Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Dec 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Ode to Osocalis

dining1Why one local distillery strives to take its time

Winding through the Santa Cruz mountains, it isn't hard to spot a vineyard. And in town, you don't have to search long to find a local brewery. But when it comes to finding local hooch, there is only one place to go. Well, actually, there are lots of places you could go, seeing as state and federal alcohol laws require liquor producers, like Soquel-based Osocalis, to sell their products through stores and prohibits direct-to-customer sales. But forget about that for now.

The point is, when it comes to distilling, there is only one game in town. Santa Cruz denizens Dan Farver and Jeff Emery distill, age and bottle their highly rated, small-batch brandies under the label Osocalis on a small patch of land just off Old San Jose Road in Soquel.

Osocalis, which takes its name from the American Indian word for the Soquel region, is the only distillery in Santa Cruz, and, according to Emery and Farver, one of the oldest micro-distilleries in the state. They make their brandies with California-grown grapes on a hand-hammered alambic still from the Cognac region of France.

"Alambic" is an Arabic term that refers to a specific component on a specific kind of still. And alambic stills are the type of still used to produce Cognac. Using the word when describing their product is a way of letting the initiated know that while Osocalis may not be made in Cognac, it is produced in the same tradition

While we're talking about foreign-sounding words, it's worth mentioning that the brand name "Osocalis" also gives the consumer a clue about just what Farver and Emery are all about. It is the original American Indian name for the region where the two men produce their brandy. Out of Osocalis came the name "Soquel," Emery explains.

Anyway, enough with the etymology. You are probably wondering how the stuff tastes.

The Osocalis brandies are smooth and nuanced. According to Emery, their complex yet easy-going flavor comes from a number of factors involving the passage of time.

dining2Dan Farver and Jeff Emery (above) have created a one-of-a-kind enterprise with Osocalis Distillery, based in Soquel. Photos by Keana Parker."You need time and patience," Emery said, describing how to make and enjoy a good brandy. He and partner Farver have been at this for more than two decades, for starters, and they know what they're doing. They also age the brandy in toasted, French oak barrels for years at a time, allowing the spirit to take on its deep brown hue and develop its distinctive flavor.

"It's a very expensive, very time consuming process," Farver says, noting that when he started Osocalis, he envisioned the project lasting generations.

"It tastes like a fine old piece of furniture smells," Emery says, only half joking. There is a certain class in drinking brandy, which, he added, is meant to be enjoyed slowly. Emery says he often enjoys a couple fingers of Osocalis or another brandy after dinner over a good book. Just a little bit goes a long way.

Another element, Emery explains, is the region. Although he and his partner stick to many of the conventions of Cognac, France, they diverge from them when it comes to the grapes they use.

A quality Cognac will often be described as "spice with some fruit," Emery says. But with Osocalis, he says it's just the opposite — "fruit with some spice."

"With our climate, we get so much more fruit character in the grapes, because it's warmer here," says Emery, who is also the owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. The Osocalis line of brandies are made starting with a base wine produced largely from Colombard grapes, grown in the North Bay Area — the Russian River and Suisun Bay regions mostly. That wine is distilled down into a clear spirit, which is then aged.

Farver agrees. "Over the decades we've really come to realize that we're working with truly unique fruit," he says, referring to the Santa Cruz and Bay Area grape-growing regions where he said the cool air make for a much higher acidity than in just about any other place on the planet. And the variety of micro-climates in Northern California means that vintners and fruit growers can quite literally "tune" what they grow.

Emery says he and Farver would like to share all they have learned about making brandy in greater detail, but that it can prove challenging due to those pesky state and federal laws mentioned earlier.

Unlike wineries and breweries, distillers are not allowed to have tasting rooms. However, that all may soon change. Emery, Farver and a group of other micro-distillers from around the state, are working with Calif. State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner to change the Prohibition-era laws preventing Osocalis from having a tasting room.

"That would be huge," Emery says. "I think a lot of people think that brandy is some weird, peach-flavored thing that comes in a hip flask at the stop-and-rob grocery store. People here haven't had exposure to it, and so there is a lot of plain not understanding what it is and what it can be."

Until the day that Emery can pour flights of Osocalis to eager brandy buffs, you can pick up the locally produced spirit at many retailers in town and around the state. 


Osocalis is located at 5579 Old San Jose Road, Soquel. 477-1718, osocalis.com.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Santa Cruz's best local alcohol
written by CharlieUWS, September 18, 2013
Osocalis is my favorite local product. I remember first coming across it on Shopper's Corner's shelves, and being shocked that there was a place that made brandy locally. And I was even more thrilled when I got it home and tasted it. Since then, I almost always have some on my shelf, and when I need a gift for someone that appreciates the finer things in life, I'm proud to be able to bring them something like this from my home.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire