Located just around the corner from the iconic Tin City development — home to wine and beer on the outskirts of Paso Robles, near Templeton — a new distillery is getting set to open at 3340 Ramada Drive on June 9, “at 1 p.m. sharp.”
Calwise Spirits, formally known as Wild Coast Spirits, then Calivore Spirits when they were based in in the City of San Luis Obispo and working through the Cal Poly Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation ‘HotHouse’ program, the company has already been selling craft California-themed rum and gin in local stores.
Flavored with herbs native to the Big Sur region, their biggest award winner has been the aptly named, “Big Sur Gin” but a spiced rum and “Blonde Rum” have also been on the menu at Fish Gaucho in Paso Robles as well as Flour House and Novo in San Luis Obispo. Bottles, selling for $35 have also been available at Whole Foods, Bevmo, Vons and the California Fresh Markets in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach (not yet in Paso Robles).
Company founder Aaron Bergh said that, while he grew up in Ventura County before coming north to attend university, he came to, “love the people, the scenery and the nature on the Central Coast. I found a place to start a business and a life here.”
In Paso Robles he found, “a hotbed for the craft beverage movement, a successful movement that started with Firestone-Walker as an inspirational presence.”
While perhaps not his direct inspiration — after all he had a long family history with moonshine on his own — the burgeoning craft brew culture gave the building’s developer encouragement to create a space for a beverage company before knowing who would occupy it.
Flanked by a winery and a craft brewer, Calwise is putting their own stamp on the 6,000-square-foot space (3,000 in the back for production and shipping, 1,500 for the public space and kitchen and another 1,500 for offices upstairs).
They’re ready to hit the ground running with specialty cocktails made, “so far just with our rum and gin but it’s not just any rum or gin. Everything is inspired by our California culture and made from Paso and Central Coast wine grapes,” Bergh said, listing off white sage, elderberries, California yerba santa, fennel to the area naturalized here and juniper with California bay.
“I worked in and studied agriculture,” he said. “And I started thinking, ‘Hey we grow the best flavors in the world in California, both on purpose and naturally.’ When I started home distilling, I turned into being a scientist and an artist. It’s the only thing that combines both.”
Unlike some home-distillers that “go legit,” Bergh isn’t shy about going on record that he started learning long before acquiring the proper licenses, “everyone starts that way with this,” but all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed for the the official opening in Paso Robles he assures.
“We’ll be the first [dedicated] distillery to have a restaurant and bar on the Central Coast,” he noted, with simple Mediterranean influenced cuisine, pizza, salad, soups, appetizers and desserts, with special attention paid to bacon wrapped dates, a local favorite.
As of May 25 the still was in place with fermenters set to come in the next week and wine barrels to age rums the next delivery.
A specially-crafted Redwood bar lay in pieces in the restaurant waiting sealing and installation.
“We’ll be ready one way or another,” Bergh said. “I hope everyone will come out. I haven't had a chance to get to know everyone [in the neighborhood] but we plan on being a very collaborative environment. We’ve already talked to Kilo Kilo Brewing next door, we’re planning on doing a distilled whiskey with them.”