Opolo’s Willow Creek Distillery releases inaugural brandy
Artisanal spirit aged four years in French oak barrels
– Willow Creek Distillery this week announced its inaugural “VSOP” Brandy—a premium artisanal spirit aged for four years in French oak barrels. The VSOP moniker—for “Very Superior Old Pale”—is a designation reserved for brandies that spend a minimum of four years in the barrel, signifying rarity and maturity. The brandy ($75) is available at the tasting room as well as online at WillowCreekDistillery.com.
“This brandy comes from a small batch of 10 barrels that we fermented, distilled and aged with meticulous care,” said Kevin Coulton, Willow Creek’s head distiller. “It has a smoothness and complexity that can only come from extended aging.”
The brandy is the latest brandy to come from Willow Creek Distillery, which was established by sister winery Opolo Vineyards in 2013. Located in the coastal mountains of the Willow Creek District AVA of Paso Robles, the distillery specializes in various traditional fruit brandies, whiskeys, and liqueurs made with locally grown ingredients.
The brandy comes from muscat grapes harvested at the Opolo estate and another vineyard in the California Valley in 2016. The fruit was gently pressed and the juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks. Next, the new wine was twice distilled and cellared in medium-toast new French oak barrels. A special selection of 10 barrels was then reserved for VSOP treatment and aged for the full four years prior to bottling.
The result is a rich and complex brandy that opens with floral aromas of orange blossom, honeysuckle, and pear. Flavors of caramel, spice, toasted oak, and fruit linger on a clean, balanced finish.
“We like to push the envelope by making unique spirits few distilleries venture into,” Coulton said. “Many of the usual staples are whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum, but you don’t see a lot of premium small-batch brandies like ours. While we do make whiskey as well, brandy will always be our first love, as it fits perfectly into our winery heritage. The VSOP Brandy furthers that passion.”
Coulton also noted that the Serbian heritage of Opolo’s ownership families also plays a role in the distillery’s specialties. “In Serbia and other parts of Europe, fruit brandies are very much a part of the culture, tradition, and way of life,” he said.