Several times a year I gather together a bunch of friends for a Moms Who Need Wine Night. Sometimes we have a theme like California wines, other times we go out on an adventure, or on occasion we’ve even hosted some sort of party. It never really matters what we do or where we go, just that we all have become good friends with kids the same ages in school and can decompress for a couple hours with good eats, beverages and conversation.
Recently I hosted a Ladies Wine Evening at my house with Spirit Hills Honey Winery. This evening came about following a trip out to the Millarville Farmer’s Market one Summer day to visit my friend Jay at his eatery, Eats of Asia. Side note Eats of Asia has since moved to the Calgary Farmers Market and Crossroads Farmers Market. As a family and even on a date, we enjoy wandering any market to take in all the amazing local food and finds.
Amidst fighting off the nasty wasp population, and taking a few down as we strolled along, we noticed wine. To be more exact, Spirit Hills Honey Winery. Not one to walk past an offering to sample wine we stopped to visit and discovered Mead. Did you know Honey Wine is Mead, or Mead is Honey Wine? We met Ilse, one of the owners, and learned much about Mead. This conversation lead to an in house demo and tasting for the ladies.
The story of Mead is fascinating. It’s an ancient wine believed to have been first made and enjoyed as early as the Neolithic Period, over 3000 years ago. Today Mead is experiencing a renaissance and there are at least 7 Wineries in Alberta producing Mead Wine. Spirit Hills Honey Winery is one of them.
Ilse and Hugo, originally from Belgium, made their way to Canada to follow their dreams which lead them to becoming sustainable farmers who love what they do. Next came bee hives and eventually the Honey Winery. Their story is as fascinating as they are and one that gives you hope and inspiration. Ilse was our host for the evening, she is charming and friendly and her passion shines through as she speaks to the hard work and effort she and Hugo have put forth to live off the land and create the business they are now in.
Their Mead is made using only organic ingredients, local flowers, berries and honey from their sustainability managed bees. Running a bee farm is a feat unto itself. With currently 114 hives in operation and plans to add another 36, Ilse and Hugo definitely have their work cut out for them. But they seem to have mastered what is needed to be successful. Just check out some of the local liquor stores (Co-op Liquor Stores, Willow Park Wine & Spirits, J Webb) or restaurants (Teatro) who now carry Spirit Hills Honey Wine. Their wine is becoming so popular in fact, one of their favourites, Saskwatch, a big full bodied dry red, was one of the Judges Selections in the Alberta Beverage Awards 2013.
Mead wine is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, full of life, free of sulphates and addicting. Step back from the grape variety you are used to and try it at least once. I guarantee you’ll be surprised and most likely enjoy it.
When we ladies get together for our wine evenings we always bring a bite to share. Ilse gave us some suggestions on food to pair with the wine and I must say, as always, the food the ladies brought to share, was divine. During my quest for the perfect bite, I came across a chocolate ganache type tart with salted caramel. Salted caramel is right up my alley and chocolate was on the suggestion list, so I decided to give it a try. First time making caramel and I only burned myself once and the caramel 2 times. Third times a charm. Everything came together nicely. Husband Rob and I thought the tarts were decent, the ladies apparently loved them and most asked for the recipe.
And so here it is. In case you were wondering, these tarts pair fabulously with the Spirit Hills Honey Winery Dande honey wine.
- 2 dozen tart shells
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp butter
- sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 cup caramel sauce home made or store bought
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- Preheat oven to 375F
- Arrange tart shells on a baking sheet. Dot the bottoms with a fork, then bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Heat whipping cream in a microwaveable bowl for 1 minute or until steaming. Remove from microwave and add chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into cooled tart shells. Chill until set.
- Wet Caramel Sauce: Making caramel sauce takes careful patience and timing. It's easy to burn yourself so please use caution. I made a wet caramel three times before I figured it out and got it right.
- In a pot over medium high heat, stir until dissolved 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. You want this mixture to start boiling so turn it up if needed. Once it starts to boil, stop stirring and turn back down to a light boil. The water needs to evaporate off and you need to watch it carefully.
- Once the water is gone the mixture will start to caramelize quickly. This is where it's critical you pull it off the heat in time. Mine continued to cook once I pulled it off the heat so make sure you pull yours off just as it's starting ever so slightly to turn from very light to medium brown.
- Once off the heat very slowly pour in your whipping cream and butter while stirring. If you pour too quickly it could spit or foam up. It also might start to cool and/or harden...you can put it back on low heat to soften it again.
- I took my caramel just slightly past medium (by accident) and ended up with a creme brulee flavoured caramel. It was delicious.
- Let the caramel cool for 10-15 minutes and then spoon a enough on each tart to cover chocolate. Put in fridge to firm up (it wont harden).
- When ready to serve remove from foil liners and sprinkle lightly with salt.