American Distilling Institute

Bill's back from Europe

After winning a gold medal at the ADI conference in Louisville we decided to purchase a custom designed 500 gallon still from Vendome in Kentucky.

Yuseff Cherney
Head Brewer/Head Distiller
Ballast Point Brewing & Distilling
10051 Old Grove Road suite B
San Diego, CA 92131

The 6th Annual Great American Distillers Festival

October 25 2010 Portland, OR-The 6th Annual Great American Distillers Festival brought distillers from across the country to Portland, OR. This year GADF hosted the largest number of distillers and attendees to date, reflecting the growth of craft distilling in the United States. Forty three distillers spent the weekend pouring their spirits, and discussing current issues in craft distilling.

GADF has grown over the past six years from a dozen white tents on the street in front of the Rogue Ales Public house and Distillery in Portland, to fill the Tiffany Center with over a thousand distillers and attendees.

While the distillers were pouring, thirty of the top bartenders from across the counrty competed in the 4th Annual Cocktail Invitational. Festival attendees could step up on stage to sample their creations. First place went to Ali Tahsini, from Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco, who mixed up a Bell-Pepper Sour, using Tuthilltown corn whiskey and home-made agave syrup.

The weekend's events included seminars for distillers and tours of Oregon distilleries. Seminar presenters include Bernie Kipp, Alcohol Compliance Advisor with 35 years of experience; Japanese Whiskey distiller Yuri Kato, and former master distiller for Maker's Mark, Dave Pickerell. Topics ranged from innovative distilling techniques to selling craft spirits in a market dominated by larger brands.
The American Distillers Institute will also hold their annual conference in Portland this April.


For further information or digital photos, contact Brett: 2320 OSU Drive, Newport, OR 97365 / P: (503) 241.3800 / F: (503) 24

Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine

Fiore Winery Gets into the Spirit: A Maryland vintner distills new revenue with grappa and limoncello

By Sam Meddis

When Maryland state Sen. Barry Glassman sought to persuade his skittish colleagues to support a bill permitting distillery operations at wineries, he brought along Exhibit A.

That would be Mike Fiore, a Harford County vineyard and winery owner whose winemaking memories go back to his childhood on the family farm in Italy.

"He immediately captivated the committee with stories of the old country," Glassman recalled. "He shares a lot of the success for getting the law passed and easing their concerns."

That law, enacted in 2005, allowed wineries to distill up to 200 gallons of beverage per year. Three years later, after persevering through a long licensing process and finally finding two Portuguese copper stills he could afford, Fiore made his first batch of grappa, and later limoncello - two specialty drinks that fit in nicely with Fiore's theme: "The Maryland wine with an Italian accent."

"I wanted to show my Italian roots as much as possible," said Fiore. "My family was always in the wine business - wine and olive oil."

Fiore left the economically distressed southern Italian region of Calabria in 1962. Emigration was taking a heavy toll on vineyard workforces, so he sold the family's store of wine and impetuously bid farewell to his widowed mother: "I took the money, put it on the dining room table, and I said, 'This is it, I'm leaving.'"

Several weeks later, at age 17, "I was staring at the Statue of Liberty," he said. He quickly found work at a family friend's produce-packing business in Boston, where he soon met his future wife, Rose.

In 1975, attracted by northern Maryland's open spaces and rolling hills, the couple bought a 14.5-acre farm for $20,000 amid the cornfields of Pylesville. To his surprise, Fiore discovered that the land had some of the same characteristics as the fine winegrowing regions of northern Italy.

Fiore decided to plant a patch of cabernet sauvignon for personal consumption - 600 vines, which stand to this day. With at least one foot back in the winegrowing game, he began meeting growers and agricultural experts who "put wind behind my sails to bring me back to the wine business," Fiore said.

The impetus for Fiore's distillery idea came from the hardscrabble experiences of his youth in Calabria, which taught him to abhor waste.

As his vines burgeoned, he realized there was something else they produced: increasingly huge heaps of skins and dropped fruit - far more than he needed to fertilize his vineyard - and he recoiled at paying good money to have that waste composted elsewhere.

