by Andrew Chalk
Kiepersol Estates, the remarkable winery that grows some 14 vinifera grapes in the east Texas region where it is axiomatic that vinifera grapes are killed in the crib by Pierce’s disease, has done it again. They have just released Dirk’s Vodka, sourced from grape juice from their own vines. Kiepersol founder, Pierre de Wet, named the vodka in honor of his his father who, he says, “lived life well”.
Bartender Jane makes a cocktail at the release party
Making a vodka from distilled grape juice is as iconoclastic as growing those grapes in east Texas. Little wonder that they coined the slogan “Going Against The Grain” to refer to their differences from most vodka, which is sourced from corn. Last weekend they held a release party at the distillery where I got the chance to try the vodka both straight, and as part of several cocktails. I had a James Bond martini and a seductive Gimlet. The vodka is smooth and silky and I expect it to be a great success, likely dwarfing the wine sales of Kiepersol within a few years.
Dirk’s uses a still custom-designed by founder Pierre de Wet
The distiller is Pierre’s son in law. His daughter, Marnelle, as the winemaker at Kiepersol, is co-estate manager with her sister Velmay. Pierre’s big contribution was designing the still, which is custom-made in South Africa (and doubtless protected by many patents). It provides the precision of a traditional pot still with the rectifier effect of a continuous still. The result is an artisanal batch process that utilizes triple distilling.
Effective last year, Texas law was amended to allow distilleries to sell two bottles a month to a specific individual (I wonder if schizophrenics can get more?) so you can visit and taste and buy to take home, just like at a winery. Kiepersol has a restaurant and B&B as well if you want to make a weekend of it. The journey takes under two hours from Dallas.
Raw material. Kiepersol’s vineyards show remarkable vigor in early April