How Things Begin (honey wine vinegar)

At the recent Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, the most impressive product I encountered was a honey wine vinegar made by Slide Ridge Honey, a small family business in northern Utah. I interviewed the developer, Martin James, about how the business and product began.

How did your business begin?

I started keeping bees when I was 9 years old. It was a hobby. When I was in my thirties, I wanted to start a business. I’d been doing flooring. Carpet, linoleum, that sort of thing. Large commercial jobs and residential. I wanted to be my own boss, control my own destination, have my own business. I started a honey business with my two sisters, one older, one  younger.That was 10 years ago.

How did this product begin?

We wanted a more unique product. We wanted to expand beyond Utah. When you ship butter somewhere, it’s already there — local honey. So it’s hard to enter the market. We wanted to diversify our business so we weren’t only selling honey. We wanted higher profit margins.

My sisters and I discussed lots of possible products. Eventually vinegar came out the favorite. There are only two other people making honey wine vinegar — one in Washington State (Honey Ridge Farms), the other in Italy. If you put our products side by side, you’ll see they’re totally different.

The development took 7 years. The first step was to use honey to make wine. I got yeasts from wine shops, brewing shops, and mail order. I needed to find a yeast that was compatible with honey. The first ones I tried produced off flavors — for example, the wine smelled like gasoline. I finally found a yeast that was compatible with honey, that made an excellent honey wine. The next step was to produce vinegar. To do that I used an acetobacter — a microbe that eats alcohol and makes acid. It feels like piece of wet leather. What kombucha makers call a scooby. I found the acetobacter I needed from a vinegar maker in Napa Valley — a vinegar maker.

There was also four years of paperwork. Local, state, federal.

What has surprised you?

The reception. When they taste it, people’s eyes light up. I hadn’t prepared myself for the product to take off so well. Repeat customers buy 3 bottles. A lot of specialty chefs have taken an interest. A lot of TV chefs have come by.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “How Things Begin (honey wine vinegar)”

  1. wcb Says:

    Seth, the honey wine product sounds interesting. Can you specify what it was that impressed you with it and what you think the benefits might be.

  2. wcb Says:

    Checked the slideridgehoney.com website and they are selling a bottle of the vinegar for 22 bucks, but no indication of how many ounces. Would be interested in your description of how it tastes and what “applications” you think it has. Seems like it might be great on salads, but what else? :-)

  3. Seth Roberts Says:

    The honey wine vinegar tastes really good … I suppose because it combines complexity, sweetness, and sourness better than other vinegars and other products. Not giving the bottle size is a serious omission, I agree. I’d probably use it on ice cream and meat.

  4. Clyde Adams III Says:

    As best I can make out from the label on the bottle in the photo, it says:

    “8.5 FL OZ (250 mL)”