For a few years now I’ve been interested in experimenting with new products from grapes or wine. I had originally thought about a brandy using some wines we had in our tanks but I didn’t want to age it in oak. After some research and sampling a few bottles of different clear brandies and grappas, I had a direction. I spoke with Jason Barret, owner and head distiller of Black Button but he is growing so fast his production schedule was a year or 2 out. He recommended Collin McConville, head distiller at Apple Country Spirits. Collin and I spoke at length, and we decided on distilling the wine into an immature brandy.
Immature brandy is just what it sounds like, it is not aged in oak casks so it does not have the depth of flavor from the ageing. It is much lighter, more floral and has more character from the grapes and wine than it’s older cousin, traditional brandy. As such, it is a fantastic vehicle for cocktails, lending a different flavor base to build from. The floral and fruit characteristics make for refreshing new takes on classics, like a brandy and tonic, brandy and soda or brandy and ginger. Even the Old Fashioned with our immature brandy in place of the whiskey makes a great cocktail!
During our initial conversations Collin had spoke very highly of vodka made from wine. I thought about it and decided that it might be a good way to use experimental wines. Second wines seemed to be a good vehicle to experiment with. Re-using a partially spent raw material, grape must or skins that would end up as compost anyways. We used some stronger yeasts, measured how well the yeasts performed in very difficult conditions such as low temps, low nutrients, higher pH etc. and how well we could adjust these conditions to better the performance of the yeasts. At the conclusion of the different ferments we were surprised at the rough wines. Some were very palatable, while others had nuances of the wines made from the same grapes previously, albeit much weaker.
We trucked the different wines up to Apple Country Spirits and in December we distilled the immature brandy, and then in February we distilled the vodka. Collin had already distilled the vodka base once so the second distillation in February was the final. After much back and forth with the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) we received label approval and bottled the spirits this summer.
Deer Run Winery
I am the winemaker's wife. Scott and I married in 2014 and I transitioned from a hospitality manager to a grape farmer's wife, event coordinator and blog author.