The Fiore vineyard, which Mike and Rose named "La Felicetta" (felice means "happy" in Italian) when their Fiore Winery was bonded in 1986, includes cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sangiovese, cabernet franc, merlot and chambourcin vines. They also purchase pinot gris grapes from a grower in Westminster, Md.; merlot and vidal from the area's Eastern Shore, and riesling from New York state. The winery takes in enough grapes to produce what Fiore estimates will be more than 10,000 cases of wine in 2010, with prices ranging from $10-$27 per bottle.

From his younger days in Italy, Fiore remembered a wizened old vineyard worker who took the remains from the presses and distilled "his own whatever you want to call it," which he kept in a terra cotta jar in a secluded part of the old Fiore winery. Add to that recollection the fact, as Fiore saw it, that much of the grappa in the United States fell short of the quality found in Italy, and it wasn't long before he pitched his distillery idea to Glassman, who quickly realized its potential to help invigorate the state's wine industry.

The biggest challenge, according to Glassman, was overcoming the opposition of the larger, entrenched distilleries. "Some of the (distillery industry) lobbyists red-flagged this," he said. "We had to do a little educational effort that this wasn't a threat to their industry."

The Maryland legislature this year increased the amount of beverage a winery can distill to 1,900 gallons. State Sen. Andrew Harris, a co-sponsor of the distillery law, said the decision to increase the amount was largely due to Fiore's problem-free operation. "That's important," Harris said. "It was very successfully run."

The production increase has Fiore eyeing a much larger, computerized still made by Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville, Ky., to replace the Portuguese copper stills he's using now. He's also starting up what he calls a "trash-for-cash" initiative to bring in more leftover grape skins and seeds. He said he's in negotiations with several area growers and winemakers who have shown serious interest in a deal that would pay them for the pomace they can't use.

Fiore's grappa is derived solely from pinot gris pomace, which he said "makes the best-quality grappa." The limoncello is made from the remains of other types of grapes. The pomace is stored in large black plastic bags, each one holding about 60 pounds. It takes three of those bagfuls to make one batch, or run, in the still, Fiore said.

The distilling is done between November and March, when the cool outdoor temperature helps compensate for the steamy heat inside the building that houses the stills. The distillation separates the alcohol from pomace, leaving parts that are called the "head," "heart" and "tail." These cuts describe the different phases of the distillation process, according to the American Distilling Institute (ADI).

The first, lower-boiling point and higher-alcohol phase (the head) will have a chemical smell because of unwanted compounds such as methanol. As the distillation progresses and the alcohol level drops, the aroma and taste become palatable - that's the heart phase. Finally, in the tail phase, the alcohol level drops further and the taste becomes unpleasant because of higher-boiling-point impurities. The trick is to extract the head while not removing all of the flavors from the other two phases. The object, said Fiore, is to isolate the heart from the impurities of the other parts.

"Where you make those cuts is the most important part for the quality you're going to have," he explained. Fiore double-distills, going from one still to the other, to refine the alcohol level. Typically, out of a 30-gallon volume that includes all three parts, Fiore said he ultimately derives about 8 gallons of heart. For storage, he uses stainless steel beer kegs, "the safest thing you can use."

He's very careful not to distill beyond a certain point. "When you go above 180 proof, you are entering a different zone," he said. "You're entering a neutral spirit that's no longer a flavor. It's like vodka. You've got zero flavor. Now if I want to make a grappa that won't have characteristics of pinot grigio (gris), I can go that high. But I don't want to go above 160 - my maximum." And then he cuts that alcohol level down with water - to 80 proof for the grappa and 66 proof for the limoncello.

The limoncello goes through an additional process. First, hundreds of lemons are peeled by hand, and the peels are placed in large tanks with 30 gallons of 160-proof spirit. The tanks are sealed and kept in a walk-in refrigerator for a few weeks. The substance is then screened into another tank to separate out the lemon skins. Fiore then distills the leftover skins to extract more spirit. (The peeled lemons don't go to waste; Fiore freezes them and makes lemonade throughout the summer.)

