The four of us - my wife, Susan, together with our son Marko and his wife, Jenni and I - handle the entire operation. Our primary expertise and interests are in fermentation, distillation and personal hospitality.
Before we get into details of Charbay's winemaking & distillation let me first fill you in on a little bit of history of distillation.
A Brief History of Distillation
Since antiquity, the perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, along with the alchemy for gold and elixir of life, were among the prime-time fascinations of the learned ones, who at the beginning of the second millenium ultimately gave us the spirits of modern times.
Egyptians and Greeks distilled plants, spices and other matter (sea water). The Romans eventually named the prrocess "de-stillare", Latin for "to drip or trickle down" as the distillate trickled down from the still. Arabs however, discovered alcohol distillation in the early middle ages (1050 - 1150)
Sources for Fermenting and Distilling Materials
The sugars and flavors of fruits and carbohydrates from innumerable other plants, when hydrolyzed to simple sugars and the simple sugars themselves, when fermented into alcohol, give us the raw materials for all distilled spirits.
Alcohol and alcohol soluble flavors from grains, fruits, and vegetables give us the following five primal spirits: whiskies, brandies, rum, vodkas, and tequila.
Pastis, gin and liqueurs to name just a few are the sub-categories of the above primal spirits.
Now that we've lined-up all of the above, let's start:
Select-quality whole fresh fruits are brought to us here on Spring Mountain or to our Distillery in Mendocino County.
Here on the Mountain the fruits are destemmed or de-pitted and crushed directly into 1 Ton /240 gallon open-top fermenters, right here at the crushing and fermenting pad.
Special yeasts used for different products are added to fermenters to start fermentation. Each fermenter, during the course of alcoholic fermentation (6-12 days) is hand punched-down and/or pumped-over 2-4 times a day to extract flavors and color and cool the fermenting must.
After the alcoholic fermentation of red wine is finished, (all sugar converted to alcohol), the fermenters are sealed from air for the next 3-5 weeks during which time a malolactic fermentation and softening of young tough tannins extracted during alcoholic fermentation will complete. Free-run red wine is pumped out of the fermenter and the pomace is hand-pressed into an old basket press! Free-run and pressed wines are combined and barreled into 60 gallon French oak barrels for +/- 2 years of aging. After barrel aging, the wines are finished, bottled and bottle-aged for months or years before being released to our customers. As I said, a simple thing!
Facts and Future Visions
Distilled spirits have grown together with the world's civilizations. They will continue to do so. With the reduced public and government hypocrisy, religious intolerance and increased personal social responsibilities of alcohol consumption, coupled with the future cure of genetic pre-disposition of a portion of mankind toward various chemical addictions, the enjoyment of distilled spirits and their use in moderation, will demand and will receive the new spectrum of source, taste and quality of the spirits of the next millennia. We are just starting to dream about them.
The permanence of change is driving the present spirits and other products into the future through competition, art and technology.
That force will reveal to us, the quantum leap of the qualities and choices of the spirits of the next millennia. Charbay Whole Fresh Fruit Flavored Vodkas are, for example, the forerunners into that future.
We have just begun.