When Life Gives you Grape Juice, Make Gin

Husband and wife winemakers Alex and Monica Villicana of Villicana Winery in Paso Robles had been throwing away a lot of grape juice. Like many red-wine producers, they cold-soak their Rhone varietal grapes for a few days before allowing fermentation to begin. During this time, some of the juice is allowed to run off, increasing the skin to juice ratio and concentrating the color, flavors and tannins of the wine.

While many winemakers, in keeping with the French tradition, turn this “saignée” or bleed, as the runoff is called, into rosé for summertime consumption, Alex felt that the grapes from warm Paso came into the winery with higher sugar, PH and alcohol than what is ideal for a good rosé. (True to his point, most California producers who turn their saignee into rose will add acid and water back. Again, not ideal.)

Instead, the Villicanas bought a still. Re:find, the first grape-based gin made from saignée, is being bottled on April 18th and will be in stores shortly after. “We’re starting with good stock and because this isn’t our primary product, we decided to focus on quality,” says Alex. This means running the fermented juice through a three-plate rectifying column and cutting the heads and tails twice.

The neutral spirit is distilled once again with seven different botanicals including juniper, coriander, orris root, which has a violet-like aroma, grains of paradise, a species in the ginger family, and lavender. While aromatically, it smells like a traditional London Dry style of gin, but a little more floral, it tastes like no gin we ever had. Due to the glycerol that is produced during fermentation, Re:find “has a natural sweetness, softer mouthfeel and is brighter on the palate,” than other gins, says Alex. Distinct fruity almost bubble-gummy flavors speak to the spirit’s origins. We went through almost an entire bottle here at HQ trying to find just the right cocktail for this unique gin. We found that it shines in any kind of fruity cocktail (avoid the traditional gin and tonic) such as this one for a Rasberry Gin Fizz:

Re:find Rasberry Gin Fizz

1 1/2 ounces Re:find Gin
1 ounce lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if available)
6 raspberries or 3 strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Muddle the fruit in a cocktail shaker. Add gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake with ice. Strain over crushed ice in a highball glass. Top with soda water or even better, sparkling wine. Go sit in the sun.