The area’s craft distillery scene continues to grow at a fast clip, and one of the latest labels to debut is Wine Shine in Paso Robles.
Like most local distillers, Wine Shine currently uses saignée — the first-run juice from the wine-making process. The juice is pulled off to make better wine and would normally be thrown away. By distilling it, the resulting spirit is considered a brandy. Just as with wine, however, you get out of it what you put in to it.
“You have to start with high-quality fruit to make high-quality brandy,” explained Patrick Brooks, one of Wine Shine’s six partners. To craft their spirits, they source saignée from such well-regarded Paso Robles wineries as Brian Benson, Clos Solene, Denner, Herman Story, Jack Creek, Saxum, Terry Hoage, and Turtle Rock.
The latter winery is owned by Don Burns, another partner in the distillery, as is Mark Sahaydak. Those are the three faces you’re most likely to see at Wine Shine, which is open for tasting Thursday to Sunday from 1 p.m. “or by appointment or luck.”
After almost three years of obtaining all the necessary licenses and permits needed to make even a drop of alcohol, Wine Shine was finally able to begin production in February. Located in an industrial area becoming known as “Tin City,” the tasting room quietly opened in May and had its grand opening in September.
Tasting these brandies is much like wine tasting, but remember that you’re sipping something with almost three times the alcohol — 40 to 43 percent versus 12 to 15. Essentially, these spirits are akin to a vodka.
In addition to a triple-distilled clear brandy, Wine Shine currently has four flavored spirits, and you can definitely tell they’re made with real fruits and spices. There’s a hibiscus lemon (made with local lemons), mango/ginger/black peppercorn (with organic mango), burnt orange peel, and French oak cinnamon. Other flavors such as watermelon and pluot have also been part of the lineup from time to time, and more flavors are on the way, such as Turkish fig, which will be made with fruit from Creston.
“Any of them can easily be sipped neat or over ice,” said Brooks, and Sahaydak noted that the burnt orange drinks almost like an Old Fashioned. That flavor also makes a great margarita topper, and the cinnamon is a natural to kick up holiday eggnog.
On approach in January is Wine Shine’s Manhattan Project. Just as the name suggests, this is going to be “a (Manhattan) cocktail in a bottle,” said Brooks. The housemade components will be a rye-based whiskey, plus a vermouth and bitters that are being crafted with almost 40 herbs and botanicals between them.
“We want this to be a bartender’s friend, for it to taste like a bartender spent quite a bit of time making it,” Brooks said.
The January release date is due to a new California liquor law that — among other things — will allow distillers to directly sell their own products made from ingredients such as corn, rye and agave. Until Jan. 1, those have to be sold via distributors, a business model that doesn’t make sense for small craft distillers. (Spirits made from grapes have always been, and will continue to be, exempt.)
With that impending change on the horizon, the creative team at Wine Shine already has plans above and beyond the Manhattan Project, including rum and even tequila.
“The sky’s the limit!” said Brooks.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3064 Limestone Way (in “Tin City” off Ramada Drive and Marquita Avenue)
Hours: Thursday-Sunday from 1 p.m. and by appointment
The scene: The distillery is tucked down a short driveway directly across from Barrelhouse Brewing Co. Parking may be at a premium, especially when the adjacent wineries are in production mode, so a spot on the street is your best bet. Then, step inside the tasting room and sample small batch craft brandies.
Expect to spend: $42-48.