After my return from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton this past weekend it is ironic that my first post isn’t really about wine but honey. These seemingly two different products, honey and wine, actually have more in common than I previously thought and is a perfect pairing to prevent your next hangover.
Living in Kelowna I was interested in participating in the pre-conference excursion in Kelowna. I am a novice when it comes to wine tasting in depth, despite my love of drinking wine. With twenty+ bloggers from all over the world we set out in the morning to Tantalus Winery and began with a hearty breakfast created by Chef Mark Filatow, gold winner at the Gold Medal Plates in Vancouver in November of 2012. Among the selection of house-made yogurt & granola and a delicious potato rosti with white pepper gravy topped with Filatow’s own house-made bacon, there was also a waffle station where I topped the freshly baked dough with crème fraîche and luxurious drizzles of honey cascading into each squared valley. Little did I know that I was about to visit the very hives that this honey was produced just after breakfast and sparkling wine.
With full bellies our group of 24 or so bloggers headed down into the heart of the vineyard passing what Tantalus Winery calls their “Old Vines” Riesling having been planted in 1978. We then arrived at a clearing where an old rusted and cracked press (or grinder of some kind) stood on its last legs amongst wild flowers. Its rusted handle pointed towards blue and white stacked boxes in a small field just off the pathway where we stood waiting for the next surprise to occur.
Arlo’s Honey Farm, located in Kelowna, makes honey at two locations – 1. at their farm a few minutes away from Tantalus Vineyards in the “countryside” of Kelowna and 2. at Tantalus Vineyards where the bees pollenate the vineyard and the wild flowers upon the grounds. Helen, our bee guide from Arlo’s Honey Farm and an enthusiastic self taught honey maker, stood in her white overalls explaining the benefits of honey. Helen brought some good news to us wino’s that day explaining that honey helps detoxify the liver and digestive system which makes it a great pairing with wine. The alcohol in wine does no favours for the liver but if you were to eat honey you would be detoxifying your liver at the same time helping to prevent a hangover (of course this depends of your consumption of alcohol vs your consumption of honey, like anything don’t over do it). Even Dr. Oz has previously noted that a great hangover cure is honey and crackers as the honey helps take away the headache that often accompanies a red wine hangover (at least for me anyways).
Helen, such a sweet woman without a sliver of dread or worry headed over to her bees and slowly opened the hive. Only standing about 20-30 feet away from her I never felt afraid of an attack. Bees, to me are beautiful insects who only sting when they feel threatened. Helen, armed with her cedar smoke subdued the bees and I personally only heard one bee fly past my head. Interestingly, I learned that beekeeping technology has not changed for over 300 years and the act of bee keeping dates back to the stone-age.
After brushing the bees off the honeycomb with a soft brush Helen closed up the hive and approached us with the liquid gold. Laying it on the table equipped with spoons she told all of us to dig in.
Depending on what flowers are available to the bees within the area they can produce honey that is an array of colours from light brown to a sheer gold. Along with a variety of colours the smells and of course tastes can all be extremely different year to year much like wine can vary in colour, taste and smell from year to year. If the weather was poor one year with a colder and wet summer than usual then both the honey and wine will reflect this climate change within the taste and the same goes for hotter summers etc. When the bees collect more pollen from a certain flower/plant that is thriving during that particular summer the honey will take on some of the characteristics of that plant resulting in a unique tasting honey with floral notes that relate to the flower the pollen was collected from – much like the smell of wine can vary from harvest to harvest and throughout the ageing process.
So the next time you decide to serve a cheese plate with your wine think about purchasing some local honey to drizzle over your blue cheese and walnut dressed crackers – your liver and head will thank you for it tomorrow morning.
Stop by and see Helen for a tour or to shop their skin care, candles and of course honey at their farm:
For more on Beekeeping:
Take the Pledge – www.HoneyBeeHaven.org
Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad