Virginia’s award-winning Rappahannock Cellars announced the opening of Dida’s Distillery, the winery’s new on-site distillery specializing in 100 percent grape-based spirits. Dida’s Distillery is owned by several members of the Delmare family, but pays special tribute to the family’s grape growing legacy started by Marialisa Delmare’s grandfather, Paul Mariani Sr., affectionately known as Dida.
The Delmare family’s fruit farming roots date back to the early 20th century. Delmare’s grandfather harvested Viognier grapes, now the state grape of Virginia, along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia before moving his family to California in 1906. There, Dida founded the Mariani Packing Company, a business that is currently run by Delmare’s brother, Mark Mariani. Dida’s fruit farming and grape harvesting legacy continued its generational span eight decades later when Delmare and her husband John purchased Saratoga Vineyards in Saratoga, Calif. and began producing wine under the label Mariani Winery.
Fourteen years after their initial break into Virginia’s booming wine business, Delmare decided to further develop the winery’s grape growing capabilities by expanding into a boutique distillery. The opening of Dida’s Distillery had been in the works for nearly three years and finally came to fruition this November. Delmare and his team used the three-year planning period to organize harvests and perfect the craft of spirit making.
Dida’s Distillery produces both aged and light spirits which are distilled solely from premium wine grapes. These 100 percent gluten-free grape-based spirits are first pressed and fermented into intense wines and then distilled in small batches in the distillery’s custom-made, 100-gallon pot/column hybrid copper still.
“Grapes have some major advantages over grains—grapes have a lot more flavor and aroma,” says Delmare. “More flavor and aroma going into the still provides for more flavor and aroma in the final spirit. And not only as a brandy—grapes also make for incredibly smooth and flavorful vodkas and gins with character you can’t get from grains.”
A Pressed Vodka and Immature Brandy are currently available at the distillery’s tasting room and were crafted by one of Delmare’s 12 children, Allan Delmare. Two of Delmare’s other children, Kelly and Teresa, work respectively as the tasting room manager and wine club manager at Rappahannock Cellars.
Dida’s Distillery is located at 14437 Hume Road in Huntly and offers walk-in tastings from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.