Mead or Ranch Wine? | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Mead or Ranch Wine?

Lazy Z Ranch is Oregon's fifth meadery

You'd be forgiven for lumping mead enthusiasts in with LARPers, because mead conjures images of women dressed as tavern wenches and men dressed as Robin Hood. But you can only envision these RenFaire types drinking mead out of horns, or horned Viking helmets, if you know what mead is in the first place. Its simplest definition is honey wine — that is, an alcoholic beverage where honey is the fermentable sugar like malted barley is for beer and grapes are for wine.

click to enlarge Mead or Ranch Wine?
Brian Yaeger

But in the words of John Herman, co-founder of brand-new Lazy Z Ranch Wines in Sisters, "mead is the result of a biodiverse system where ethically, sustainably sourced honey is the evidence of that system in action." Herman is a California native and his wife, Renee, is from Washington, so it only makes sense they'd settle in the middle. Not that buying an 80-acre ranch in Central Oregon to raise their two young children and using the ranch to make and sell mead makes a ton of sense. After all, according to the American Mead Makers Association, there are fewer than 500 meaderies nationwide, and, according to Herman, Lazy Z, which officially opens for business this week, becomes only the third that can be considered a farmhouse meadery. Compare that to nearly 12,000 wineries and nearly 10,000 breweries nationwide. Oregon boasts over 1,000 wineries and nearly 300 breweries, but just five mead makers call Oregon home. The other four are situated along the I-5 corridor.

What sets Lazy Z Ranch apart isn't merely that the Hermans are making honey wine, but that they're doing so using exclusively Oregon honey. Herman can — and did — go off on what constitutes nearly all of the "honey" found in grocery stores. (Little of it comes from America and, in fact, the majority is counterfeit, not even being produced by honey bees). But he wants to steer the conversation back to authentic honey, including the 40 or so hives on his regenerative ranch.

Regenerative ranching goes steps beyond organic farming or even sustainable farming. You won't find any pesticides required for monocropping. You will find the Hermans striving to leave the Lazy Z better than when they bought it in 2020. Roughly half of the ranch — about 40 acres — is dedicated to the bee pasture. In a bit of twisted irony, although there are some 20,000 species of bees around the world, approximately 4,000 are native to the United States. Honey bees aren't one of them. There are huge ones and tiny ones pollinating the Lazy Z, though it's the wildflower honey from the Herman apiary that's responsible for Lazy Z Ranch's Estate mead, among its first two offerings.

Rather than taste like alcoholic honey, it offers surprising and welcome notes of orange and vanilla, giving it a Creamsicle effect. Both are classified as traditional meads, meaning they're made exclusively from honey, water and yeast. In case you're wondering what other kinds of mead there even are, the answer is a couple dozen, ranging from acerglyn (fermented honey and maple syrup) to capsicumel (mead with chili peppers) to rhodomel (mead with roses).

The second product is made from lavender blossom honey — surprisingly, you don't taste much in the way of lavender — that Herman procured from Bend's Broadus Bees (makers of real honey). For the Hermans' part, they are rebranding their meads as ranch wines. That said, given John's background in fermentation, they aspire to make actual grape wine, too, as well as pyments. Pyment is one of the arcane styles of mead that co-ferment honey with grapes. By that same token, perhaps we can expect to see a cyser (part mead, part cider) and a braggot (part mead, part beer) down the road. "We are a fermentation experiment," notes Herman. And Lazy Z already has melomels (fruited meads, er, ranch wines) fermenting.

"We're doing something really unique in the mead world with the sourcing of our honey being hyperlocal," says Herman. "It's a very Oregon farm-to-bottle product."

Herman notes that Lazy Z Ranch wines are now available to ship to 40 states and will be sold at farmers markets. But he is patiently getting the Lazy Z Ranch ready to welcome guests to taste meads while overlooking the regenerative bee pasture and, ideally, to hold dinners in the field.

Lazy Z Ranch
68540 Highway 20, Sisters

About The Author

Brian Yaeger

Brian Yaeger is a beer author (including "Oregon Breweries"), beer fest producer and beer-tasting instructor at COCC. Because he’s working on doughnut authorship, you’ll find he occasionally reviews our local doughnut scene. Yes, he absolutely floats all summer long with a beer in one hand and a doughnut in the...
Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment
View All Our Picks


Bend Ticket Giveaway

Newsletter Signup

Get Social

Want to Advertise With Us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here