Fiore hopes to eventually distill as much as 1,000 gallons - up from about 120 gallons with his current setup, most of it ending up as limoncello - justifying what he estimates would be a more than $200,000 investment in new equipment. "A thousand gallons would really make it fantastic," he said.

The limoncello, based on an old family recipe from Rose's side, is zestful and smooth. It comes in 200 mL bottles and costs $15. The grappa is crystal-clear and fragrant, with dry fruit undertones. The 375 mL bottle is priced at $25.

Fiore said he began offering the beverages in his tasting room, starting in 2008. Sales to winery visitors since then have been brisk, he said, with a distributor taking a limited amount for liquor stores in Maryland. He's negotiating with another distributor to fill some liquor shelves in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

"We have a lot of demand, getting more and more customers," Fiore said. The typical feedback from limoncello customers, he added, is: "'Wow, this is good!'" Grappa, however, is "an acquired taste."

Dr. Joseph Fiola, viticulture and small-fruit specialist at the University of Maryland Extension, said that while he's not a big fan of any grappa, Fiore's limoncello is "amazing."

"Whenever Mike does something, he does it right," Fiola said. "I'm really impressed." And while Fiore appears to be the only winemaker in Maryland to produce spirits so far, Fiola said he believes it's only a matter of time before others follow. "When one person proves it, other people get into it," he said.

Fiore has learned some valuable lessons along the way, including:

-Get training. Fiore highly praises the week-long course he took at an ADI workshop in Petaluma, Calif., particularly the hands-on experience he got with various on-site stills.

-Mind the water. Blending the spirits with distilled water turned out to be "nothing to brag home about." Instead, Fiore now uses pure spring water from his farm: "It's got a lot of great flavors in it, a lot of good minerals in it."

ADI president Bill Owens said that Fiore has been "way ahead of the curve" as a vintner/distiller, yet others are catching on. According to Owens, some 30 new craft distilleries pop up each year and many of them are wineries. Setting up a craft distillery is on average about a three-year process, including navigating the various licensing procedures. State and federal agencies are typically very cooperative, yet would-be distillers should be prepared to tussle with local officials.

"They want to hold your feet to the fire, like you are some multinational corporation," Owens said.

The ADI website ( ), in addition to offering a wealth of how-to resources and newsletters, has a user-friendly national map pinpointing winery-based micro distillers and the types of spirits they produce, everything from eau de vie and cordials to brandy and port-style wines.

The website of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) provides detailed information about federal regulations ( ). The agency, noting that licensing requirements vary widely among states, recommends contacting state alcohol beverage control boards for local rules about what can be distilled and where. It provides a handy list of contact information and website links ( ).

Fiore cautioned that running a craft distillery, like the wine business itself, is by no means a get-rich-quick scheme: "Don't look at the money, look at the pleasure and the enthusiasm that it gives you. That's more important than anything else."

Technology and Vision: Sabine Weyermann
25 Years on the Job

Consider this: A young women of 27, suddenly thrown into the awesome responsibility of managing a century old company. Such was the task that Sabine Weyermann faced on August 3, 1985, when her father Heinz, not even 60 years old, suddenly passed away. Only four years earlier, in the family tradition, Sabine had finished her brew engineering degree at Weihenstephan, but the next few years were a fast track of on-the-job training. By 1989, she had found a partner in her new husband, Thomas Kraus, also a Weihenstephan-trained brew engineer.

It was just about that time that hitherto unknown macro-economic forces of enormous impact came into worldwide play. For the first time in history, the world's economy had become truly one. Globalization emerged as a reality, and companies and countries alike began to look at the globe as a single market for capital, material, labor, and sales. The 1990s were also a decade of often highly leveraged corporate mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts. It was in this new world that Sabine and Thomas decided on a new course for WeyermannŽ-a decision that virtually caused the company to re- invent itself. WeyermannŽ had always been a technologically sound enterprise, quite in line with what you would expect from a company behind a solid "Made in Germany" product label. Now she and Thomas would embark on a program of taking the company from the malting technology of the late 20th into the demanding, high-tech environment of the 21st century-with automation, total process and quality control, and traceability from the receiving docks to the shipping docks-while continuing to emphasize quality over mere quantity.

