At Veso, we make modern wine-based aperitifs, inspired by European classics like Aperol, Campari, and Sweet Vermouths, but tailored towards the modern drinker. We source California fruits and citrus, and spices from around the world, and infuse those into California made wine. The resulting aperitifs are complex in flavor, but easy to drink. They are great on their own over ice, as a spritz, or mixed into cocktails.
Above all else, we’re on a mission to inspire a more intentional drinking culture – one built around people, places, and memories.
At Veso, we produce our aperitifs in a winery on Treasure Island (technically in San Francisco, which is great because we are legally allowed to put “produced on San Francisco” on the labels). Our winery is a shared winery space, almost like a co-op, that has several wineries operating under the same roof. We share equipment and tools and operating alongside other winemakers also allows me the opportunity to learn from other experts.
Treasure Island was originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair (the island is an artificial, man-made island), and then afterwards was used as a naval base during World War II. The building that our winery operates out of is an old Navy Commissary kitchen and is a large building with tall ceilings that now houses tanks, barrels, and all the other equipment needed to produce wine.
At Veso, we are proud to produce all our aperitifs in-house in small batches. While most aperitifs, vermouths, and liqueurs are produced to taste the same from one batch to the next, we lean into the natural differences in wine, fruit, and ingredients from one season to the next, and as a result, each of our batches are a little different. Like a wine has different vintage years (with different years having different nuances for the same grape and vineyard), we have batch numbers. We tweak the recipe for each batch depending on what the consumer wants, making one batch more or less tart, sweet, or bitter. But it’s hard to fight against nature, so we don’t try to control the flavors too much and lean into the natural differences in our raw ingredients to let each batch show its own unique characteristics.
Our aperitifs are made through a few steps. First, we source wine from some of our favorite winemakers around California, choosing wines that will lend themselves well to the additional fruits and spices that we will infuse into them.
Then, we infuse our recipe of fruit, citrus, and spices into grape spirits (which are wine that has been distilled to a higher alcohol). The higher alcohol helps to extract all the flavor and aroma compounds that we want. This infusion process is a lot of work, since we use whole fruits and spices, instead of “natural flavorings” or artificial extracts. We bring in whole citrus, strawberries, raspberries, herbs, spices, and other botanicals, which then need to be processed by hand. For our first batch of aperitifs, we peeled about 2000 pounds of oranges and grapefruits, using fruit peeling machines that cuts the time-to-peel from a minute per fruit to about 10 seconds per fruit. Our strawberries must have the hull removed (which would impart a sort of vegetal flavor), which is something we do by hand.
Once we have the fruits and spices ready to be infused, we infuse them in large bins and containers filled with the grape spirit for about 2 weeks, and then pump out the now-infused grape spirits into large stainless steel tanks to be mixed with wine. The mixed aperitif then sits for a few weeks to allow all the sediment to fall to the bottom, before we bottle, label, and pack them into cases.
Most of the alcohol industry isn’t transparent about their ingredients because they don’t have to be. You may have noticed that bottles of wine or spirits almost never have ingredients listed, because they don’t have to by law. This, unfortunately, means that these products often have undesirable ingredients added – dyes to achieve a certain color, animal-byproducts used in processing, other flavorings added for coloring, sweetening, or to improve flavor. We wanted to make something totally natural, and not try to trick the consumer along the way, so we opted to be totally transparent about our ingredients.
You’ll notice that our bottles have the full ingredients list on the back of the bottle (something that is not easy for us to do, given how rare this is for alcoholic products), and we make sure to use the cleanest ingredients we can. We use no dyes, instead relying on the natural color of the fruits and spices we use to give our drinks their hue. All our fresh fruit is organic and sourced entirely from farms within California. All our wines are made without using animal products (and are therefore considered vegan). And everything we put into the bottle is on the label, so you know exactly what you’re consuming.