Sky River Mead and Honey Wine owners and sisters Denice Ingalls and Glenda Downs have been pumping out the good stuff at their meadery in Redmond for the past five years, but their history with honey wine stretches back two decades.
Ingalls will have been making mead for 20 years this September after picking up the craft in the 1990s. In 2008, the sisters decided to start a brewery in Salkum, where Ingalls lived.
“We threw in together pretty much as the Great Recession started,” Ingalls said.
Both sisters had regular jobs, which were hit hard by the economic downturn, so they started pouring more time and energy into the meadery.
But their location along the highway in Salkum didn’t lend itself to attracting as many customers as they would have liked and the location was fairly small. So around five years ago, they made the move to Redmond.
Ingalls said simply saying they make mead, or honey-based wine, is misleading in the same way simply referring to beer or wine by their generic names doesn’t account for the wide range of varieties in each category.
“Yes, we just do mead, but mead isn’t just honey, just like wine isn’t just cabaret,” Ingalls said.
The sisters produce 10 varieties of mead in six vats, using around 40,000 pounds of honey each year as they combine it with spices, roses, fruit and other ingredients to create unique drinks.
They are looking to add two more meads to their roster by September, and possibly grape wine, beer, non-alcoholic beverages and food in the future.
“Our hope is just to make it a space that everyone can feel comfortable in,” Ingalls said.
Downs said the current location, which is comprised of a meadery and a large tasting and showroom, used to house a cabinet business and took significant work to get it in a presentable state.
The tasting room is a spacious building with wood floors and decorative shelves and lined with large picture windows showcasing the sweeping view of the valley below.
A patio with a large grass lawn that slopes down to the road allows guests to enjoy the summer sun during the extended hours, which begin following Memorial Day weekend. The tasting room is also dog friendly.
The location is the home base for their products, which are not only sold in the Pacific Northwest, but at various states across the country as well as internationally.
It’s a culmination of the sisters’ introduction to brewing, which happened when they were children. Their grandfather practiced beekeeping and fermented homemade cider.
Following that, Ingalls got interested in brewing while she was living in upstate New York and began working with a professor learning how to ferment wine.
The area, Ingalls said, is a mecca for mead and honey wine production. While it is commonly known as brewing, Sky River Mead is produced by fermentation instead of being heated like a beer mash, although the process is still known as brewing.
The sisters are looking to expand their business operations in the future, too.
“We want to grow our distribution channels and the number of wines we can create for people,” Ingalls said.
The work also keeps them busy and on their toes, as Ingalls described them both as having to fill multiple roles throughout the day.
“It’s work, there’s a lot of days in rubber boots and sweatshirts, but it’s nice people,” in the industry, Ingalls said. “I can’t complain.”
Sky River Mead and Honey Wine is located at 14270 Woodinville-Redmond Road and is open from 1 -6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday until extended summer hours begin on Memorial Day weekend.