Miles Karakasevic, one of the old time winemakers & distillers. And still creating.

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CharbayPosterScan CroppedPostcard 4x6.jpgCharbay makes wines? Wines, Ports & a new Green Tea Aperitif. Miles is a 12th generation winemaker/master distiller from Yugoslavia. Trained in Europe as an Enologist & Viticulturist, it's what comes naturally to him and now to his son, Marko Karakasevic, too. Miles' life is a multi chaptered story with all that has happened since leaving his homeland. These days he lives beside his winery & distillery on top of Spring Mountain where he ferments, distills & bottles the unusual with the usual.

After he left his home, he studied in Geisenheim before heading to Canada where he was a chemist & a diver for Uniroyal. He was brought into America as an enologist to make wine in Michigan. There he met his wife, Susan, and they headed to California in 1970. He made wines & champagnes for United Vintners in Madera & Escalon California, (the company that owned Italian Swiss Colony). He fermented in one week as much wine as Napa Valley used to make in a year. Those were his big tank years.
In 1975 he was hired to make wine for a winery in Michigan. He longed to distill some of the Michigan fruits but it was premature. In 1977 Beringer hired him to work in St. Helena so the young winemaker & his family moved back to California where they already had a cabin in the woods outside of St. Helena. Then a Mendocino winery brought him on board to run two wineries including champagne production. In 1982 he teamed up with a winery to bring in a Pruehlo Alambic Pot Still from Cognac...and finally he was distilling again. By 1986 Miles & Susan were running their own still with their two children, Lara (16) & Marko (13).

In 1987 Miles says he hung up his guns and would not be a 'hired gun' winemaker any more. The family was making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and distilling brandy for their own brandy program. They distilled grape & pear brandy for Chandon and for Charbay.

Still on Spring Mountain, the 'Still on the Hill' is where they produce small releases of wines, ports and more. Sitting beside the winery & distillery is a huge Alambic copper pot still from Cognac, France. It's a rare chance to see the actual 'pot' of a cognac style pot still. Miles loves distilling and loves all of his pot stills.

Baja trip_WSWA.jpgWhen Marko said he wanted to apprentice as Generation XIII, he and Miles started the Distillers' Port project - they used five select spirits to arrest the fermentation... and that was the beginning of the lively Charbay port program.

New chapter. 1997. There were no decent tasting flavored vodkas in a world that was tuning back to cocktails.  Marko knew Miles wanted to do something with locally grown organic Meyer lemons. Marko convinced Miles to distill a Meyer Lemon Vodka with the fresh lemons and the Charbay Fresh Fruit Flavored Vodka program was launched. Their technology captured the ripe flavors in their smooth vodka base. The first two, Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange came out in 1998 and the next year they released Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka & Key Lime Vodka. Marko sold them throughout the Napa Valley, into San Francisco and took them to New York. The niche was wide open. Celebrating their 10th year in the vodka business, Miles & Marko now have 7 flavors.

And then Miles & Marko distilled whiskey and rum and now, coming out this summer: the Charbay Tequila distilled in Mexico.

When you visit this talented team, they'll walk you through the distilling steps and talk about their different spirits. Ask your questions - they know distilling.

With different tasting flights, you can choose what wines to taste. The chardonnay, rose & cabernets all accent the varietals and not the French oak. Then there are the Ports.

Forget what you know about ports! They distill the brandies for their ports. When making a port, most use a clear tasteless alcohol to arrest the fermentation. Not at Charbay. They'll distill a fresh cabernet brandy to make a cabernet port. Or for their signature port, they actually have five different brandies dancing around inside it. The brandies add their complex handcrafted quality to make an elegant flavor packed port with a long finish. You have to taste them to believe the long finish.

Miles is more comfortable fermenting & distilling than fussing around with the diesels of his old Hatteras. "I like fishing & being on the water. But sooner or later, I start getting ideas about distilling and then I can't wait to get back to our stills."

Now, in his 40th year of professional winemaking & distilling, Miles has fermented & distilled the five major groups of spirits - he even added one. The family distills brandy, rums, whiskey, vodkas. For number five, Tequila, he and Marko traveled to Tequila to distill their own true Tequila in Mexico.    The spirit they distilled that didn't fit into the five main spirit categories? Pachanga, the Original Sunroot Sprit.

**They do not pour or taste spirits at the winery & distillery.

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