I am a 36 year old woman who may not live in "The Big City" but I like the little city I live in and there is a lot that goes on around here too! This is a place where anything can happen..or be written about!!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Isaaks of Salem/ The Mead Man Of Salem Massachusetts!

Ian Bennett The Mead Man Of Salem (photo from Isaaks Of Salem)
After a long day at work or relaxing on a beautiful summer's night, spending a night out or in with friends, or snuggling up with someone special by a fireplace, whatever the situation might be most of the time having a really nice glass of wine is a nice way to cap off these moments. It isn't always easy to find that right wine let alone find it being made in the city/town you live in, but here in Salem we don't have to look any further for that really good bottle of wine..I have found it! ;) Isaaks Of Salem is a local wine that is also quite delightful to the taste!

Meet Ian Bennett the "Mead Man" of  Salem, Massachusetts! Ian is originally from Rhode Island, but now he is a Salem man!  After learning about honey wine in college, he decided someday he would try to learn how to make it.  The opportunity came up for Ian around the time he moved to Salem and started making it in his basement. 

This was 5 years ago, but soon the hobby grew to be much larger than he wanted to handle at home.  So after his first few larger batches, the winery was founded on October 30th 2009.  He searched for all of the equipment, searched for a good space to produce the wine, and searched for the perfect honey for their local honey wines all winter of 2009 and 2010.  He finally found a space in March of 2010 that was perfect for his small micro winery in Beverly MA just by the train station.

Ian With His Mead!(photo from Isaaks Of Salem)
He then scoured all of Massachusetts for the best Honey he could find. He  opened up a Partnership with MVABeepunchers, and they get all of their honey from this exclusive source.  There bee's forage in the Merrimack Valley and produce a wonderfully delightful sweet honey that he turn's into Isaaks Of Salem.

With honey and all the other ingredients required for wine making at hand, his first fermentation started on June 30th 2010.  It was their Dry Honey Wine and it went great.  Isaaks Of Salem was ready in November 2010 for distribution.

So lets raise a glass... my interview with the mead man is here!!! Meet the man behind the wine....my interview with Ian Bennett!

Having A Delicious Glass Of Isaaks Of Salem Dry Honey Wine (Photo By Sarah)
S:How did your love affair with wine first begin?

I:When I was in college I read A LOT of fantasy novels.  Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones (way before the tv show), and many other books.  They almost always had Mead or Honey Wine in the stories's as a way for the characters to celebrate.  I wondered what this beverage was, because I could never find it anywhere.  Then one night it was on the menu at an English Pub in Rochester NY called The Old Toad.  It was being served mulled (hot), but I was so excited to try it!  However I was REALLY disappointed.  After all these mentions of mead in the books I read, and the references to mead being a drink of the gods, I couldn't believe the drink I had was even from the same planet as what was written in my books that I loved.  I then learned how to make my own from "GotMead.com" (It's a homebrew site, but dedicated completely to mead), and after my first Joe's Ancient Orange, I was 100% hooked on the hobby.

Isaaks Of Salem Dry Honey Wine is a big white wine. It is dominated by big honey overtones to create a real white wine with substance. (Photo By Sarah)

Me and My Isaaks Of Salem Wine (Photo By Sarah)

S:What is the different in taste between honey wine vs grape wine?
 I:Honey Wine has a distinctly stronger flavor in most cases.  Grape wine (especially white-style grape wine) is usually a light, crisp, flavor profile.  Honey Wine can be made cleanly, but it does have a stronger flavor than grape wine.  The comparison can be similar to the nationally distributed beer like Bud Light and Sam AdamsSam Adams has more flavor than Bud Light.  The same thing can be said (in general) about honey wine vs grape wine. 
S: What made you decide to move to Salem?
I:My wife and I have been living in Salem for 4.5 years now.  We purchased our home on Cross St., because of it's proximity to the ocean, and the great downtown atmosphere.  There is just so much going on in Salem, and we wanted to be part of it all. 
S:What was the turning point for you in your head where your hobby of making honey wine became more than just a hobby?
I: I actually wrote a blog post about this, and you should be able to find it here: http://content.corkd.com/2010/03/03/from-hobby-to-career-the-journey-of-a-honey-wine-producer/ . Somehow I just knew I wanted to try and show more than a few family friends what could be done with local New England fruit and honey.  The slogan of our company or it's catch phrase is on all our business cards.  "Turning the Fruit and Honey of New England into local wine".  It is taking what New England has to offer, and making it into something truly special that you can preserve, treasure, and enjoy with friends.
Relaxing while taste testing the wine! :) (Photo By Sarah)
S:This may be a "silly" question, but what made you decide that  "Isaaks Of Salem" would become your winery name? Picking a name for anything I find is more challenging than one may think...
I:That is a good question.  We were sitting around the living room in October of 2009 trying to name the company.  My mom was there and she pitched out Isaaks of Salem, because my great grandfathers middle name was Isaac.  I thought that was a great idea, and named the company after his middle name.  I was then on the phone a few weeks later (after doing a lot of the paperwork) with my grandmother, and when I shared the good news that we named the company Isaaks of Salem after Pop (my grandfather) she said "Pop's middle name was not Isaac, it was Isiah."  I almost died laughing, and just rolled with it.  So, that is how we got our name, it's no one in my family, it's not anyone I know, but it has stuck around.

