KASOTA — Founded on its vineyard and wines, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery has steadily grown its line of distilled spirits.

On Friday Chankaska opened the doors to its new Distilled Spirits Room.

Chankaska distills a variety of brandy, whiskey, gin and now vodka, which will be featured in the new room, along with a small menu of craft cocktails.

"We're excited it's open. There's been quite a bit of buzz about it already," said Courtney Malone, marketing and merchandise director at Chankaska.

"When you walk in, a big, beautiful barnwood door takes you into the Spirits Room. And we added onto our deck so people can get to it from the wine tasting area or the Spirits Room."

Malone said there will be 13 craft cocktails on the menu. "They'll change every couple months to keep the menu fresh."

The Ranch Ruby includes grapefruit, tonic, gin and mint. The Negroni includes smoked barrel gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and orange bitters.

"We use fresh ingredients and specific effects for each drink. The staff put a lot of time into each drink."

The Spirits Room will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

The room seats 50, along with standing room and seating on the deck.

Mike Drash, winemaker and distiller at Chankaska, started distilling over four years ago.

"I grew up in Tennessee and always wanted to make bourbon. We did a lot of seminars and classes to get up to speed."

They bought a 500-liter (132 gallon) pot distiller from Germany. "It's like the Cadillac of copper stills."

He said the distilling has a lot in common with winemaking. "It's all about the fermentation."

They double distill. "If you put in 150 gallons you get 40 to 50 gallons out, with higher alcohol content. The second distillation calms it and raises the alcohol to 160 proof."

They then add reverse osmosis-treated water to bring the alcohol content down to 125 proof before putting it in barrels to age a minimum of 2 1/2 years.

Chankaska this weekend is also rolling out its first vodka. "That's triple-distilled, which makes it more pure," he said of the corn-based vodka.

Chankaska, which was formed in 2008 and began making wine three years later, has grown steadily since, adding an event center last year and the spirits room this year. The winery, just off Highway 22 near Kasota and St. Peter, hosts a number of weddings and events indoors and outside throughout the year.

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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