Honey combined with water and yeast produces one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man: mead. Remnants of mead were discovered in ancient Chinese pottery from around 7000 BCE and more examples come from the ancient Greeks, Scandinavians, Egyptians, and Celtic people.
This boozy ancestral wisdom was repackaged for modern audiences by Kylie Daniels and Barbara Christianson.
This mother-daughter team opened The Meading Room in Sonoita in September 2019. Christianson is a retired Raytheon engineer and Daniels is an experienced winemaker with a degree in fine arts from the University of Arizona. Their collective skills produced a venue with jaw-dropping views and flavorful refreshments.
The main building is surrounded by rolling hills and 360-degree views of distant mountain ranges. Daniels and Christianson worked hard to build the property to their liking. Almost everything was built by their own hands and all of their beverages are handcrafted in their production room.
When they first considered opening a business in Arizona wine country, the team wanted to stand out among the competition. Daniels said mead is incredibly versatile and Christianson had a skill for creating interesting flavor combinations.
“You can add just about anything and you can create super complex flavors,” Daniels said. “We just did our ‘new fashion,’ which was a spin on the ‘old fashion’ and it was avocado blossom, orange blossom honey, cherries, and then aged on a barrel that had bourbon and tempranillo port.”
Their beverage offerings change seasonally due to product availability from other local businesses. Daniels’ favorite mead is the Breakfast Club, which was developed with locally roasted Brazilian cold brew. Christianson developed a hatch green chile margarita that delicately balances spicy and sweet flavors.
But the pandemic would test their business strategy only a few months after opening. Like most small businesses during the pandemic, The Meading Room had to shut down and the team wondered if they were going to make it in wine country.
“One of the biggest hurdles I had was we didn’t have a huge social media following yet so when everything was shut down and we’re trying to push online orders, I just didn’t have that much of a reach,” Daniels said.
Christianson and Daniels revamped their business by expanding their outdoor space, moving the focus from the inside. They landscaped a grassy courtyard, added walkways, built a chicken coop, a butterfly garden, and plenty of outdoor seating options.
Christianson said they even changed their serving procedures to mitigate the transmission of the virus.
“After COVID, we switched over to flights so we put them on a tray and people could take them outside and separate,” Christianson said.
With all of these changes, The Meading Room has increased production every month to keep up with demand.
“Within the two years we’ve been creating, we’ve had so much demand in the tasting room that we’ve increased our production by five times,” Daniels said.
They also work with locals to provide events in their courtyard. They recently held a Chile Festival with live music, chile roasting and a barbecue.
Christianson said they are planning a Christmas market for the holidays and will host a local play for Halloween. A Patagonia acting group will perform Heidi’s Monkeys from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. The play is advertised as psychological horror and costs $10 at the door.
The Meading Room became a surprising success during the pandemic thanks to Daniels and Christianson’s responsive business strategy.
“You know, Kylie and I are both very creative, we like the fun of trying to come up with new things and try different ideas out,” Christianson said.