We have been big fans of the Eckert Estates Winery for many years. We mourned the loss of their first tasting room, then celebrated their new space. Owners Vickie and Mike Eckert provide amazing wines and a fun tasting experience every time. So our joy was unmatched when their multi-year battle with the various (and evil) licensing agencies was won, resulting in the birth of their new venture: the Artisan Spirits & Brandy Works.
Clearly, Mike knows how to transform grapes into fantastic wine. We have been club members for years and haven’t yet found a variety of an Eckert wine we didn’t take home with us. We were surprised to learn that grapes can also be the basis for distilled spirits! What a happy surprise!
Over the months, a portion of the Eckert tasting room has seen the slow growth of a Rube Goldberg device, or more accurately series of devices. At first it was just a simple-looking pot still. Cute, but nothing to get too excited about. Soon it was joined by a copper and brass contraption that seemed to be part distiller, part radio receiver for eavesdropping on aliens. The scheme was afoot!
As the equipment became more elaborate, we learned about the seemingly endless series of approvals required before Eckert Estates could sell distilled spirits. We typically visit every month or so, and it seemed that every visit found the Eckerts excited to report that they were “about 30 days” away from some approval or other. At times it seemed like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill.
|The First Vodka!|
After many additions and tweaks to the distillation unit and countless interactions with the licensing authorities, Artisan Spirits was finally into retail production. The first release of vodka was amazing! Clear and clean tasting, without the oily mouth feel that many vodkas leave behind. We couldn’t wait to take a hand-crafted bottle home to enjoy.
The process of distilling the grape juice into vodka or brandy is complex, time-consuming, and equipment intensive. One sip of vodka has probably evaporated and re-condensed over a dozen times on its way to the glass. Just watching the distiller is mesmerizing.
The line-up now features their vodka, a gin and a brandy. Since each bottle is literally crafted by hand, there are occasions when one of these three is sold out. We have avoided disappointment by purchasing “safety stock” when inventory is available. Just a thought.
During our most recent visit we learned that they are “about 30 days” away from approval for an absinthe. We can’t wait to try it. Until then, we will savor the vodka and marvel at the operation of the ever-growing distillation column.
Do let us know if you hear any aliens!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?