Meadmakers at Heidrun Meadery
11925 Highway 1
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Biography and Photos by Ben Davidson:
"From flower to flute" is the sweet motto of West Marin's unique meadery, Heidrun. Producing brut dry, naturally sparkling varietal meads made exclusively from honey, proprietor Gordon Hull and his small team of meadmakers use ancient methods to pursue a refined objective: to reveal the distinguishing characteristics – the essence – of every type honey they ferment. Within honey's essence reside floral aromatic compounds – ranging "from the primitive to the sublime." Heidrun's meads aim to "arouse our latent senses and refresh our perspective of the natural world."
Founded in Arcata, California in 1997 by former geologist and commercial brewer Gordon Hull, Heidrun moved its operation to a 16-acre former dairy farm near quaint Point Reyes Station in the heart of West Marin. The meadery produces naturally sparking varietal meads and their trademark Champagne-style mead is light, delicate and refreshing, not sweet but boasting subtle exotic aromas and flavors found only in the essence of honey.
"We produce sparkling wine from honey instead of grapes using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise," says Hull proudly. "We also have a horticultural program and a commercial beekeeping operation." Hull adds "there aren't too many people out there doing sparkling honey wine. Traditional honey wines are usually sweet and still, not sparkling. But we found that by making sparkling mead it helps to showcase the flavors of the honey from which the mead is produced." "We produce some of our own honey and our estate varietal is made from honey produced by bees right here at the farm." "We produce other varietals made from honey produce at different locations from throughout the country." "I worked as a commercial brewer and enjoyed experimenting with different types of fermentation. I tried fermenting honey. Mead is an ancient beverage and sooner or later every creative brewer wants to try making honey wine." "I experimented with different recipes ended up developing my own process." Hull says he had the opportunity to "do something nobody else had ever done in a style that nobody had ever explored. That's what's been exciting for me."
Mead is an age-old term for wine made from honey rather than grapes. At Heidrun, making mead is a team effort between the beekeeper, horticulturalist and the meadmaker.
Jordan Uth, Heidrun's full-time horticulturalist and farmer, carefully tends the farm's abundant flowering plants, determining the floral character of their mead varietals. "I identify native plants, the ornamentals, annuals and perennials and am focusing on what nectar and pollen the bees eat and, as a farmer, I produce cut flowers and vegetables." "We are working to restore the (native) wildflowers so the bees can forage naturally."
Heidrun's amiable beekeeper keeps the farm's beehives happy, humming and producing sweet nectar for their Point Reyes Wildflower Estate mead. He has spent the past six years at the farm "We keep the bees alive, make sure they are getting their nourishment, and give them the space they need, and then we take some of the honey from them periodically throughout the year. That's what we make our mead from."
Carly Sheriff, tasting room host and sales director at Heidrun, says "the unique thing about that process is that our mead is naturally sparkling and we get our effervescence after the primary fermentation and a second fermentation inside the bottle." "It's really interesting to see how all the parts of the meadery work together, from Jordan out in the flowers to Brad in the hives and Gordon in the meadery." "There's no better way to capture the essence of these flowers and the honey than what's in a flute of Headrun mead."
Heidrun's other varietals are made from other honey sources and include California Avocado Blossom, Alfalfa & Clover Blossom, California Orange Blossom and Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Blossom.
Visitors are welcome on a reservation-only basis for tours and tastings. Tour times are 11:30AM and 3PM Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays and noon on Sundays ($25 per person). Closed Tuesdays. Tasting room hours are 11AM to 4PM weekdays and 11AM to 4:30PM weekends. Tasting flights are also available for $15 a person. Visitors are also welcome to enjoy Heidrun's sparkling mead at the picnic tables (fee required) on their tranquil garden patio.