Queen Sheba Winery was started in 2011 to bring authentic Ethiopian style honey wine (Tej) to America. Tej (pronounced as Tedge – rhyming with hedge) is a traditional Ethiopian style of mead made with Gesho – a species of plant that grows native only to Africa. The Gesho stems are usually boiled, and that “tea” is added to the mead.
Queen Sheba Winery is located near Napa Valley to draw inspiration and the abundance of knowledge and resources from California’s wine industry and the University of California, Davis’ expertise in wine and honey. I also found it pretty cool that they have a program called “Sheba Gives” where they donate 10% of their proceeds every month to a non-profit organization. This November, they are supporting Connected in Hope, an organization in Addis Ababa that works for the empowerment of women and children.
It’s cool to see these Ethiopian style mead companies like Queen Sheba and Bee D’vine giving back to the communities that were most likely the reason we have modern mead today.
Anyway, to the review.
Big Tree Orange Blossom Review
I got two bottles of mead from Queen Sheba Winery – an Orange Blossom and a Clover Honey Wine. I first tried the Orange Blossom. Here’s what they say about it:
The production of this wine starts with local California orange blossom honey that has light citrus notes. During the fermentation process, we introduce the bark of gesho, a species of buckthorn, for a short period of time. A gorgeous golden color, this luxurious wine will remind you of the aromas of a garden in full bloom.
It pours a very nice translucent golden color with slight bubbling around the glass. As I poured it, I could immediately smell the great bouquet that emanated from the glass. The aroma is definitely floral with sweet honey and some lesser fresh grassy notes.
The taste was pleasant for the most part. Slightly sweet at first, giving way to a little bitterness. It has a fair amount of acidity that carries through the full sip. There are some earthy undertones along with green leaf flavors that I assume come from the gesho (i’ve never tried gesho outside of Tej, so I can’t be sure there). Halfway through the glass it becomes a little medicinal. It’s definitely a mead you would want to pair with food to stop that from happening. It would pair nicely with spicy food – especially Ethiopian food.
Big Tree Orange Blossom Branding/Design
I like mead companies like Queen Sheba Winery referencing the history of the beverage, however I feel like there are far too many companies that are doing this a quite overtly – Queen Sheba is in that boat. There needs to be balance between tradition and appealing to modern consumers. I think they are headed in the right direction with the triangles in the icon and label to bring in a little bit more of a modern aesthetic.
The triangle patterning is hot in design right now but it can use some significant refinement on these labels. Couple that with the bubbly lettering and it starts looking a little childish. Even more so with the flower and clover icons on the neck tags.
The influence of Napa Valley is apparent with this mead – meaning it skews more toward the wine drinkers in taste and look, which makes sense because they call themselves a “winery.” One big negative with the labeling is the differentiation between their two styles. They are using a bottle neck tag that can easily be removed or fall off. I know there are cost savings by using the same front labels, and as a small operation, every penny counts, but there really needs to be a more differentiation in the labels of the two types.