysterious little creatures). After all, they have over 300 hives! Why you ask? Well …
… along with their vines and wine-making, Rosewood Estates is first and foremost a meadery; they produce honey wine, also known as mead.
There are three types of mead – pyment, melomel and mead, and Rosewood makes all three.
- Pyment is mead fermented with grape juice.
- Melomel is mead fermented with fruit juice (not including grape).
- Mead is pure fermented honey.
Before visiting Rosewood I’d never had Mead before; so in celebration of the 1st mead ever to be sold in the LCBO, the Rosewood’s 2008 Mead Royale, I thought it was about time to visit, try some mead and learn all about honey wine.
Having met Renata and Krystina Roman in the Rosewood cellar during The Pinot Affair it was great to be back at Rosewood again and in the capable hands of “Enerbee” extraordinaire – Sonia Vitali. [Something I should explain about Rosewood is that everyone who works there has a “bee” name – Sonia is the “Enerbee”, Krystina is the “Social Bee” and Renata is, naturally, the “Queen Bee” – maybe I can be an honourary “Local Bee”…].
Sonia, to say the least, is a bundle of knowledge and energy. Within a few moments of walking into Rosewood I had a glass of Semillon in my hand and Sonia was modeling her Rosewood Merlot Halloween costume – what a riot!
With deep attention to detail and lots of heart, Sonia introduced me to the history of the Roman family. In the 60’s, current owner Eugene’s father applied to the Ontario government for a license to make mead. Unfortunately he was denied and it was then that Eugene promised his father that he would, one day, produce an Ontario licensed mead. In the early 80’s Eugene and Renata met, fell in love and another promise was made – that Eugene and Renata would build a winery together.
Although they kept bees the whole time in between, it wasn’t until 2000 that Eugene and Renata bought the property in Niagara that is now Rosewood Estates Winery and Meadery. In 2003 the vines were planted and a few years later, in 2005, the construction of the winery began. In 2006 they had their first harvest and vintage and on May 1, 2008, the winery opened its doors to the public and was immediately named one Wine Access’ Top 20 Wineries in Canada. Today, Eugene and Renata’s two children – Krystina and William – play a crucial role in the running of the estate; William tends to the bees and harvest and Krystina takes care of events, marketing and sales.
I was especially interested to learn that winemaker – Natalie Spytkowsky, who joined Rosewood in 2006 – had not ever made mead before arriving at Rosewood. Thankfully…
… with Eugene’s experience and Natalie’s knowledge of wine, “the two began crafting a series of innovative meads with the estate-produced honey.”
Sonia showed us the bee hives, the sorting and pressing equipment, the tanks, the cellar and then took us to the second floor of the boutique where I had the pleasure of trying some Rosewood wines and their prized mead.
The lineup included the wines/ meads listed below and I have put a ✿ beside my favourites:
- 2010 Semillon – cool, crisp and fresh ✿
- 2011 Gewurtztraminer – floral (like a rose), smelt like a wedding
- 2010 Chardonnay Reserve – this wild ferment is fresh and crisp with hints of pineapple ✿
- 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve – wild ferment
- 2010 Pinot Noir
- 2009 Merlot Reserve – smelt dark and deep and tasted of black licorice, black cherries ✿
- 2010 Merlot – cherries and red licorice
- 2010 Cabernet Franc – spicy, complex and “manly” (as my husband likes to call it)
- 2007 Mon Cherie – fermented with sour cherry juice, smells like candy and tastes delicious! ✿
- 2011 Mead Noir – fermented with Pinot Noir juice, tastes fresh and reminds me of rose
- 2008 Mead Royale – this true mead smells at first like icewine and then honey, tastes sweet! ✿
- 2007 Grand Reserve Ambrosia – this mead ages for 3.5 yrs in the cellar & then 2 yrs in the bottle
If you have yet to enjoy the pleasure of mead then I present you with two options. The first, visit Rosewood Estates – this amazing family run winery will live up to and likely exceed your expectations. See the hives, walk through the winery, talk with the family and you will not be able to help but want to spend more time there. Second, if you cannot make it to Rosewood, then I suggest you visit your LCBO. As I mentioned earlier, on November 10th 2012 the LCBO started carrying Rosewood Estates 2008 Mead Royale and for only $14.95 a bottle you can bring this sweet treasure home with you.
To say that my afternoon with Sonia was enjoyable would be an understatement. I was surprised to learn that Sonia has only been with Rosewood for a little over two months; the way she spoke about the winery and the Romans made me believe she had been there for an eternity. It is just another testimony to the sense of family and the welcoming nature of Rosewood.
Having stayed the whole afternoon, and leaving only because they were closing, I made my way out with with a kilogram of Rosewood Wildflower Honey under one arm and some 2007 Mon Cherie under the other. My afternoon honeymoon might have ended but my relationship with Rosewood Estates mead has just begun!