(photo from Isaaks Of Salem)
S: Now that is funny!  
S:Where would you like to see Isaaks Of Salem..5 years from now?What is your main goal for your wine/winery?What would be your dream future for you and your wine?

I:The goal of the winery in 5 years is to be my full-time job.  Now that I have said that, let's get to the 'but'....it appears that the 5 year plan may be closer to achieving than I thought, and also further away than I thought.  Every hour I put into the winery right now, comes out of time I could have spent with my wife and son. They are the #1 priority in my life, and so if I were to make a go at doing the winery full-time, I need to consider how hard that would be on them.  How much time I would loose from my family.  The success of the winery is very important to me, I think I have the skills, experience and capabilities to make the winery my full-time job, but it is the time that's required to make that happen that has me wondering what may happen to me and my family in 5 years.
Love This Wine! (Photo By Sarah)
S:Why should people pick up a bottle of your wine over another bottle of wine?
I:The reason anyone buys a bottle of wine is to have a good time and explore new flavors.  Sharing that bottle with friends, sitting by a campfire, breathing in the hot summer night, that is my perfect 'good-time'.  A bottle of Isaaks of Salem gives our friends and fans a great local story to tell.  It is not well known, and not many people have tried any of our wine yet. The local story, and the passion for exploring new wines is why people pick up a bottle of Isaaks of Salem.  It is something you have never had before. The local story of honey from Massachusetts,and all the hard work the bee's and the bee-keepers do, and then comes my part. All of us together make the wine truly enjoyable.
S:What has been your biggest challenge with starting a winery?
The Three Meads! (photo from Isaaks Of Salem)
I:The biggest challenge in starting the winery was finding equipment with very little money.  If you want to buy our setup from a retailer of wine making equipment it would cost around 14,000 dollars.  That is a pretty nice used car, or a solid NEW car.  Never-mind the rent money and all the little costs that creep up, or finding honey from a reliable local supplier.  We needed to get all that equipment to make 800 gallons of wine for around 4,000 dollars. Our equipment is all hand assembled and hand-built.  We have an Window AC-Unit that was converted into a chiller for our tank.  A commercial one with the same capabilities costs about $3,000.  We had a guy on a PC-Overclocking forum build ours (custom EVERYTHING) for around $900.  All our equipment is like that.  We picked up a 1k gallon stainless steel tank for $1000 at a scrap yard, and then I spent 3 months inside the tank (think giant bell) grinding away at the steel with palm sander to make it sanitary again.  We use recycled HDPE tanks that were once used to ship natural flavors and mineral oils for bulk storage containers.  It takes a lot of careful planning to find all this equipment, because no one else makes mead, no one else has the equipment (at least not anyone within 600 miles).

I really like how on the back of the wine bottles it
give you food pairing and glassware recommendations
as well as a description of the wine
(photo from Isaaks Of Salem)
S:What has been your biggest reward so far from opening up your own winery (what has made you feel the most successful so far)?

I:The biggest reward so far, was having my wife join me in the company to help improve our communication with our Facebook fans.  Working with her, learning more about how well she communicates (and how poorly I do it) has been incredibly rewarding.  Probably the best part!
The second best reward is a project we are doing with The Gathering in Salem.  Phil the pastor of the church asked me to come in and do a mead day in the church.  So we helped people in the church make their own batch of mead at Christmas time, and we are cracked open the first bottles after the Easter Sunday service for the congregation.  The whole batch was made, fermented, aged, and bottled all in the church. It was a GREAT time for everyone, and very rewarding for me to be able to share my knowledge and experience with the members of the congregation.

CHEERS!!!! (Photo By Sarah)

(Photo By Sarah)

http://blog.isaaksofsalem.com     (the most general information)
http://blog.isaaksofsalem.com/p/video.html   (video work that we have done)
http://isaaksofsalem.myshopify.com    (our digital tasting room and online store)
http://www.facebook.com/isaaksofsalem  (our facebook account)
http://www.twitter.com/isaaksofsalem    (our twitter account)


  1. After Sarah did her photo shoot, I was honored to get to have a glass of this delicious wine. I think it would also make a great gift for house visits, hoidays, etc. because of it's uniqueness and beuatiful label. (of course the taste met my hopeful aniticipation of a nice wine)

  2. LOL..thanks anon..or karina :) haha! It was fun drinking it with you!... and thank you for the great review of the wine!!!