When Keith and Jennifer Moore first started Savage Farms, near Louisa, KY, the couple had a singular focus – producing the best maple syrup in eastern Kentucky.
But along the way the couple branched out. First, with a new twist on their classic maple syrup, something more suited to the dinner table than the breakfast nook.
The couple's bourbon barrel aged maple syrup was conceived with serious foodies in mind—the kind of folks who wanted something more complex than straight sweet in their pork roast glaze. But the bourbon barrels got Keith to thinking: What else could the couple do with their syrup?
Turns out, like anything else with sugar, you can make alcohol out of it. Thus were the couple's line of dessert wines born.
"We started making maple syrup 20 years ago," Keith explained. "Our maple syrup evolved from regular syrup to bourbon barrel aged syrup, and then we started reading about making maple wine."
So they decided to try their hand at making it.
Turns out, they have a knack for making wine, and not just from maple syrup. After maple wine they tried their hands at making fruit wines, and from syrup it was a short jump to honey. Their current line-up includes blueberry wine and honey mead, with strawberry wine and blended wines like blueberry maple and strawberry mead set to join the roster.
But it's the maple wine that stands out from the crowd and raises eyebrows. After all, we're all familiar with fruit-based wines. We've heard of honey mead, even if we haven't tasted it. But maple wine is a bit of a novelty. How does one get from maple trees to wine?
It's quite simple, according to the Keith.
"From our maple trees we take the syrup and actually make the maple wine from it," he said.
Moore makes it sound like it's as simple as taking sap and turning it to wine, but the process is much more complex. Starting with raw sap, they make syrup – the same stuff you put on your pancakes at breakfast, and that the duo also sell in their booth. Then that syrup is used to feed the yeasts that turn sugar into alcohol.
"We're the only ones in Kentucky (making it)," Keith said. "They've been doing it up north, in New England, for a number of years. But nobody else does it in Kentucky."
You'd be forgiven for thinking that a maple syrup based wine would be very sweet, but the flavor profile is a little more complex than that, according to the Moores.
"It comes on sweet," Keith explained. "But then it kind of backs off. You'd think a maple wine would be overpowering sweet, but it's not. When you first taste it, of course, you taste the alcohol, then the sweetness of the maple. Then that goes away. It's not an overpowering sweet like you'd think it would be."
Similarly, he said, the honey mead isn't necessarily sweet.
"Same way with the honey. People think honey, they think crazy sweet... but it's not."
Honey mead, the favorite drink of the Vikings and the spirit that gave us the phrase 'honeymoon,' is a very old drink, and one that can be deceptively stout.
"This is one of the first wines documented," he said of honey mead, and though it isn't a common drink in this day and age, the Moores are glad to provide it for those who want a little taste of history.
Their wines can also be found at their farm in Lawrence County, and you can find them on Facebook for other events and information. They are also working on getting a wholesale license, and hope to be in local shops soon.
"Dionysus wants it in their shop, and several places in Ashland and Paintsville want it, but we have to get that license before we can sell it to them," he explained.
Until then you can always find them set up at Market 474, on the second Saturday of each month, until the market closes for the season, where they are more than happy to tell you all about their products.
"Grayson has thrown their arms open to us, and we really appreciate that," Keith said.
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