Drip, drip, drip.
It’s late June, and the sound of newly distilled grape vodka emptying from a copper still into a plastic bucket provides a merciful respite to a sweltering morning at Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farm in Mattituck.
“When we make vodka, we’re using grapes and distilling it five times through the still,” Shinn Estate Vineyard owner David Page explains. “It’s very, very pure.”
He points to the clear liquid undulating steadily into the half-full bucket.
“It ultimately ends up looking like this,” Page says of the vodka, which is distilled a total of five times.
“Once it’s finished distilling, it goes into a keg. We’ll do a final filtering and then it’ll go into a bottle. There has never been a Long Island vodka made from grapes.”
That’s about to change. In the next week or so, Shinn Estate Vineyards will bottle and release an extremely limited production of grape vodka made from merlot and chardonnay wine. Shinn Estate, Page says, is the only Long Island winery with a farm distillery license. He purchased the copper alembic still and began distilling two years ago.
Scant historical material exists about the origins of vodka, which is made when substances like potatoes, grains or fruit are fermented and then distilled, producing ethanol. The higher percentage of ethanol in a distillate, the closer it gets to becoming vodka.
Making and selling the spirit is a first for Page’s 15-year-old business, which already produces “Shinn Shine,” its own line of grappa, and “Eau de Vie,” a young brandy made from double distilled seyval blanc and cabernet franc wine. But unlike “Eau de Vie,” which must spend six months aging in an oak barrel, vodka can be bottled immediately after it’s distilled.
“Vodka is a quick way of putting a product into the marketplace,” Page says.
He already has plans to begin serving Bloody Marys made with the grape vodka and juice from biodynamic heirloom tomatoes he and his wife, Barbara Shinn, grow on the property’s organic farm. If you want one, you’d better act fast.
“When it’s gone, it’s gone,” Page says of the grape vodka’s limited production, which will be sold in 375 milliliter bottles for $20 a piece. “Tomato season won’t last very long, either — but see, next year we’ll have more.”
It’s fairly safe to assume that means there will also be more vodka.