First look: CapRock Farm Bar opens Tuesday at the Source -- and whiskey is on the horizon
All photos by Lori Midson.
Lance Hanson is a self-described "classics nerd." And he parlayed that interest into a job teaching Latin to high school kids, eventually giving up academia to pursue a career in the software business, which made him, well, rich -- rich enough, at least, to "dive off the deep end and try something nuts," he quips.
In 2001, he and his wife, Anna, moved to Hotchkiss, Colorado, a pastoral town in the North Fork Valley that's steeped in vineyards, orchards, farms and ranches, and the reason behind the move, says Hanson, was rooted in a dream to build a small-estate winery. "My wife and I had been living in Northern California, so we were into wine as consumers, and we knew we wanted to be in a rural area and try something new and risky, so we started planting vineyards and making wine, and it went well," says Hanson. It went so well, in fact, that he started his own winery, Jack Rabbit Hill, the grapes of which he harvests from the vines that grow on his 72-acre, biodynamic farm.
In late 2004, a year after selling his first bottle of wine at the farmers' market in Aspen, Hanson was at a crossroads: "Things were progressing, and we were at a point where we could either step up our wine production, or diversify -- and we decided to diversify," explains Hanson, who began to explore eau-de-vie, distilled, un-aged, fermented brandies that are made with fruit other than grapes. "We had all of this wonderful orchard fruit right outside our front door, we knew how to ferment, and we had all of the equipment except a small still, so we got one of those and started distilling," he says.
He started with brandies and followed up with grappa, and while his customers praised both, they wondered, admits Hanson, if they were too nitch-y. "Everyone loved them, but the feedback I kept getting was that we should do something more mainstream," says Hanson, who distills his spirits under the Peak Spirits label. "They encouraged us to make vodka and gin, and since we had the fruit, the seeds, the roots and the flowers close to where the farm is, we figured why not?"