Talk about a good pairing: An Ethiopian honey wine-tasting room just opened on Vine Street in Alexandria’s West End.
Gize Negussie has a steadily growing list of about 40 Ethiopian shops and restaurants that he sells wine to, and late in the fall opened Negus Winery and Meadery Tasting Room in a renovated space in an industrial area at 5509 Vine Street.
The new tasting room is next door to his production room where giant vats of a half dozen wines ferment over the course of six months. He’s currently making this summer’s batches.
“I’m introducing 3,000-year-old wine recipes that have existed since the Queen of Sheba,” Negussie told ALXnow. “There are no sulfites, which means no headaches. It’s 100% natural with 100% pure honey.”
Negussie emigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia with his family in 2011, and first got into the alcohol business in 2015 when he launched Negus as an Ethiopian brewery, making beer with teff, a multipurpose starchy crop that is a staple of the Ethiopian diet. He said that the pandemic forced him to shutter his operation, which was in Manassas at the time, and that he and his two partners went their separate ways, but he kept the name of the business alive, as well as his equipment, and in 2021 he reopened the winery in Alexandria.
Negussie uses wildflower honey from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which he says is close to Ethiopian honey. He said his mom helped him develop the red, white, rosé, semi-sweet and semi-dry wines.
“I grew up drinking traditional Ethiopian honey wine, and knew the way I wanted it to taste,” he said.
A flight of six small glasses of wine costs $35, and bottles of wine cost between $20 and $25.
Negussie dreams of expanding by opening a vineyard within the next decade.
“I want to have a destination where we can grow our own grapes and have big honey hives,” he said. “I want to see people coming to our vineyard. That’s my big picture.”
The tasting room is closed Monday, but open Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m., on Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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