Local specialty citrus pioneer creates unique new gin

Walheim Ranch Gin, a collaboration between pioneer specialty citrus grower and horticulturist, Lance Walheim and Eric Olson of Atascadero’s Central Coast Distillery is coming to Visalia and surrounding areas. Walheim Ranch Gin has the unique citrus overtones from fresh rind of Exeter-grown Bergamot sour oranges with subtle hints of Earl Grey Tea, fennel and other botanicals. This is the second season for the gin, which was introduced last year in small quantities. You’ll probably recognize the label as it the depicts the view of Homer’s Nose and the and the Sierras as seen from Exeter’s Walheim Ranch.

Bergamot sour orange is a fruit you might not have heard of but may be familiar with its flavor and aroma. The rind of Bergamot is the distinctive flavor you taste in Earl Grey tea. The oils in the rind are also used in perfumes. Though the juice is very sour, Bergamot is also being used by creative chefs in variety recipes for sauces, drinks and deserts.

The dried rind of Bergamot sour orange has also been used to flavor a few gins. The fruit is grown primarily in Calabria, Italy and parts of West Africa. There are also some small plantings in California, of which Walheim Ranch is one of the largest.

From a botanical standpoint, Bergamot sour orange is thought to be a hybrid of unknown origin, but probably with sour orange and lemon, lime or citron parentage. It’s about the size of an orange, but yellow when fully ripe. The rind is powerfully fragrant and rich in aromatic oils.

A culinary school graduate, Eric Olson sharpened his cooking skills while traveling through 27 countries.  The highlight of his resume and certainly a gauge of his pedigree, were four years he spent as Executive Chef of the upscale Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In 2017, set out on his own and established Central Coast Distillery, home of the award-winning Forager Spirits, on Traffic Way in Atascadero. He is also chef of the small restaurant in the distillery.

Lance Walheim is familiar to many home gardeners and commercial citrus growers, especially in California. He has written over 30 garden books, including 3 on citrus. He was a staff writer for Sunset magazine and is one of the Senior Editors of the last 4 editions of the Sunset Western Garden Book, the Bible of western gardening.

Lance is also a pioneer in the citrus industry. Over 35 years ago, he and his partners founded California Citrus Specialties, which is responsible for helping introduce and promote many new citrus varieties to chefs, gardeners, supermarkets and commercial growers. He also established a 17-acre specialty citrus grove in Exeter, California.

Eric suggests you enjoy Walheim Ranch Gin in a sophisticated gin and tonic or martini. Also, wonderful in a Negroni, Greyhound and other cocktails.

Ask for Walheim Ranch Gin at your favorite Bar or Liquor Store!

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