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New Kamloops meadery plans to make honey wine with help from local bees

Honey wine made by a couple in Kamloops with honey from their own bees.
Honey wine made by a couple in Kamloops with honey from their own bees.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Bernita Wienhold-Leahy

A new meadery is in development in Kamloops, and while a few meaderies can be found in the Okanagan, this will be the first of its kind in the Tournament Capital.

The facility is located on a property on the banks of the South Thompson River, but it will be some time before the flavourful honey wine will be flowing.

“We recently received zoning permission so can finally get started, although there are many more steps to take,” co-owner Bernita Wienhold-Leahy said.

Wienhold-Leahy and her soon-to-be husband and business partner, Leroy Harder, have successfully made small batches of honey wine using honey from their own bees, and fruit from their own property. With the encouragement of close friends and fans of their product, the couple is going bigger with a plan to produce a minimum of 4,500 litres per year.

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“Honey wine is a type of mead, which is the oldest alcoholic drink on the planet,” Wienhold-Leahy said. “We make ours with fermented fruit and honey which is called melomel. The ingredients are fruit, yeast, honey and water. It tastes like a fruit wine with the added honey taste on top of it.”

Harder is an entomologist and experienced beekeeper. Some beekeepers use insecticides to rid their bees of mites but Harder is working to keep his hives insecticide-free for a cleaner end product.

“Leroy is a biologist so he is trying to find ways of managing things differently and naturally,” Wienhold-Leahy said. “He loves science. He raises his own queens and is waiting for the right weather to start building up his hives.”

A bee colony in Kamloops owned by resident Leroy Harder.
A bee colony in Kamloops owned by resident Leroy Harder.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Bernita Wienhold-Leahy

The couple will need 50 hives to make enough honey to meet annual demand. The hives they currently manage are placed in various areas surrounding Kamloops, with the bees flavouring the honey with the natural vegetation around them.

Last year, the couple planted a variety of different fruit trees and are growing berries, all to be used as locally sourced ingredients.

“We’ll be supplying apricots and cherries, as well as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries,” Wienhold-Leahy said. “Strawberries provide a delicious subtle flavour to a honey wine.”

The couple is turning their three garages into a meadery, complete with all the necessary equipment for fermenting, mixing and bottling. They need stainless steel tanks and corking equipment.

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Somewhere in the future they will likely add a tasting room.

“It takes a lot to start up and we are not in any rush,” Wienhold-Leahy said. “We have to go through a lot of health regulations and red tape. We are just going to putter and build with a plan to be in full production in two years. We have been advised by other winery owners a tasting room is a must.”

To build on their knowledge and expertise in the art of making honey wine, the couple has been visiting other meaderies in the province.

“There are two meaderies on the Lower Mainland,” Wienhold-Leahy said. “We visited them last week. While their models and products are not the exact same as ours, it is a fun way to learn and share knowledge about mead.”

The new business is called Lion’s Head Meadery, named after a rock formation behind the couple’s property.

Wienhold-Leahy said the meadery will serve the local area as a small, tasteful winery.

“As much as 4,500 litres per year sounds like a lot, it is still a pretty small production,” she said. “We are looking forward to bringing our product to local farmers markets and events in the future.”

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