Just do not call it “mead.” Ayele Solomon is quite specific: he makes honey wine, just like the “t’ej” he drank as a boy in his native Ethiopia—as Ethiopians had done for more than 2,000 years. Yes, they are both made with honey, but the mead contains various fruits, herbs, spices, grains or hops. Honey wine is made with honey and spring water.
Ayele moved with his family to the Bay Area in California when he was 12. He went on to earn a degree in environmental economics at University of California, Berkeley, and in natural resource development at Michigan State University. As an intern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he did field work in land degradation and sustainable land management. He returned to Ethiopia to consult on creating and promoting opportunities for indigenous residents of the Kafa rainforest.
The rainforest was suffering from the need of the residents to cut down trees to have land on which to plant crops and to make charcoal from the wood. Ayele saw the traditional beehives in hollowed out trees or hanging from branches, a method that produced only a few pounds of honey a year. Frame beehives would produce ten times that. The flowering trees were an ideal source of nectar and pollen, so replacing the traditional beehives with frame hives would correct the economic hardships and environmental abuses in the area. This became Ayele’s mission, and he started by founding The Honey Wine Company, parent company for the Bee d’Vine brand and introducing high-end wine drinkers to honey wine.
Back in California, he collaborated with biochemists, chemists, winemakers, and beekeepers to produce a natural wine that captured the essence of fresh, fragrant flowers with suggestions of earthiness, nuttiness and wood. The orange-blossom honey was sourced from beekeepers in Solano and Yolo counties in California.
Bee d’Vine produces two versions of its wine: Brut and Demi Sec.
- Brut is crisp, dry, and complex and appreciated by those who enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. Without the sweetness of the Demi Sec, the essence of the flower is exposed.
- Demi Sec is sweet, fruity, and light and appreciated by those who enjoy Champagne, Muscato d’Asti, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. The higher honey content gives it a silky feeling.
Bee d’Vine Honey Wine Awards: Demi Sec and Brut
- Gold Medal in the Sparkling Wine Challenge
- Gold Medal in the World Wine Championships
- Gold Medal in the Eco Friendly Wine Challenge
- Gold Medal & Best in Class in the International Women’s Wine Competition
Bee d’Vine Benefits the Environment
- Honey wine is a sustainable beverage. No land is uprooted to plant grapevines. No irrigation is needed. No chemicals or pesticides are used. No tractors with their suffocating exhaust.
- Honey bees help to establish lush forests that create the oxygen we breath, store the water we drink, and sustain biodiversity: plants and trees, animals, insects, and microscopic organisms.
- The food cycle depends on bees. Dozens of varieties of produce pollinated regularly by bees yield larger and more uniform crops.
Bee d’Vine Promotes Economic Development
With partners, Ayele is working on conserving 600,000+ acres in Kafa and sharing forest carbon revenues with the forest communities.
A part of the profits is being invested in converting the traditional Kafa beehives into the higher-yielding frame hives, to save the rainforest and increase quality of life. Also, Ayele hopes to source honey from Kafa to produce an exotic line of specialty wines.
Proceeds from Bee d’Vine help to create a five-fold increase in honey yields in Kafa and create jobs for women who have always been excluded from collecting honey the traditional way—climbing trees.
Purchase of Bee d’Vine also supports California beekeepers while saving our endangered bees.