VISTA — If you thought “Meading in the Garden” had to do with something in the backyard and plants, you’d be wrong.
If you want to learn more about mead — a type of wine made from honey — you will want to attend “Meading at the Garden,” the largest mead festival on the West Coast April 6 at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista.
According to Festival Coordinator Dave Nichols, this is the fifth year for “Meading at the Garden” and it continues to grow.
Nichols said Mead requires a winemaker’s type 2 license just like grape juice but instead of grape juice the fermentable sugar is honey, he explained.
“Mead is a wine made from honey that’s usually served sweet, but can also be medium or dry,” he said. “Mead that is not cloyingly sweet lends itself to festivals better in my opinion, as many of the guests are also drinking beer and don’t prefer sweet beverages.”
Nichols started the event five years ago and at first it was a bit small; “We had a good event so I went ahead and continued it. We’re expecting more than 800 this year, we had around 700 last year.”
“I wanted to be able to fuse two of my family’s loves — mead wines and the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens,” he said. “My mother Miriam Nichols had a great love of the gardens and was a huge activist for them. She always believed the gardens would become a world-class destination for nature lovers. I wanted to fuse her love with my love and the Meading in the Garden was born.”
He said Meading in the Garden continues to be a success “because a lot of people are just finding out about mead as it wasn’t a well-known beverage before the craft beer craze. Now, it is the fastest growing beverage in the world.”
Nichols said the event will feature more than 35 meaderies, cideries, and breweries. Also, 100 percent of all proceeds are donated to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.
“Come join hundreds of other mead enthusiasts, homebrewers, aficionados, and fans for unlimited tasters of the world’s oldest fermented beverage — mead,” he said. “There will also be plenty of beer on hand from some of North County’s finest breweries for those who aren’t into mead.”
Also, on hand will be delicious food from local restaurants, live and local bands. Visitors may also win raffle prizes and bid in a silent bottle auction.
“The meadmaking demonstration and honey tasting are always popular events,” Nichols said.
For true mead lovers there will also be a very special gourmet VIP mead pairing at 11a.m. not to be missed, he said.
Mazer Nichols will be on hand for a guided pairing of modern honey wine and contemporary cuisine.
“VIP members can enjoy a delicious five-course gourmet pairing featuring primer, appetizer, entree, dessert, and aperitif,” he said. “It will be an exploration of gourmet creations as we experiment with old and new flavor combinations.”
While tasting mead, sway to the tunes of guitarist Jimmy Patton, who will provide an enjoyable listening atmosphere during the VIP event which requires a VIP ticket for entry.
If that’s enough visitors may experience meadmaking firsthand at the mead brewing demonstration with the North County Homebrewers Association, as well as experience honey firsthand with periodic honey tastings throughout the day.
There will be a Viking Village, sponsored by the Raiders of the North Viking group, that will feature a mini-village comprised of a Mead Hall, axe-throwing, live blacksmithing and leatherworking, Nichols said.
Speaking of raffle tickets guests can win valuable merchandise thanks to the dozens of prizes donated by breweries, homebrewers, meadmakers, and local establishments.
With every raffle ticket purchased, guests directly support the gardens. These donations help pay for much-needed improvements and maintenance, education, and natural resources like water and power, he said.
“Check out the silent bottle auction featuring an eclectic lineup of uncommon rare mead and beer as this year features some especially nice sours and barrel-aged selections,” he added. “Keep an eye out for the collections, as they are the best deal.”
Some other fun activities include a game area, virtual reality tent, virtual egg hunt, and much more.
Admission limited to persons 21 years of age and older. Event occurs “rain or shine” No refunds are possible given this is a nonprofit benefit.