Friday, November 20, 2009

The spirit moves him: Winemaker Richard Oh invents Ohzone, a grape-based liquor that's catching fire
Winemaker Richard Oh invents Ohzone, a grape-based liquor that's catching fire
Herald Staff Writer
Updated: 11/18/2009 01:30:45 AM PST

Richard Oh almost sounds like a winemaking hippie when describing his signature spirit Ohzone.
But his excitement is understandable, given he's released the first new commercial spirit in about 60 years.

"I love what I do. I'm out there spreading joy," said Oh, 45, of Pacific Grove. "It's not a job to me."

Ohzone is Oh's first venture into the spirit market, after five-plus years spent making his Otter Cove brand of wines. A 70-proof clear spirit made from wine grapes, Ohzone is both Oh's creation and newfound passion.

Oh described the taste as a "berry essence, with a hint of licorice and hints of grapes."

There is a faint alcohol taste, but that is all but elminated when it is mixed.

"By itself, you'll get a bit (of alcohol taste) up front. But as it goes down, it gets smooth," he said.

Making it was the first challenge. Finding creative ways to serve it has become his latest project.

"It will go pretty much with anything," Oh said, before rattling off a list of drinks that can be made with Ohzone, including daiquiris, martinis and bloody Marys.

A bottle retails for $23, and can be bought locally at several stores, including Cork 'N' Bottle in Monterey and Pacific Groveand Star Market in Salinas.

Bars and restaurants where it is served include Lallapalooza, LALLAgrill and El Palomar, all in Monterey.

Oh created the drink from the leftover alcohol extract from his wine. Not wanting it to go to waste, Oh thought of ways to use it.

"Sometimes our wine gets a little hot, so we have to extract the alcohol. That alcohol pretty much was going to waste," he said. "(The alcohol) comes out 124 proof, and it tastes pretty much like grappa (a colorless, high-alcohol product from Italy made from grape skins and seeds left in the wine press). It wasn't smooth enough (on its own)."

A painstaking process of testing and retesting led Oh to his final formula, using a cold distillation and cross-flow filtration.

They initially tested the alcohol content between 60 proof and 120 proof before Oh settled on 70 proof.

"That was the key," he said.

Now, Oh is having fun mixing it with everything from rum and tequila to such popular night club liqueurs as Hypnotiq and X-Rated.

He's also come up with a list of drinks based on the Oh name, with everything from Red ZOHne and CosmOH to one of his personal favorites, the OHgasm.

"We're having loads of fun with this," said Oh. "We're trying to do a drink with the name OHbama."

Oh said the spirit can also be used in the kitchen. He teamed with local chef Colin Moody to create an Ohzone dish, truffled artichoke and pistachio bisque with Dungeness crab croquette.

To see the recipes and read the full article please return to the Monterey Herald

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