RE:FIND Distillery is up to even MORE fun and delicious things

RE:FIND Distillery is still the best little distillery on the Central Coast.

I am somewhat biased about this, but trust me.  You need to try these spirits.

I stopped in for a visit last week to see what they’ve been up to since I featured them last year–because the Villicanas (owners Alex and Monica), with their mutual boundless energy, are always up to something fun and interesting.

The RE:FIND tasting room is in the distillery, so you get to see the stills and barrels and all working parts. Fun!
The RE:FIND tasting room is in the distillery, so you get to see the stills and barrels and all working parts. Fun!

Was I disappointed?  HAHAHAHAHA no.  Don’t be ridiculous.  They’re still making the same top-quality artisanal spirits (and they do MAKE these spirits from scratch, which is a distinction most craft spirit producers cannot claim).  But, ever focused on education as much as the sheer fun of this, they’ve introduced some new things that novice spirit consumers will enjoy, and will appeal to even the most jaded craft cocktail pros as well.

They’ve added a Kumquat Liqueur to their lineup (the fall/winter alternative to their Limoncello that’s so good for spring/summer quaffing).  I really love liqueurs generally speaking, but this one is just NEAT.  If you’re familiar with orange liqueurs, you might be expecting this to taste like those.  And you’d be wrong, mostly.  It still has sort of an orange-y quality (which is fine and lovely and delicious), but the Kumquat Liqueur is exotic and perfume-y in a way that no orange liqueur could be, no matter how hard it tried.  The nose on this just delighted me when Monica poured a taste–the immediate impression reminded me of the sharp floral burst you get when you twist a piece of orange (or in this case, kumquat) peel.  There is an almost aerosolized brightness that leaps out of the glass.  And that, naturally, makes one want to TASTE it.  What follows on the palate is equally perfume-y and exotic.  Definitely citrus, but not your dad’s Grand Marnier.  This is a fun and pretty and delicious liqueur.

So what does one do with a Kumquat Liqueur?  Aside from drinking it straight (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s fabulous in cocktails.  Monica made an on-the-spot RE:FIND cocktail using this liqueur and their “[e]” barrel-finished vodka (which tastes more like a whiskey, or whisky, which may explain that bracketed E in the name just a bit).  That riff on a classic cocktail works really well.

RE:FIND's Barrel Finished [e] Vodka alongside one of their specially crafted mixers
RE:FIND’s Barrel Finished [e] Vodka alongside one of their specially crafted mixers
*I will pause right here to tell you that tentatively sometime this coming summer, they will release their second bourbon.*  I am a bourbon fanatic, and may be unduly excited by this.  Okay, I’m SUPER excited by this.  Their first bourbon release sold out in three hours.  I missed that one, but (hope) I won’t miss this upcoming release.

Root Elixers' Grapfruit Jalapeno soda, which mixes with their vodka for a wild--and delicious--take on a Moscow Mule
Root Elixers’ Grapefruit Jalapeno soda, which mixes with RE:FIND’s gin for a wild–and delicious–take on a Greyhound cocktail

So back to the cocktail thing–this is now a thing at RE:FIND (and a very good thing).  They’re working with local artisanal soda and mixer producers to create exclusive mixers to pair with their spirits, which is great for these artisanal producers and even better for the RE:FIND customer.  In addition to their original spirits club, they now have a cocktail club which ships in May and September.  This is a brilliant idea, and a great way to give guidance to their customers on how to make best use of the spirits they take home from the tasting room.

The September selection (pictured here) includes their Gin, Barrel Finished Vodka, & Kumquat Liqueur, plus mixers & recipes.  The cost per shipment is $110 (before tax/shipping), and gets you a 20% discount on any of their spirits you buy in addition to this.  It makes a fun gift (especially a gift for yourself, of course).

The latest selection in RE:FIND's new Cocktail Club (and what a great holiday gift this would make!)
The latest selection in RE:FIND’s new Cocktail Club (and what a great holiday gift this would make!)

And because RE:FIND’s raison d’être is to recapture what would otherwise go to waste–specifically, saignee from the winemaking process that would otherwise be discarded–here’s an update on this year’s harvest.  Monica reports that they purchased saignee from 25 different Paso-area wineries, thereby reclaiming more than 60 farmed acres’ worth of winegrapes (and all the resources that go into farming those grapes).  It’s not often you can enjoy a cocktail while simultaneously helping to save the planet, but that’s what you’ll get with RE:FIND’s spirits.

The RE:FIND tasting room is part of the Villicana Winery’s tasting room–and I recommend you try both the next time you’re in Paso (start with the wines, and finish with the spirits).  A profile of their wines is still on my to-do list, but I will tell you that their wines are every bit as good as their spirits (they produce an outstanding Merlot, for starters).  They also offer the artisanal mixers for their spirits right there in the tasting room, so you can get everything you need in one stop.

Don't forget that the winery is what started everything. Make sure you START with a tasting of Villicana Wines when you head for RE:FIND
Don’t forget that the winery is what started everything. Make sure you START with a tasting of Villicana Wines when you head for RE:FIND

The Villicana and RE:FIND tasting rooms are located on the west side of Paso Robles at 2725 Adelaida Road. 805-239-9456, and are open daily from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Quick update: Rangeland’s new tasting room is open!

You may recall my profile of Rangeland wines in Paso Robles last summer–beautifully crafted estate wines in a gorgeous west Paso setting.

The only catch was that you had to make an appointment to taste their wines–maybe you’re shy about that, or maybe it’s just a difficult thing to schedule on a weekend of wine tasting–but that is not the case anymore.

