Adam and Shawna Shapiro's Black Forest Meadery tasting room on Shoup Road, just 10 months open, is too cold to house guests. The cozy building is something like 60 years old, and so is the heater inside, so it tends to throw tantrums from time to time. Such is life with a rental, they lament in the kitchen-cum-tasting-room at their farm and meadery on nearby Burgess road, where we sit around an island counter before a forest of bottles, flanked by a wall of white boxes.
Shawna explains that a friend of theirs recently sold them the remaining stock from his vineyard, Bijou Creek, now defunct, so they're flush with product. In addition to their mead, the Shapiros resell wine from several Colorado vineyards at their tasting room, including Denver's Cottonwood Cellars and Grand Junction's Kahil Winery. They also offer ciders from Snow Capped Cider and Colorado Cider Company, and they're hoping to bring in product from smaller cideries in the future.
Adam and Shawna started Black Forest Meadery in 2008, inspired by time spent in Spain during college. They fell in love with Spanish and French wines. Their 5-acre farm, Shapiro Family Farms, grew to help support their booze business — we hear two big turkeys gobbling periodically outside the tasting room.
The Shapiros' mead is brewed more in the English and French style — it's fermented and aged for at least a year and a half to produce a more wine-like profile. It starts with Colorado varietal honey. They use a few apiaries, especially Springs-based Schmidt Apiaries and Del Norte-based Haefeli's Honey Farm. All four meads are aged on local oak chips to get a more authentic old-world flavor.
We sample all four, priced at $8 per glass or $18 to $25 per 750 ml. bottle. The Melody in the Meadows is the lightest in color and taste, made from clover honey. It's clean and refreshing, mild overall. The Forest label proffers a more notable honey flavor, finishing slightly buttery. We notice a pronounced spice character in this one as well, both in nose and palate. It finishes clean, but not particularly dry or tannic.
It's a little spicier than the Wild Fire, which is brewed with rose hips grown on the Shapiros' farm, making it by definition a rhodomel, or rose-mead. The rose hips add a faint aroma to the brew, and it bears a slight effervescence to boot. It's the least alcoholic mead offered, at 8 percent ABV. While we enjoy it, Adam notes that the yeast is lively and has popped the corks on several bottles, especially with major altitude changes or temperatures above around 80 degrees. If you're buying a bottle, maybe bring a cooler.
Bottle bombs aside, we thoroughly enjoy their darker offering, Mead in the Woods, again spicy but with a much more pronounced honey flavor and a mellow 10.4 percent ABV.
They also have two seasonal, limited-run meads aging. They've brewed peaches into a mead that they hope will be available when the tasting room opens with regular hours, come April 5. In early fall, they plan to release a lavender mead. Both are waiting on approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Any of the Shapiros' Colorado-centric meads could serve as an interesting stepping-on point for curious drinkers. And we're always down with another way to drink local.