The Charbay Family
Miles Karakasevic: Co-Owner and Founder
Miles Karakasevic is a European winemaker and Master Distiller. Born in old Yugoslavia, he apprenticed in the tradition followed by the Karakasevic family since the 1750's. Following in their footsteps, learning the secrets of his forefathers, he became a Master Distiller, a title earned by equaling or bettering the work of another Master. Along the way, Miles studied Enology and Viticulture at the University of Belgrade and in Germany.Immigrating to the New World in 1962, Miles first stopped in Canada and Michigan before eventually settling in California in 1970.
In 1972, Miles and Susan purchased the seventeen-acre property on Spring Mountain that now is home for the family as well as for Charbay. In the following years, Miles worked with some of the best wineries. Longing to distill, the family teamed up to import an Alambic Pot Still from Cognac.
In 1983 Miles started two of the three distilleries in Mendocino County and he and Susan began making their own wines and brandy. Being comfortable with all aspects of fermenting and making many wines, even champagne, now he was excited to begin a brandy program. Miles has been distilling with his family ever since. As an avid reader, Miles enjoys history, science, and philosophy. He has been known to spend hours on the Internet—reading, researching and exploring the world. Making a healthy soup or stew comes as naturally as winemaking. "I like to cook because it's instantaneous. My wines & brandies take years, but a good Chorba (soup) takes only hours." Miles and Susan plan to spend more time near their favorite fishing village beside the Sea of Cortez: "We are drawn to the water."
Susan Karakasevic: Co-Owner and Founder
Susan Reagh Karakasevic grew up in Michigan. Her studies of art at Western Michigan University were interrupted when she met and married Miles. In 1970 they left Michigan to jump into the budding California wine business. That's where she raised their two children...
In the early '80s, Susan studied the marketing aspects of the wine business. In 1983, she and Miles made their first wines and brandy. Susan began marketing the family line of wines in 1985. Susan worked with Miles and Marko to build their winery and distillery beside the family home, where she now manages packaging, marketing and the exuberant energy of Miles and Marko. She edits the newsletters and pushes her two artists, Miles and Marko, to get the many releases out on her schedule. The Pastis release, closest to her heart, was her first solo package design. "I am fortunate to have enough Irish-German blood to stand up to the wild Yugoslav that has made my life so colorful! We are just hitting our stride. All the long hours and all the hard work have been worth it. We've found our niche. Wait till you see what's coming."
Marko J. Karakasevic: XIIIth Generation Winemaker & Master Distiller
Born in California, Marko Karakasevic grew up around pumps, hoses and tanks. This was his father's world and the family always lived close to the winery where Miles, his father, made wine. Marko graduated from St. Helena High School and spent a year at Davis where he began his studies in sports physical therapy. However, harvests would find Marko working in various Napa Valley wineries.
After working in a Napa Valley tasting room, he discovered he liked all sides of the wine business—from production to sharing his winemaking experience with visitors.
In the fall of '95, Marko realized he wanted to apprentice under his father and be the 13th generation to carry on the Karakasevic family tradition. That's when his parents realized: "He's the man we've been looking for."
From that point on, he has submitted to the same tough routine of generations of Karakasevic men and women before him: learning the winemaking, the distilling and the running of a family business where one must wear many hats. The Charbay Distillers' Port is a spirited salute to this father and son team. Marko conceived the idea of Charbay's whole-fruit flavored vodka program. He found the fruit and designed the packaging. Now, with two generations of enthusiastic winemakers/distillers behind the Charbay label, there are even more releases of "perfumes for the soul" to watch for.
Give Marko a few days off and he'll head down to Baja. There's a little town where they all know him and he enjoys being on the water or riding four wheelers. BV, 'Before Vodka', his travels were longer. One was a summer trip through South America with time in Cusco and Machu Picchu during the Summer Solstice. Lately his trips have been New York and Las Vegas! Marko, like everyone in this family, likes to travel & explore. No matter where he roams, always loves coming home to his St. Helena and his mountain top.
Marko married his long-time girlfriend Jenni Olson in April of 2009. Everyone agrees, she's a great addition to the family.
He became a Master Distiller with the release of his Doubled & Twisted Light Whiskey, after a nearly 30 year apprenticeship with his father. In the last five years or so, he has been moving more and more into the worlds of Whiskey and Tequila. Getting the opportunity to distill Tequila in the one of the most Iconic 75 year old distilleries in Arandas, Jalisco, the Highlands of Tequila, has been not only a wonderful experience, but, a game changer, a new path for Charbay. Being able to create a tequila in their (Marko and Miles) style with their concepts and their distilling methods, is something truly cherished. It shows too.
Whiskey also has also been a game changer. The fact that beer is distilled into whiskey, and by using Gold Medal winning drinking beer as his base "distiller's beer" has also allowed him to change the playing field, and carve out yet another niche.
Jenni Karakasevic: Marketing Director
Jenni is presently focused on Charbay marketing and sales. She built a strong base of management skills with over seven years of experience in the fields of catering, resort F&B Management and restaurant management. Jenni joined our team in 2004, and has helped build our family business ever since.
Social Media programs tap her interest level as she finds new ways of sharing the Charbay story. It's a fast pace at Charbay where she pours her youthful energy into sharing the dream of an independent family winery & distillery. She is now part of generation XIII – as she works beside Marko to carry on the family heritage. Baby Miles (born 7/11) has started training already as Generation XIV: he's been to Bordeaux, Tahoe Food & Wine Festival and many wine/cocktail events. "He loves it!" they say.
The Rest of the Charbay Family:
Mark Wiget /Since 2001
Charbay warehouse manager who works production with Marko and gets your packages out on time.
Dana Rasmussen-Jenness/ Since 2007, Charbay Office Manager
Charbay Office Manager, the voice on the phone and the pivotal point of Charbay.
John Reagh / Since 2010, Tasting Room Manager
Handles retail sales and hospitality at the St. Helena Still House.
Johnny Marrs / Since 2014, Comptroller
As the Comptroller, Johnny pitches in at both the St. Helena Winery & Distillery as well as the Charbay Ukiah Distillery.
Joshua Freedman / Since 2016, Vice President of Sales
Joshua has been living in Southern California and working within the Restaurant and Supplier industries since 1997.
Through a well structured and strategic approach to growing brands, Joshua has had an incredibly successful career of cultivating relationships with both accounts and distributors, increasing sales, velocity, points of distribution and market relevance / share of mind.
Joshua’s wide and diverse experience has yielded him a deep understanding at the Distributor and Wholesaler level, Sales Creative Marketing and all other facets of the business necessary to yield success in the ever changing world of Spirits.
Prior roles he has held and led to exponential growth include High West Regional Manager, US Sales Manager for Sagatiba Cachaca and Luxury Brand Specialist for Skyy Spirits.