It may be complex making mead, but Bill (above) and Teresa Townsley are squeezing the best out of honey. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

Langley mead makers make the most of bees

Not far from Township 7 Winery, on 16th Avenue, there’s a new take on an old libation.

by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance

Langley’s Bill and Teresa Townsley bought a five-acre farm across the street from Township 7 Vineyards and Winery on 16th Avenue about seven years ago.

They loved wine, so being on Township 7’s doorstep was a welcome addition to the lifestyle they were developing as hobby farmers.

In order to promote pollination on the farm, Bill got into bees – starting with a couple of hives.

“Bill was learning about bees and it’s like crack,” Teresa said. “Once you have a few [hives] you need more.”

While growing their apiary, the couple considered their options. The busy street traffic wasn’t ideal for farming, but they’d seen how it aided their winery neighbour.

Bill’s father had taught wine-making, beer-making, and cheese-making at UBC, so the interest in all things fermented was natural.

It was a simple equation, the couple said: bees plus fermentation equalled mead, also known as honey wine.

And through the years, Teresa was on site at Township 7 selling jams she produced from their farm. Turns out being under foot at the neighbouring winery was an invaluable learning experience. It proved helpful when Townsleys decided to start Festina Lente Estate Winery and Meadery, which opened in May.

“They were nothing but supportive,” Teresa said of the Township 7 team.

Festina lente means to make haste slowly. It’s a philosophy Bill and Teresa took with their livestock on the hobby farm and now apply to their mead making.

“It was originally called Festina Lente Farms,” she explained.

“You could force them [horses and other animals]… or use a nice methodical plan. It’s the same philosophy we raised our children with and our crops with.”

Teresa feels Mother Nature likes to add the element of surprise to things.

Like with their Luna mead, which has a subtle hazelnut flavour due to the bees pollinating maple trees. The couple has learned to work with Mother Nature rather than try to force her.

“I doubt we can ever recreate that,” she said of the unique flavour of Luna, which was bottled on the same day as the solar eclipse.

“We put all of our flavourings in [the mead] right at the beginning and let them co-ferment with the honey. It’s more complex and unique than just adding apple juice at the end.”

The wines are switched up seasonally to complement what customers would be eating at that time. So, summer meads are lighter, whereas fall wines are more complex.

“Our goal was to make wine that pairs well with food,” noted Teresa. “They are a little drier, more food-friendly wines. Maybe that’s the grape wine makers in us, but we wanted something familiar.”

.

New winery joins the block

Bill is able to make wine 12-months of the year because honey lasts. But the fact that it keeps indefinitely makes the process unique, he said, noting that honey resists fermentation.

“It’s slightly more complex making mead than grape wine,” said Bill.

Complex is also a great way to describe the meads Bill makes.

Each of the more than 20 different varieties is easily as complex as grape wine in having varying aspects to the notes and palette.

The wines are named for a god or goddess, giving a back story the couple is eager to share with their customers.

Just as all the gods are different, the meads are as well –ranging from spicy to fruity, but very seldom sweet with none of the meads scoring higher than a two on the sweetness scale.

Those looking for a more traditional grape wine flavour will enjoy the Bacchus Pyment, which has fox grapes from 40-year-old vines incorporated into the fermentation.

Saturnalia Melomel is a nice addition to a holiday or family gathering with cranberries from Fort Langley in the mix, and Bonus Eventus Melomel is a light, dryish wine made with local, organic blueberries.

The new Festina Lente tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the west portion of the farmhouse at 21113 16th Ave.

 

Teresa Townsley pours a glass of Festina Lente Estate’s new wine. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

It may be complex making mead, but Bill (above) and Teresa Townsley are squeezing the best out of honey. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

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