We’ve already got vineyards, wineries, and craft beer… but a different alcoholic player is now booming on the Central Coast! The craft distillery movement, which was relatively obscure a few years ago, is now gaining momentum in wineries and several distilleries throughout Paso Robles. Craft distilling is the production of spirits like gin, whiskey, brandy, or vodka in a small setting; the term “Craft” generally denotes selling less that 40,000 cases a year. But in Paso’s wine-soaked region, the owners of vineyards are joining the movement in a distinctive way: by “recycling” the grapes they didn’t need in the wine process in order to create unique spirits.
One such vineyard is Opolo Vineyards, where grappa, pear brandy, and walnut liquor have been produced in small numbers for about five years. These fruity and flavorful liquors, served in their own recently added tasting room, are an added bonus for visitors who come just for the wine. There are hundreds of fantastic vineyards among the rolling hills of Paso, so serving distilled liquor is a great way for some of these vineyards to distinguish themselves from the competition.
Krobar Craft Distillery also uses extra wine from their wineries to create spirits such as gin and rye. Whiskey, however, is produced from grains, and as the craft distillery movement expands in Paso Robles, distilleries such as Krobar have started to produce whiskey using grains. Krobar’s spirits can be purchased online or visitors can book a spirit tasting or tour.
The first distillery in Paso Robles was Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits, a project from the founders of Villicana Winery. One of the owners, Alex Villicana, wanted to find a better purpose for the bleed of grapes that were removed to concentrate their wine (this bleed is called saignée), finally saying that his “saignée now has a new purpose, a very special, high quality vodka and gin, which is the ultimate in spirit-making sustainability.”
In our culture, where wastefulness occurs frequently, it is refreshing to see Paso Robles winemakers being responsible about sustainability, while creating a popular and interesting product in the process. If you’re visiting the Central Coast soon, try to be part of this craft distillery movement! Business is booming and it is very likely that the number of distilleries will expand in the next few years. Visit now while it’s still a new, yet thriving, small industry! There is a small list of distilleries that are making a big impact:
- RE:FIND Distillery, at Villicana Winery & Vineyard
- Red Soles Stillhouse, at Red Soles Winery
- Pendray’s Distrillery, at PasoPort Wine Company
- Krobar, at Grey Wolf Cellars and Silver Horse
- Opolo Winery
- Wine Shine, at Turtle Rock Vineyards
- Bethel Rd. Distillery, Winery and Public House, by Castoro Cellars