Miles Karakasevic has lived on the top of Spring Mountain for 17 years. Sometimes he accepts a job as a consultant, and then he will drive down into Napa Valley 2,300 feet below and make a Chardonnay or a vermouth or a brandy for someone else, but mostly he stays at home tending his own winery and distillery, Domaine Charbay. He has been known to go for three weeks or more without leaving the mountaintop. In these periods of reclusiveness, he does not see anyone but Domaine Charbay's three other employees: Susan, his wife, Laura, their daughter, and Marko, their son. Marko reveres his father but does not share his love of lofty isolation: "I'm like, 'Wow, Dad. I'm going away for a little while. See you later."
Miles was born in 1941 in what was then Yugoslavia. Marko has lived in California for all of his 26 years. Yet as business partners, the eccentric émigré father and his gregarious American son are ideally matched. For nearly two decades Miles has been quietly making extraordinary spirits that range from grappa to persimmon liqueur, but the world has rarely been given the chance to enjoy his work. Now that Marko is doing the family's publicity and marketing, along with much of the distilling, that is about to change.
Domaine Charbay is one of a small but growing number of independent little distilleries. Like the microbrewers of the past decade who rebelled against mass-produced beer, these microdistillers are turning out re-markable drinks in both age-old styles and innovative new ones. As with microbrews, not all the products of small distilleries are first-rate, but a handful of honest-to-God artisans are making things that have the power to alter our expectations of what great spirits should taste like. This is the case with Domaine Charbay's new line of flavored vodkas.