Pinot Noir Grapes Inside the Still

This is a close-up of Pinot Noir grapes after a distillation of grappa. These raisin-like grapes, previously pressed for wine, but still containing lots of good alcohol, were rehydrated by us and cooked in the still. They are steamy after the run, radiating heat when we look inside and prepare to clean out the chamber.

Anatomy of the Still

The black handles enable us to control the time and intensity of the distillation by moving the plates on each porthole level up or down, to force the boiling distillate to puddle around the sides of the plates in order for the steam to rise up the column, or conversely, the handles can be turned so that the distillate has a straight run up the column, which shortens the time of the distillation, but roughens the cut.

The red handles are connected to the still's water tank; when cleaning the still we run water successively through the plates, the main pipe clatters and the equipment emits a small moan. The lowest red handle is for a spray nozzle inside the chamber of the still and when turned, causes water to surge over the interior to help clear any residue left from the distillation.

The gauge in the picture measures the distillate's temperature in the column. When the steam reaches 80 degrees Celsius, it can pass the dephlegmator (a cooling water reservoir at the top of the distillation column) and move into the condensation column.
No matter how colorful the fruit, the distillate is always clear. A hydrometer measures the proof and percent of alcohol as it floats in the whiskey (in this case) emerging from the still.

The coffee liqueur is a blend of El Salvadoran coffee by the name of "Nombre de Dios", and a coffee from Yemen. The El Salvadoran is estate grown, the Yemeni will vary based on availability. According to Joey Gleason, our coffee roaster at Marigold from next door, the Yemeni is remarkable in that it is from an ancient coffee-growing region where people have a culture of drinking coffee. The Yemen is wild, dark, and spicy- whereas that from El Salvador has the velvety elegance reminiscent of a German Conditorei (cafe).

We infuse a house-distilled pinot noir brandy and pear/apple spirit with the fresh roasted coffee.  Other seasons we may substitute the apple with cherry or plum spirits.  However, the coffee liqueur relies on only fruit-based alcohol, no grain spirits used of any kind.  Blend in some Madagascar vanilla, cinnamon and invert sugar to make the liqueur. It has notes of chocolate, citrus, orient, and tobacco. We expect you will find the mix intriguing.
The apple brandy currently being served in our tasting room is a blend of several varieties: Gala, Criterion, Sonata, and Granny Smith. All were sustainably grown, the first three at Wells Orchard in Hood River, and the Grannies are from Yakima Valley, via our friend Paul Beverage of Wilridge Winery. All apples were harvested in the 2010 season.

The brandy was aged in a small Limousin oak barrel for 12 months to give it its golden color and delicately smooth(en) the apple. The apple can be sipped straight, or enjoyed in a cocktail (see several featured drink recipes on our page). We also used the apple brandy to finish the gravy for our Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas Ham in 2010.

Cocktail suggestions:
This hard-when-raw but delightful-when-cooked fruit is well worth the effort of chopping. We had several quince sources (and are looking for more for next year!): a tree two blocks from our house, a supply through (formerly) Uncle Paul's fruit stand, and a connection in Salem through our participation in the Great American Distillers' Fest. This last source yielded pineapple quince, a deliciously fragrant and large variety that we will prioritize next fall.

Our process for making the liqueur involves slow cooking the quince, capturing and separating the juice and the fruit pulp. We infuse unfinished fruit spirits with the quince pulp and then distill it to make a 160 proof quince spirit, which we then blend with the reserved quince juice and liquid sugar to make a golden and unique cocktail in a glass. Alternatives to straight up are: