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Generally speaking, vodka and gin are mostly made from potatoes and grains because they are inexpensive and abundant. But did you know you could also produce vodka and gin from grapes? Well, Alex and Monica Villicana of the Villlicana Winery in Paso Robles, CA sure did and not only that, they did something about it.

They were driven by their desire to promote and encourage sustainability by utilizing existing, unused resources to create a high-end, local, artisan product. This concept of finding a new use for wine and refining it into spirits is the basis for their name Re:Find.

Often, winemakers bleed a percentage of the free-run juice from red wine grapes before fermentation to concentrate and enhance the quality of their red wines, and this bleed, the saignée, is often discarded (not good for the leach-fields). By fermenting this bleed and then triple distilling it, Re:Find Distillery has found a new use for the saignée. And, not only are they using the saignée from Villicana Winery, Alex and Monica are purchasing the saignée from other craft wineries in Paso Robles as well. Since they sent us a pretty package of five of their finest products (Vodka, Cucumber flavored Vodka, Gin, Rye and Limoncello Liqueur) in smaller sized 100ML bottles there’s plenty of tasting to be had.

Since the Vodka started it all, of course, we should start with the vodka. The nose is very vegetative (thanks to the grapes) and unlike most any other vodka you might be used to. It almost reminds me of a silver tequila on the rocks except for the additional aromas of honey and hazelnuts. The palate is also quite vegetative in overall tone with an underlying sweetness reminiscent of a candy called Bit O’ Honey, and there is even a milky, oily mouth feel that makes this quite the treat. The finish is of course vegetative, sweet and smooth and lasts a short time. This is one flavorful vodka with a lot going for it.

Next up is the Cucumber flavored Vodka. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like cucumbers, especially the way my mom prepared them with a touch of vinegar, but it would never have entered my brain to flavor vodka with cucumbers. I must admit that the nose smells like freshly cut cucumbers and that’s really about the wonderful extent of it. I no longer sense that vegetative aroma like I did in the straight up vodka. The palate is chock full of cucumber backed by a bit of sweetness and saltiness. The finish has a very laid back cucumber flavor with the vodka taste actually coming in first place and followed by that sense of sweetness and saltiness. The finish is short and in the end, slightly peppery leaving my mouth teased into thinking I had actually bitten into a cucumber. I’ll bet this would make a hell of a Bloody Mary, YUM.

I have always professed that Gin is just Juniper flavored vodka with a dozen or so other botanicals thrown in to gin up the flavor profile, so I can’t wait to see how grape based gin is going to taste. Oh, by the way the good folks at Re:Find have also seen fit to add coriander, orris root, lemon and orange peel, grains of paradise and lavender to their gin mix. The nose is not subtle, with the lavender, citrus aromas and coriander up front and just the barest hint of juniper in the background; however, all these aromas are well balanced. The palate is the least “ginny” tasting gin I have ever tasted. Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot of flavor here, and it’s all very well blended, but I can just barely discern the juniper and what I get right up front is a mouthful of that vegetative flavor from the grapes followed by a touch of sweetness. The finish is sweet and smooth and citrusy and lasts a short time. This has to be the least “traditional” flavored gin I do believe I have ever tasted, which rightfully so, may just make it the most unique gin I have ever tasted. It is quite good and flavorful in very unexpected ways.

The wort for this RE:FIND Rye is sourced from two craft breweries in San Luis Obispo county. The nose is very reminiscent of a bourbon but lighter, sweeter and fruitier with the rye aroma front and center. On the palate, this is one sweet rye! I also get a bit of oak and vanilla and cherry. The finish is medium in length and features the rye, oak and just enough of a peppery spiciness to liven things up a bit. This is definitely not like your grandfathers rye; it is smoother and more flavorful.

The Limoncello Liqueur is a subtle pale golden color and that’s where the subtleness stops. Holy Cow, the nose is super sweet and yet has a touch of tartness to it while screaming out lemon zest. On the palate, it is thick and oily and lemon zesty and sugar sweet and just tart enough to balance it all out. The finish brings up a bit of alcohol heat to accompany the sweet-tart lemony flavors and lasts forever. Two hours after drinking this Limoncello, I could still taste it. This is definitely in your face sweetness and goodness that won’t take a backseat to anything else.

All of these wonderful spirits are available in 750ML bottles and all are 40% ABV or 80 proof except for the Rye which is 45% ABV or 90 proof. The vodka can be found for around $38.00 per bottle while the Gin comes in at $44.00. The Rye sells for $59.99 and the Cucumber flavored vodka weighs in at $44.00. The Limoncello Liqueur sells for around $26.00 per 375ML bottle and is also 40%ABV or 80 proof.

 

By George Brozowski