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Hidden Gem of Sparkling Mead – Heidrun Meadery

By Alexa Chipman Mar. 22, 2017

Using the methode champenoise with mead is extremely rare, so when I found that Heidrun was a quick jaunt toward the coast, it was an exciting surprise. I did not know what to expect, since mead is usually a sweet syrup texture, and I discovered that changing it into sparkling infuses a dryness with intense flavor.

Heidrun Meadery is twenty years old, and has recently concentrated on their Point Reyes Station farm and honey cultivation after relocating to West Marin. Honey is heavily influenced by surrounding flora, so keeping a local hive is essential, although they also bring honey in from other locations, such as Oregon and Hawaii. Their picnic area is limited, on a first-come, first-served basis, and offers views of quaint farm buildings and distant meadows stretching toward Point Reyes Station.

Heidrun Meadery Tasting Flight

I tried their $15 tasting flight in the greenhouse, which is an airy room filled with plants and warm filtered sunlight. They were quite busy, so the mead was presented without comment or background, and I had to hunt down where to find palette cleansing water glasses, but reservations are available for an in depth tour of the facility that goes into detail about the remarkable process used at Heidrun.

Hawaiian Macadamia Nut
This was my choice from the flight to purchase; it has a dainty crispness to it with almond after note; the flavor is reminiscent of an older oaked chardonnay.

Oregon Meadowfoam Blossom
The bubbles create a slosh of honey that lingers—flowery at first, gradating into a softer sweet finish.

Oregon Radish Blossom
Very pale with a green tinge and definite radish aroma, it has a sharp quality and slightly bitter aftertaste. This mead would be a powerful choice for toasting a special occasion, but not one I would set the table with for dinner.

Madras Carrot Blossom
I was not fond of the overwhelming tangy flavor. The color is a lovely sunset orange that would look amazing in a trumpet flute, but I am not sure I would want to revisit the taste.

California Orange Blossom
This delightfully floral mead has a gentle nudge of honey under a carpet of blossoms drifting across the palette. If you love floral flavors in wine, this is a must try. I think it would be the perfect choice paired with a white cake decorated in edible flowers for a wedding or birthday.

Heidrun Meadery gift shop of honey and candles

I highly recommend Heidrun Meadery’s refreshingly unique approach to an ancient libation. It does not have the dense saccharine quality of regular mead, so if you are hesitant to try a tasting, know that the sparkling version shakes off those negative qualities for a refreshing frothy taste that melts in your mouth.

Why visit Heidrun Meadery?

  • Unique, challenging flavors
  • Unlike any other tasting flight in the area
  • Outside food is allowed—bring your own picnic
  • Beaches within a ten minute drive away

Heidrun Meadery
Website: www.heidrunmeadery.com
Hours: Weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Closed Tuesday)
Weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: 11925 CA-1, Point Reyes Station

Inverness—Quiet Coastal Getaway

By Alexa Chipman Mar. 12, 2017

At the heart of a network of hiking trails ranging through Point Reyes National Seashore, the tiny town of Inverness has a relaxed atmosphere of rustic buildings and docks overlooking the tranquil Tomales Bay. There are plenty of cabins or bed & breakfasts to stay at if you are comfortable with roughing it, such as Dancing Coyote Beach cottages that are feet from the water with a private beach.

Inverness Tomales Bay

The easiest route to Inverness is on Petaluma’s D Street—follow it through rolling green hills, over a winding pass of spectacular vistas, and a few easy turns will bring you onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard that meanders along the bay.

During the summer, head to a forest enclosed beach for a lazy swim or sunbathing. Local haunts include Heart’s Desire Beach, which is linked by short trails to a network of smaller sandy inlets to spread your blanket, or Chicken Ranch Beach, a great place to bring your kayak and paddle through the sheltered bay. Keep in mind that it is a tidal estuary, so beaches will change size during the day.

Saltwater Oyster Depot
Website: www.saltwateroysterdepot.com
Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location: 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness

Saltwater Oyster Depot Inverness

Slide into a seat at the outdoor bar, basking in coastal breezes, or enjoy the sleek modern design of the interior with a casual, yet trendy atmosphere. It can get busy, so either reserve ahead or be ready for a brief wait on their comfortable outdoor couches with a bay view.

Breakfast is served until 11:30 a.m. with a brief pause until lunch through 3:00 p.m. with delicious filling sandwiches like the locally sourced free range chicken using poultry from Petaluma. From 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. the bar menu is limited, but excellent, offering a variety of oysters, both from Tomales Bay and imported, along with a carefully curated list of accompanying recommended wines.

inverness-california-saltwater-oysters-wine

I went for the sparkling Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsache with Hog Island Sweetwater oysters and the best bread pudding I have ever tasted. It was creamy, with caramel sauce oozing inside the cake, covered in fluffy whipped cream and edible violets. After 5:00 p.m. the menu is refreshed for dinner with soups and salads that are delectable and healthy.

Inverness may be a tiny town that barely registers on your GPS, but it can be a tranquil weekend excursion of strolling along beaches or through the woods followed by sharing an oyster tasting with loved ones.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden

By Alexa Chipman Mar. 6, 2016

Nestled in the countryside of Sonoma County, this hidden gem of primarily Asian botanical collections is a treat for visitors. It ranges up and over an old quarry that has been turned into a paradise of trees, waterfalls, bridges, and flowers. The garden is not large, but it is extremely steep—be ready for sharp inclines to fully explore the area.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden Glen Ellen

Benches and picnic nooks are interspersed throughout, allowing for quiet meditation or a lively discussion with friends. The sheltered arbor is a lovely spot for drawing or photography if so inclined, and the garden offers events throughout the year that might appeal to you. Visit the website for a calendar.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden

When arriving, park at the bottom of the hill and visit the small gift shop to purchase tickets, then hike straight up for access to the garden, which offers sweeping vistas of the landscaped hills and a variety of exotic plants mingled in natural plantings. Spring and summer are the best times of the year to visit.

To fully experience the gardens, join as a member for annual access to watch the seasonal changes from rich autumnal colors to refreshing spring blossoms and a luxurious sweep of green during the summer.

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens Flowers

This is a beautiful hidden valley of horticultural collections that is often overlooked by locals and tourists alike–while out wine tasting in the area, take a few hours to explore it; you will not be disappointed.

Why hike at Quarryhill Botanical Gardens?

  • Horticultural education of plants from around the world
  • Splashing waterfalls and creeks for entertaining crossings of bridges and stepping stones
  • Steep hills give a good workout going up and down
  • Variety of trail types from narrow green tunnel paths to wide paved road
  • Well tended—no need to worry about logs or trail damage

Website: www.quarryhillbg.org
Hours:
Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 12841 Highway 12, Glen Ellen