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Honey wine sweetens holidays

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Michal Mosny, left, winemaker at Meadow Vista Honey Wines, and co-owner Judie Barta, second from left, talk to customers Saturday afternoon during a weekend preview in the tasting room at 3975 June Springs Rd.
When Judie Barta decided to use honey to make wine, it became an educational experience for her and the provincial government - repeatedly.
"I was the world's first organic meadery in '09, making my wine out of organic honey," the co-owner, a.k.a. "Queen Bee," of Meadow Vista Honey Wines said Saturday during an opening weekend preview. It continues 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at 3975 June Springs Rd., just off McCulloch Road, in Kelowna.
"Six months into my operation, the government gave me a little jingle and said: 'What are you doing?' Under the licence, I was getting my organic honey out of northern Alberta and you can't do that," she said.
"It's a big no-no because it's an out-of-province raw material. This is where it gets a little goofy. Technically, I can take my bees to Alberta to pollinate and make honey, but I have to take the honey out of the comb in B.C. They don't understand the bee industry."
She empathizes with government regulators because the wine industry has grown so quickly during the past 20 years. When the Vintners Quality Alliance program was launched two decades ago, there were only 16 wineries in the Okanagan, she noted.
"The challenge in B.C. is we don't have a lot of honey, organic honey, to begin with. Most honey comes from the Prairies," she said.
"We can get enough B.C. honey to do what we're doing, but we can not at this point be organic in our production because bees have to be three kilometres away from any toxic sources along with the husbandry of the bees," she said.
"We're OK with the husbandry; we can meet those requirements, but this 3K thing. We get so close to changing that to even 1K, the government changes and we've got to start from scratch again. Hopefully, the honey producers council can put that together."
The opening weekend preview showcases the artisan farm in its final stages.
"We're halfway through our construction - the cellar is yet to be finished - so this weekend we're doing a special tasting to let people know what we're doing. We've had lots of people stopping by asking: 'What are you doing here?'" said Barta.
"We thought just before Christmas we'll open the doors and let people taste a little of our products."
"Everything here is real," she said. "Another word that rings true to what we're doing is authenticity, as natural and true as possible, that also meets a half-decent price point in a beautiful package with a fantastic flavour profile. All of our wines are just really yummy."
The farm produces varietally specific honey, she said.
"Right now, we have blueberry honey because that's what our bees were pollinating."
Construction started two months ago. The wine shop will be open in about two weeks and the cellar by the end of January. A grand opening will be held in the spring.
The farm has produced its honey wine for four years, "kind of under the radar," said Barta.
"What's really neat about our wines is the processing. We can process whenever we want to so it's more like a beer schedule. Honey is the only non-perishable food on the planet. We can tailor our production to have a nice, relaxing experience," she said.
"I love my friends during crush. They're like: 'Oh my God, I haven't slept for days.' I'm like: 'Oh, too bad,'" Barta said with a laugh.

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