Gordon Hull doesn't look like the mead maker I was expecting to meet. With his button-down shirt, close-cropped gray hair and quiet, professional demeanor, I wouldn't necessarily peg him for a mead-mad entrepreneur from Humboldt County; if he has a sort of Tim Robbins look, it's definitely not as Erik the Viking.
But it's Hull's mead—a fringe beverage often associated with Renaissance fairs and D&D enthusiasts and shunted to the end of the shelf next to the Manischewitz blackberry wine—that really defies stereotypes. Heidrun mead is dry, sparkles like Champagne and has terroir.
Hull discovered "varietal," flower-themed mead by chance. Restless as a geologist, he took a leave of absence and enrolled in a brewing apprenticeship. "I thought I was going to be a brewer," Hull recalls, but during the first craft-beer boom in the 1990s, "everybody and his uncle was brewing." On a whim, he tried making mead. When his supplier switched honey sources, he noticed that the mead had different characteristics. Today, he makes a changing lineup of meads, each from a different type of honey that he buys in 55-gallon drums directly from beekeepers.
After commuting from Arcata to his major market in the Bay Area for 12 years, Hull moved the meadery to a former dairy in Point Reyes Station, where horticulturalist Jordan Thompson is establishing a bee forage for the estate mead. During a tour, Heidrun beekeeper Brad Albert showed off an abandoned honeycomb. Laden with honey, it's as heavy as a brick. Albert explains that if the colony doesn't feel their queen is pulling her weight, they may revolt.
In the sunny, greenhouse tasting room, bee-friendly plants are offered for sale, and the bar is made from bee boxes and riddling racks. Unlike sweet, Ren fair mead, Heidrun meads are dry and made méthode champenoise style. "Our palate has come a long way since Medieval times," says Hull.
Served in a flute, Oregon Radish Blossom Mead ($25) has a sweet, honey aroma all right, but it's light and sparkling. Oregon Meadowfoam Blossom Mead ($25) has a strawberry, cotton candy aroma and a roiling mousse, while the crisp, nutty Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Blossom Mead ($25) evokes apricot nectar. On familiar territory, California Orange Blossom Mead ($20) has a rich, blanc de noirs–style finish; Madras Carrot Blossom Mead ($20) reminds me of Jura white wine aged on flor, while Hull suggests patchouli. So there is something hippie about this place, after all.
Heidrun Meadery, 11925 Hwy. 1, Point Reyes Station. By appointment only, Monday–Friday. Tasting fee, $10; with tour, $15. 415.663.9122.