In the limelight

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Travel Channel to highlight White Rock’s Don Quixote Distillery & Winery

By Carol A. Clark

Of all the gin joints on all the Web sites on the entire Internet, television producer Erik Tily happened upon one owned by local residents Ron and Ohla Dolin.


Actually, while surfing the Net, Tily happened upon information about the Dolin’s Don Quixote Distillery & Winery located in White Rock’s Pajarito Acres.

Tily is a producer working on a new series called “Drinking Made Easy,” hosted by Zane Lamprey, who currently hosts a show called “Three Sheets,” airing on the Travel Channel.

“In the new series, we will be traveling around the country and stopping in 24 cities to highlight the drinking and food culture there,” Tily said in an e-mail to Ron Dolin last week. “I found some info about your winery and distillery online and it sounds like you make some quintessentially New Mexican products, such as your blue corn Vodka. I was hoping you could tell me about your vodka or anything else you think spotlights New Mexico. Also, it would be ideal if the ingredients are harvested locally.”

A telephone conversation ensued, which resulted in a visit from the Travel Channel crew set for Tuesday.

“We are the only distillery in the history of New Mexico,” Dolin explained to Tily. “My wife, Ohla, is not only an incredibly beautiful woman, she is also a third generation distiller who brings a unique approach to spirits production that she learned as a little girl from her grandfather and father in Eastern Europe. I am an engineer (Los Alamos National Laboratory) who designed and handcrafted our stills to work in a high altitude, desert environment.”

Dolin further explained that his Blue Corn Vodka is uniquely New Mexican. In addition to using organic blue corn grown in New Mexico, this sipping style Vodka is made using natural enzymes instead of chemicals and is only distilled twice to retain the silky smoothness of the blue corn, he said.

“Distilling at our altitude allows us to cook about 14 degrees cooler than other distillers, which give us much softer spirits,” Dolin said. “Another trait our spirits possess is their smoothness and slightly sweet taste. What makes us very unique in the spirits world is that we do not flavor, color, or texturize our spirits after distilling — we give you what God and Nature gave us.”

The Dolins, who started their distillery in 2001 also make a gin that is uniquely New Mexican. Ohla and her friends hike into the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains to harvest juniper and piñon nuts. Ohla picks rose hips along the Rio Grande and sage and chamisa on top of desert mesas. These New Mexico herbs are then combined with other traditional gin botanicals in a Bombay ginning process to make a unique gin that many gin drinkers are amazed to find can be sipped straight, without the need to dilute in a cocktail, he said. The Dolin’s Blue Corn Vodka is the base for their gin.

“We also make Angelica — the first wine ever made in America, Dolin told Tily. “It was first made about 20 miles from our distillery in 1628 by Spanish missionaries as altar wine. This very sweet wine is made from unfermented grape juice and brandy.

We barrel age five years before bottling and are the only producer in the country, we think, that makes both the wine and brandy in their Ports.”  Angelica also was America’s first export product and the first American product ever banned in another country, a story Dolin said he looks forward to sharing in more detail with Tily.

On Tuesday, the Travel Channel crew filming at the Dolin’s distillery will encounter homemade stills and a Moonshine era “Thumper.”  

According to the editor of American Distilling Magazine, the Dolins are the only distillery in the world using this historic piece of “American ingenuity.”

Dolin designed and built his Thumper to solve the same problem that plagued moonshiners during prohibition, he told Tily joking that for the record, he did not build the Thumper to keep one step ahead of the revenuers.

“We are thrilled that they found us and chose us out of all the possible New Mexico attractions and venues,” Dolin said. “We are very excited to represent New Mexico and Los Alamos on such an international platform.”

Something that might be included in the Travel Channel segment are scenes of Dolin’s wife educating visitors in their tasting room about the proper way to drink spirits. Dolin explained that he hadn’t realized there was a proper way to drink spirits until the first time he went to Ukraine and didn’t last through the first two hours of toasting.

Ohla also teaches visitors the proper etiquette for toasting. The first toast is always to honor those who have died, she said, and the third toast is always to honor love.

Broadcast details of the Travel Channel’s “Drinking Made Easy” segment featuring the Dolins and their winery and distillery will be announced at a later time.

Word is spreading in high circles about the Don Quixote Distillery & Winery. The Martha Stewart Living radio show featured Don Quixote Blue Corn Vodka and the Dolin’s Spirit of Santa Fe Gin on a Feb. 4 broadcast.