But there was something else stirring within the old red brick buildings at Brennerstrasse: It was an emerging bold and ambitious vision of a new place for WeyermannŽ in a future international brew industry. It was Sabine's vision to turn WeyermannŽ into a truly recognizable global brand. And she was going to do it in a unique way. As Sabine explains, "My idea was to turn WeyermannŽ into the biggest
small maltery in the world. It was in the 1990s that the North American-and now global-craft brew movement was taking root, and we recognized immediately the natural affinity between the artisanal craft approach to beer-making and the WeyermannŽ approach to malt-making. In both cases, artisanal production means taking extreme care of your product in relatively small batches, in contrast to the industrial approach, which means making giant batches, one after the other, and blending them into one collective storage system for shipping. We decided that for us, growth was not to come from bigger vessels-which economists will tell you is the most efficient way to achieve business success-but rather, to have many small, separate, and individually managed batch process lines, for maximum variety, fine-tuned quality control, and seamless traceability. That is why we can individualize any batch, down to 12 metric tons, to just about any customer requirement. For WeyermannŽ, therefore, 'specialty' malts are still truly 'special', not just a flow diversion from an assembly-line product stream. This was our unique way of being both a global and a craft producer without contradiction."

There was another unique aspect to Sabine's vision: WeyermannŽ adopted a marketing strategy that relied mostly on personal interactions, not just on impersonal advertising and formal-legal relationships with wholesalers and customers. To be sure, WeyermannŽ does its share of advertising to support the trade press and has a well- honed worldwide distribution system. But in addition, Sabine and Thomas have traveled the world to visit customers and make themselves available for personal consultations at trade shows on all continents. No brewer was deemed too small to get face time. Invitations went out every year in November to partners and friends throughout the world for the, by now, traditional annual Bavarian Party on the historic company grounds in Bamberg. In doing so, the WeyermannŽ Bräustüble private pub-a former canteen and change room for WeyermannŽ maltsters and technicians-became a meeting place for WeyermannŽ business partners from all over.

Sabine also instituted a multi-language outreach program in print and on the web to keep the "WeyermannŽ World" up to date on the many happenings at the WeyermannŽ plant in Bamberg and in the extended global WeyermannŽ family. She developed educational materials that teach brewers the importance of quality malts made from all-natural ingredients and how to use them to make great beer. Dozens of guest brewers came from around the world to experiment with new recipes at the WeyermannŽ Pilot Brewery. To communicate better with customers, the marketing staff speaks many languages, including French, Italian, Russian, and Chinese; and everybody is conversant in English.

"To me, malt is the soul of beer," says Sabine. "It must have character and personality. Without these, beer will not have an identity either. However, it is one thing to make good malt; it is quite another to let the world know about it. It's like the tree that fell in the forest. If nobody saw it, did it really happen? We are proud of our products, and we really want our friends and partners to know about them. Therefore, I have made broadcasting the WeyermannŽ message of quality and cooperation the center of my work. There's an old saying, 'don't tell me, show me.'

tell by showing. It's an approach that I believe is unique in our industry. We let partners step into our world so that they can see for themselves what we are doing. It creates credibility and trust. That's why I always say, WeyermannŽ is so much more than just good malt. It's a community of dedicated believers in the best quality."
Sabine's motto of "turning business partners into friends" has obviously worked. Today, the unique red and yellow WeyermannŽ branding is as ubiquitous as it is unmistakable; and WeyermannŽ malt has become the global gold standard for quality in the industry. In the process, WeyermannŽ has turned itself from a company that, until the 1990s, sold primarily to breweries in Germany and Central Europe into a cosmopolitan company of global reach offering more than 80 malts and malt products to almost 3,000 brewery customers, in almost 120 countries, on all continents, except Antarctica.

