Villicana Winery Makes Spirits Out Of Wine

California spirits with pseudonyms

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it gives you too much wine, make vodka.

At the Villicana Winery in Paso Robles, Alex and Monica Villicana have found a new use for saignée, the excess grape juice left over from red wine production, which often ends up going down the drain.

By distilling the fermented juice–in a 500-foot facility attached to their winery–the couple is turning that surplus into Re:Find Neutral Brandy and Botanical Brandy, two spirits that are almost vodka and gin.

Legal technicalities prevent the Villicanas from using the words "vodka" and "gin" on their bottles. But that doesn't mean the brandies are "lite" versions of these iconic spirits, especially at 80 proof.

The Neutral Brandy ($35 for 750 ml) hits cleanly, as you would expect from vodka, but with a light vanilla essence and a velvety texture that dissolves like cotton candy in the mouth. The Botanical Brandy ($38 for 750 ml) is more floral than piney; subdued notes of juniper, vanilla and violet drift across the palate.

Not all of life's problems are resolved in a glass, of course. Sometimes it takes a still.

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