Oregon Pinot Noir producer Willamette Valley Vineyards is experimenting with whiskey.
The Pacific Northwest wine company announced on Thursday that it had produced — and quickly sold out of — an inaugural, limited release of its new small batch rye.
The initial yield of Willamette Whiskey was aged in new American oak for six months and blended down to a bottle strength of 100 proof. The company partnered with Portland-based Rose City Distillery to produce the new spirit.
The first run yielded just 12 individually numbered bottles, which were offered for sale to the winery’s top customers for $50 per bottle, said Willamette Valley Vineyards Founder and CEO Jim Bernau, who added that a second release was slated for later this winter.
Bernau said WVV’s goal was to partner with a local distiller and pay tribute to residents of Carlton, Oregon, and the W.A. Howe’s General Merchandise Store, which stood for 91 years. Willamette Valley Vineyards now owns the lot where the store’s building served as a general store, a hotel and Carlton’s first bank, with a basement parlor and speakeasy supper club. It was destroyed in a fire in 1995.
The CEO said the new release signaled the beginning of the winery’s efforts to build a brick-and-mortar winery and distillery facility in the fallen general store’s place. Future releases of the whiskey will be offered in limited batches to subscribers and at its four new restaurants.
Once the Willamette Valley Vineyards Tasting Room + Restaurants open, the whiskey will be sold by the glass at those establishments. The first is slated to open this spring in Lake Oswego, Oregon, a spokesperson for WVV said.
“The first release was snatched up in less than a few hours,” said Bernau, who added that customers were being encouraged to sign up on a waiting list to get a crack at buying a bottle of the next batch.
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