While product quality nowadays is one necessary condition for long-term success in any business, a good "Customer Relationship Management" system (CRM), which is what business gurus now call such customer communication, is fast becoming the other necessary condition for success. CRM ensures prompt interaction with customers, helps them to network with each other, builds stable relationships, and thus develops mutual trust and loyalty. This is a relatively recent insight in the field of management theory, but that insight had been part of Sabine's vision already decades ago!

So, what is life like, after 25 very exciting and challenging years as the head of an icon in the brew industry? Says Sabine Weyermann, "I look at my work through a generational lens. When I had to step up to the plate in the 1980s, I was the fourth generation to take the helm of our family business. Looking back, I believe I have met the challenges of my time. We now have a fifth Weyermann generation in training and a sixth one in the cradle, and I feel good about, one day, passing the scepter on to the next generation."


Whiskey crystallized on a slide and photographed under a polarized light microscope.

In Fine Cooking's December Issue ...

p. 35, Berkshire Mountain's artisan rum is

and on p. 98 Food for Thought features
Colin Spoelman and Kings County Distillery

  Monvera Glass Décor Debuts Video
Web-Series about Bottle Labels

Emeryville, CA - October 6th, 2010 - Monvera Glass Décor, a provider of paperless bottle labeling services to the wine, spirits, beverage and food industry, has developed and launched a video web-series devoted to screen printed bottle labels and quality label design. The 2 minute program, titled This Week's Beautiful Bottle, signals Monvera's initiative to promote labels that exhibit outstanding design characteristics, and to educate viewers about what makes each label effective. New episodes are posted bi-weekly on the company's website, and shared via their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Caitriona Anderson, Monvera's VP of Sales & Marketing explains, "We hear a lot of conversation about what's inside a bottle - but most often the consumer's first impression comes from seeing the bottle on store shelves. With this series, we hope to inspire wine and beverage makers to give as much consideration to their bottle labels as they do to the products themselves."

With five episodes under their belts, Monvera is enthusiastic about the new series. "We're already being approached by customers who want their screen printed bottles to be featured on the program," says Anderson. "The reaction has been great so far, and we're looking forward to continued interest."

The series also affords Monvera the opportunity to help promote clients and designers. In addition to discussing the hallmarks of screen printed bottle labels, each episode offers links to featured client and designer websites. "We take great interest in our customers and want to see them do well," says Anderson. "We jump at every opportunity to promote their hard work - and to provide access to quality label designers. When our customers succeed, so do we."

About Monvera Glass Décor:

Monvera provides industry leading glass decoration services to the wine, spirits, beverage and food market segments. Clients include Charles Krug, Stelzner Vineyards, Charbay Vodka, and Blue Frog Brewery. In addition to a range of paperless bottle labeling solutions, Monvera offers bottle photography and marketing support services to help customers grow their businesses. To learn more about Monvera visit

Media Contact:
James Jordan, Marketing
+1 510-444-9463

Bill Owens checks out the fall harvest at Cognac Ferrand near Cognac France.
Alexander Gabriel, owner of Cognac Ferrand will be a speaker and host a Cognac tasting at the upcoming April Brandy Conference in Portland, OR.

Conference registration will be posted
on the website December first.

ADI president Bill Owens is now back from his "epic" 93 day tour of the USA and Europe. The purpose of his trip was to do research on two books, one on cooperage (The art of barrel making) and the other on artisan whiskey distilleries. Bill's guide in France was Huber Germain-Robin. In Germany his guide was Dr. Klaus Hagmann of Kothe and Southern Germany. In Austria and Switzerland, his guide was Julia Nourney. Julia is a professional whiskey judge "taster" and knows the European whisky industry inside-out. Once when leaving a small distillery, Bill said "I really liked the Carrot Brandy." To which  Julia responded  "I've tasted better." 

While traveling, the Smithsonian Magazine did a feature on Bill. Here's the link:

In This Issue:
After winning a gold medal ...
6th Annual Great American Distillers Festival
Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine
Sabine Weyermann
drink me
Fine Cooking Features
Monvera Glass Décor
ADI Features:

download at



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