Their new tasting room opened a couple of weeks ago in Templeton (in the greater Paso Robles area), and you can now walk in any time Thursday through Saturday and belly up to the tasting bar.

Rangeland's new Templeton location
Rangeland’s new Templeton location

They’re sharing space with Nature’s Touch, a locally owned natural grocer, at 225 South Main Street in Templeton (trivia: Nature’s Touch was one of the first local grocers to sell Rangeland’s excellent organic pastured beef), and they have built a beautiful tasting area within the store.  For the time being (until they decide to expand their hours and add more staff), you’re likely to be served by owners Laird and Lisa Foshay, or their winemaker, Paul Hinschberger–and there is no better way to taste wine than when you can do so in the company of the people who actually make what’s in your glass.

A few of Rangeland's offerings
A few of Rangeland’s offerings

They were already up and running and hosting a wine club event when I stopped by last weekend, so they are ready to see you.  Their Bordeaux varieties are stunners, especially the Watershed Bordeaux blend and Limestone Cabernet Sauvignon, and they do the most elegant Petite Sirah I’ve ever tasted (seriously, this one alone is worth the trip).  There’s also a selection of Rhone blends (the result of their recently expanded estate vineyards), so there’s something for every palate.  This is one of Paso’s sleeper wineries, but now that they’ve got a public tasting location, expect that to change.

Rangeland's Current Tasting Flight
Rangeland’s Current Tasting Flight

Rangeland Wines, 11-5 Thursday through Saturday, 225 South Main Street, Templeton, California, 805-674-9232.

A celebration of Lodi’s old vine Zinfandels

If you have ever uttered the words “I don’t like Zinfandel,” I humbly suggest you are most likely wrong about that.

Sure, taste in wines is a hugely subjective thing, but when most people say “I don’t like Zinfandel,” what they almost always mean–whether they realize it or not–is that they don’t like the popular-10-years-ago super jammy, extracted, oaked-to-death, high-ABV fruit monsters that (unfortunately) came to be considered the California style of Zinfandel.  While there’s some truth to that, it’s really not representative of what’s currently going on in the state with this variety, and certainly not representative of what’s going on with zins in Lodi.

Lodi Old Vine Zinfandels
Lodi Old Vine Zinfandels

While Lodi is pretty much ground zero for Zinfandel production in California, a growing number of winemakers are turning this ubiquitous grape into gorgeous expressions of the local terroir–you now see a lot of native fermentation, little or no oak, and harvest at somewhat lower brix than in the past.  Most of these wines also come from very old vines, some more than 100 years old.  The result is an array of truly beautiful wines that showcase this under-appreciated variety.

The Lodi Wine Commission recently hosted a virtual tasting of a selection of these wines on live video on their Facebook page, and I was one of the bloggers invited to participate (yay, samples!).  We all tasted four different Zinfandels for the event, and all were notably different.

An ancient Zinfandel vine in Harney Lane's Lizzy James Vineyard
An ancient Zinfandel vine in Harney Lane’s Lizzy James Vineyard

The wines ranged from an almost Beaujolais-style lighter take on zin to darker, fruitier wines with fantastic terroir and an almost savory quality.

Some of you may be puzzled by the idea of savory notes, but I’m talking about fully complementary flavors that meld beautifully with the fruit and floral notes.  The Michael David Winery’s Earthquake zin–from a vineyard planted the same year as the great San Francisco earthquake–and Ironstone’s Rous Vineyard zin, planted in 1909, both showed those savory qualities including sage, black olive, tea leaf and funky white pepper.  These pair wonderfully with hearty winter dishes (which is exactly what I did with these two).

The Harney Lane Lizzy James Vineyard old vine zin is just a straight-up beauty.  It carries all the qualities of what most people think of as a big California zin, but with across-the-board restraint and a softness that will surprise you.  You will get familiar notes of cherry pie, unsweetened cocoa, and a little raspberry on the palate.  The nose going in is all lush violets and red current, and the finish is noticeable spice and chocolate-covered dried cherries.

Harney Lane's Lizzy James Old Vine Zin
Harney Lane’s Lizzy James Old Vine Zin

And finally, the most surprising of the lineup: the Fields Family Stampede Vineyard old vine zin.  Crafted 100% under the protocols for the Lodi Native program, this is the lightest-bodied zin I’ve ever tried (and I LOVE it).  It still has the trademark garnet hue of a good zin, but it’s lighter and almost translucent in the glass.  The nose on this one fascinated me–my tasting notes read “men’s cologne and spaghetti” (hey, I get very literal with an almost Joycian habit of writing down the first descriptor that strikes me–which means sometimes my notes are a little . . . weird), which to everybody else roughly translates to herbal/fennel notes and exotic spice.  But on the palate, one is almost surprised by the brightness of this wine.  Tart red fruit–cherries, red currant–hints of almond (but there is NO oak on this, so this is not a flavor that comes from the expected source) and spice somewhere between black pepper and cardamom.  The finish is quite long for a lighter-bodied zin, with lingering notes of cherry and unsweetened cocoa.

Fields Family Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel
Fields Family Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel

Each of these Zinfandels is unique in its own way, and hints at the variety to be found between the different Lodi AVAs (something I’m going to dive into deeper soon).  Lodi’s sandy loam soils are incredibly deep, which likely speaks to both the vines’ longevity and the (almost unexpectedly) complex flavor profiles in these wines, most especially an almost lush softness that is in no way “big.”

These are not your typical zins, and that is a very good thing.