If you're dubious about the idea of lemon wine, you're not alone. I wasn't expecting much (considering the current explosion of mediocre canned cocktails and other boozy beverages), but the lemon wine made by Evergood Elixirs in Palmer Lake is a light, refreshing drink akin to cider or mead.
Evergood's yellow flagship wine, affectionately named Skier Pee, has the bouquet of a sauvignon blanc and the luscious mouthfeel of white wine made from grapes. “People expect it to be too tart or too sweet and are pleasantly surprised,” says Melanie Hexter, who launched the winery with her husband, Matthew, a year ago. I found it delicious.
The Hexters also produce Switch Stance, made with fermented lemon and lime juice. The wine was named for a snowboarding term for switching up one’s footing, since the wine represented a change from Evergood's original lemon libation, both in ingredients and finish, which is heavier and more tart than the lemon wine. The most recent addition, Snow Bunny, is lemon wine with added strawberry juice. In addition to a refreshing hot-afternoon beverage on ice, the wines make excellent mixers for sangria, mojitos, daiquiris and other cocktails.
“Skier Pee has four ingredients — lemon juice, water, yeast and a little cane sugar,” Melanie explains. “It’s 10 percent alcohol. Lemon wine is different than Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which is a malt liquor and has 5 percent alcohol.”
The taste of lemon wine is more delicate and dry than hard lemonade or old-fashioned wine coolers. Lemon wine is far more like its apple and honey wine peers in character. And unlike grape wines, citrus wine only requires five weeks from peel to taste.
Matthew Hexter began making wine in his basement nine years ago. Drawn to DIY drink-making, he started roasting his own coffee beans thirty years ago when everyone else was drinking Folgers. He was also brewing beer at home when the craft-brewing scene was in its infancy.
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When Matthew first started making lemon wine, his son Logan remarked, “That looks like pee.” And the name stuck. For years, the Hexters gave their citrus wine away to friends and neighbors, who were impressed enough to encourage the couple to make a business of it.
Prior to officially launching Evergood Elixirs last year, Matthew and Melanie conducted market research to determine whether having “pee” in the name might turn off prospective drinkers. While the research showed only a small percentage of would-be drinkers would reject the wine out of hand for its label, 100 percent said they would remember the name — Skier Pee is definitely memorable. Not long after the brand launched, fans were already asking liquor and wine stores if they carried the Pee. After just thirteen months in business, Evergood Elixirs are available in 145 retail locations from Pueblo to Windsor and the Front Range to Grand Junction.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” says Melanie. Truly a family business, the Hexter kids help with bottling, and the labels sport their daughter’s artistry.
You can taste Evergood Elixirs at the upcoming 303 Wine Festival this Saturday, August 3, at Clement Park in Littleton, at the Palmer Lake Wine Festival on September 14, and at the sold-out Colorado Mountain Winefest, the state’s largest wine festival, on September 21 in Palisade.