Reporter: James Gherardi l Videographer: R.J. Burnette
Chatham, VA - Mead is wine fermented from honey made right in Pittsylvania County, and its popularity is buzzing almost as much as the bees that are used to make it.
"It's very, very sweet. It's what southern people are known for liking, sweet wines, you know, not the dry wines so much," said Rusty East, of White Oak Mountain Meadery.
"This to me is a taste of the country."
It's the country that Rusty and Betsy East grew up on.
Rusty says after he stopped being a full time minister, he decided to work the former tobacco farm that has been in his family for generations. But tobacco was a thing of the past, so he started with fruits and vegetables.
"And along the years, we added bee hives to sell honey," said East.
Two years ago was when East says honey became his passion. Researching what he could do with it, he discovered mead, or honey wine.
"And several people said, this is really good, you should sell it, and as we looked for other avenues of income on the farm, that was what got us to thinking about being a commercial venture," said East.
He now owns and operates White Oak Mountain Meadery, a part of the Southern Virginia Wine Trail. His original two bee hives have now grown to 10, and by 2013, East estimates he'll have 30 hives, producing hundreds of pounds of honey every year.
"The honey is produced by bees using things that grow here. They're not a type of grape that came from France and is being grown here. What the bees are going after, are things that are naturally here," he said.
East is now one of three meaderies in Virginia. He says while his product is booming in popularity, for him and his wife, it's just a way of life.
"Our wine to us is just another aspect of country living. Sitting on our back deck, looking toward White Oak Mountain, watching the sun set on the mountain as we do from this direction, with a glass of wine, for us, honey wine, is just the right kind of end to a day," he said.