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Frey Ranch Estate rolls out the vodka

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com
Colby Frey shows cartons of bottles that arrived at the distillery several weeks.
PHOTOS BY STEVE RANSON / SRANSON@LAHONTANVALLEYNEWS |

Frey Ranch Estate Distillery takes a major step on Saturday when Nevada’s first commercial estate distillery rolls out the first batch of vodka for an open house.

It’s the public’s turn to sample the Frey family’s vodka. The open house from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. not only features vodka, brandy and wine tasting but also food provided by a Mount Mogrit Gourmet food truck and samples from Tahoe Cheese and Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, Calif.

Colby Frey finished making the first batch of vodka several weeks ago to ensure his distillery system worked perfectly. It did.

Now, it was on to the second batch, the one that filled 3,000 bottles for a day of vodka tasting in addition to the sampling of brandy and wine.

“This batch we’ll use,” said Frey, as he surveyed the towering copper pot still situated in an enclosed space next to the tasting room. “This second batch will have a higher amount of alcohol.”

The process to make the first batch of vodka for public consumption has been time consuming but worth it as far as Frey is concerned. In its purest stage, he said the vodka is 98 percent alcohol or 196 proof, but over time, he reduces the alcohol to 40 percent.

This week, Frey Ranch filled thousands of bottles with the newly distilled vodka made with wheat, rye, corn and barley — unlike other vodkas on the store shelves that are made only with wheat or potatoes.

Unlike brandy or wine, which can take months — if not years — to make, vodka can be easily produced in a short amount of time. In early September, Colby and his wife, Ashley, kicked off their distillery operation by throwing handfuls of grain into about 5,000 gallons of fermenting mash, described by Colby as a thick porridge of grains with thick consistency used for making alcohol.

“We’ve been distilling since 2006, experimenting with small amounts and getting the recipes down,” Frey said.

During Saturday’s open house, the Freys will conduct several tours to show the operation and to answer questions. What visitors will see is a small but efficient operation.

Frey said the new distillery sits on land that used to be the horse corral.

The Freys constructed a building separate from the wine distillery, where they held an open house almost one year ago. Construction workers stood up a 4,000-square foot pre-enginered building onto the foundation in January and completed the wiring and plumbing.

The middle of the building houses three stills — one a tall, copper still made by a company in Louisville, Ky., that will be used for bourbon. The other stainless steel stills will be used for gin and vodka. The copper still will work efficiency and lead to an easier operation.

A tasting room decorated in wood trim and old photographs faces south toward the cornfields.

“We designed and changed it numerous times throughout the process,” he said.

The tanks upstairs, which a Mound House company built, will be eventually used for all three spirits. Each tank can produce 500 gallons of liquor or 2,500 bottles.

“Much like our spirits, we crafted every detail of our distillery – from the design of the building to the design of our one-of-a-kind Vendome still – to create a place where we could make world-class spirits, further establishing Nevada as a premier destination for craft wines and spirits,” Frey said. “This grand opening is just the beginning of a long, ongoing journey that we are excited to share with our friends, family and the world.”