If there is one thing that ties together the people from the food community—the restaurant owners and their staff, the mixologists and chefs, the wine makers and brewmasters and distillers, and even those of us just obsessed with all things edible—it’s actually not food. Yes, we’re all sitting next to one another clinking glasses in cheers over the cuisine, but the one thing that actually brings us to the same table is passion.
And all of us are willing to follow that passion wherever it may take us.
If I’ve learned anything from attending dinners honoring wine makers and food events focused around a single distillery, it’s that the food community is full of passionate people willing to do whatever it takes to follow their dream. And that desire—nay, obsession—is what makes their product so outstanding.
Last week Salt Lake City hosted a special guest of the spirits community, Tad Seestedt of Ransom Spirits. Ransom Spirits is an amazing company covering ground in the spirit world unlike almost anyone else, making exceptional wines (like Pinot Noir, Grenache, Riesling, and Pinot Gris) to outstanding gins, whiskeys, grappas and vermouth.
Ransom proves you don’t need a narrow focus in order to make an incredible product because every single one of spirits coming out of this Oregon company is spectacular.
First I had the opportunity to taste through Ransom’s line of hard spirits at the USBG (that’s United States Bartenders’ Guild to you) Cocktail Class with drinks made by some of Salt Lake City’s finest mixologists. (Seriously, the perks from judging the USBG Campari contest never end!)
Tad was on hand to tell us how the name “Ransom” comes from the way he used his life savings (including money from selling his house) to follow his passion to make Grappa, eau de vie, and brandy. When that didn’t take off, he experimented with grain-based spirits, starting with an Old Tom Gin, then whiskey and vodka. Then he combined his wine-making skills with his distilling talents for a dry vermouth.
Now Ransom spirits is both a vineyard and a distillery, growing majority of the grapes and barley used in its products on its own land in Willamette Valley, Oregon, on a certified organic farm focused on sustainability, historical authenticity, and craftsmanship. All that care and creativity is apparent in each and every product I tasted. Even the Grappa, something I never really cared for, was so seductively sexy that I couldn’t believe it.
After the USBG cocktail class, I went to Finca where Chef Phelix created a pairing dinner utilizing the flavors from Ransom wines and cocktails. We started with a light compressed melon and cucumber amouse bouche paired with a cocktail of Ransom Old Tim Gin and Ransom Vermouth with a bit of anise and finished in a carbonation machine to create a spritzy, refreshing summer sipper.
Then we had an outrageously delicious tomato salad with bacon aioli and avocado with Ransom Pinot Gris, a beautifully floral wine; followed by amberjack crudo with lemon verbena paired with Ransom Riesling, a refreshingly bright wine with hints of citrus; then incredible boar empanadas with smoked cherries paired with Ransom Pinot Noir, my favorite of the night, a deliciously vibrant wine; and finally peaches and cream paired with a cocktail of Ransom Grappa and Ransom Henry DuYore’s Whiskey.
Tad’s passion is apparent not only in his story (selling everything to make grappa!) but in his success. And his success is rooted in his passion, as evident by the fact that every bottle of every spirit Ransom is outstanding.
Notes :: Ransom Spirits are available at several restaurants in the city (like Silver, Pallet, BTG Wine bar, Finca, Pago, Fresco, Naked Fish, Bar X, Copper Onion, Copper Common, and more), via special order in Utah (easily done via this link on the DABC website) and if you’re lucky, the downtown wine store often has some on hand.
Disclaimer :: I was graciously invited to the Ransom Cocktail Class by the Utah Chapter of the USBG and was a guest of the Finca Ransom Wine & Spirits Dinner on behalf of Libation LLC. As always, all opinions are my own.