Source: Herald News
Portuguese real estate developer pairs with Russian musician to produce unique aguardente
Thomas da Rosa and Anatoly Rosinsky couldn’t come from worlds apart in a variety of ways, but a strong friendship started brewing when the two became neighbors almost a decade ago and found they shared a passion for the art of making wine and spirits.
A native of Silveira, Lajes do Pico, Azores, da Rosa is a successful real estate developer in central California. Rosinsky is a Russian-born classically trained violinist and graduate of Juilliard School who made a name for himself performing throughout Europe and working in the entertainment industry for Hollywood movies and well-known U.S. recording artists.
Despite their very distinct backgrounds, both da Rosa and Rosinsky grew up with home distilling — da Rosa’s family made wine and aguardente for personal consumption, while Rosinsky’s grandfather made vodka.
Following their hearts, they became business partners and established Slo De Vie Distillery in Grover Beach, Calif. Their Mulher Velha Aguardente and Grappa d’Uva, which are created the old fashioned way, have won over drinker’s palates up and down the West Coast and now the two entrepreneurs want to conquer taste buds in New England.
“Our goal, as a company, is to maintain old-world lost arts – the big distillers can’t do what we do,” da Rosa told O Jornal in a phone interview from California. “They do mass quantities and use big machines, where we are hands-on, make things seem like it was done hundreds of years ago… but legally and clean.”
da Rosa said it was their passion for wine and grape-based spirits that propelled them to combine their knowledge and put their own brewing skills to the test.
“We bought a copper alembic still from Portugal and we started making aguardente and grappa,” he said. “We could only produce 30 gallons at a time.”
da Rosa applied some of the techniques he learned at a very young age.
“I got to watch my father, my uncles, my cousins, everybody, being involved and making wine,” he recalled. “After we made wine, we would take the grape skins and make aguardente. I watched the process and all that stuff was ingrained in me.”
Rosinsky, who traveled extensively in Europe as a professional musician and lived in France for a while, admitted that he never really cared for vodka. Instead, he became fascinated with the art of winemaking and enjoyed learning more about it in the different countries he visited.
“It’s romantic… and passed down through cultures. It’s really amazing,” he said, noting that he is also partial to spirits made with grapes. “To me, grape is the king. Aguardente is a fine spirit. When you get good quality grapes and a proper harvest, there’s very little to be done… it’s a beautiful drink.”
After years of trial and error, they finally felt ready and confident to bring their product to the market.
“We don’t use the first part of the distilling process; we only use the middle 50 percent,” da Rosa said. “The first 25 and the last 25 are set aside. Only destemmed grapes make it into our copper pot still, thus avoiding any hint of wood alcohol. We get a clean aguardente without negative flavor.”
Their handcrafted aguardente combines two traditional styles: Vinica, which is distilled from young fresh wine, and Bagaceira, which is distilled from pomace (pressed grape skins). Both Vinica and Bagaço are blended together and then aged in fine oak barrels to produce the unique, smooth flavor that sets apart their aguardente from others.
“We use pomace from choice vineyards in EdnaValley,” da Rosa said. “It is processed immediately after the pressing to capture delicate flavors.”
Rosinsky’s world experience and keen taste buds make all the difference, da Rosa said.
“His taste buds are superior and help us take the aguardente to maturity to a nice complex level,” da Rosa said. “As a classic violinist, he was fortunate to have spent a lot of time in France, where he learned all the techniques to make superior Armagnac. All those things came into play. It’s amazing what he has brought to the table. We would have never achieved this level of success without his taste and experience.”
Attracted by the Armagnacs of France and the finer Grappas of Italy, they developed their Grappa d’Uva, combining traditional techniques of French and Italian distillers while employing their own particular methods.
About three years ago, they decided to set up their operation to commercial grade. They currently use a three-story building that includes a 3,000 square-foot distillery equipped with large copper stills heated by steam, a warehouse full of aging barrels, bottling facilities, and a tasting room.
“Everything we do now is top notch,” said da Rosa. “All this equipment was put together by Antoly and I and our friends.”
Just like old times, all the work is done by the two partners with the help of relatives and friends.
“We do this with love,” da Rosa said. “Sometimes after the work is done, we open a can of sardines and make a toast. We have a lot of fun working together.”
And in the process, Rosinsky gained a special appreciation for the Portuguese, their culture and their wines.
“I love it – they’re great people and have fantastic food,” said Rosinsky, admitting that he has fallen in love with Fado, Porto wines and wines from the Alentejo region during his travels to Portugal.
“One of my most memorable experiences was going to Senhor Vinho (fado house),” he said.
The two partners are currently exploring the possibilities of working with distributors in the Southcoast to bring their products to local homes.
“We are trying to set up a relationship there because the cost of shipping by FedEX is expensive,” da Rosa said.
For more information about their products, visit slodevie.com or aguardentedacasa.com