Drinks Made Responsibly

Two locals produce vino and vodka, both, coincidentally, in Oregon, with the best intentions.

A 77-year-old real-estate developer and a 25-year-old former financial adviser walk into a bar and come out quenching other people’s thirsts.

That ain’t no joke. These two Central Floridians stepped off the hard-core business path to form new companies producing alcoholic beverages, using environmentally conscious methods and with approaches that can only be called hands-on.

John McClintock is the real-estate developer. After retiring from a 40-year career in Orlando, he and his wife, Nancy, found a 20-acre piece of land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1995, replete with iron-rich soil and an old farmhouse.

“We knew we wanted to grow … something,” McClintock says. Sheep, filberts and Christmas trees all made an appearance before the newly burgeoning local wine industry caught their eye and they began planting vines, by hand.

Acquiring more land over the years, the McClintocks now cultivate 42 sustainably grown acres, known as Vista Hills Vineyard & Winery (vistahillsvineyard.com). The grapes are bottled by a select number of neighboring wineries, then sold under seven Vista Hills labels, which can be found on the menu at Del Frisco’s in Orlando, Journeys in Longwood, and Cork and Olive in Lake Mary, among other places.

Funded by 10 percent of the wine’s profits, the Clint Foundation was started at Flagler College in St. Augustine in 1995. It is aimed at helping students working their way through college, and has grown to include 12 schools in eight states, including Stetson University, Valencia Community College and Rollins College.

“The best thing we can do as a family,” says McClintock, “is to help students who couldn’t have an education otherwise.”

Joseph Monti, director of foundation relations at Rollins, says that the college’s 10-year relationship with the foundation has produced an eight-week summer research program in all disciplines. “Rollins has invested $81,000 in the program this year,” Monti says. For each dollar provided by the foundation, each school is asked to contribute three, which then becomes a fund matched by the working student. In total, the foundation provides money to more than 200 students a year, throughout the country.

“They have to make a pledge to give back,” McClintock says. “They pay it back by helping. If you’re given more than other people, you have the responsibility to give back more.”

The McClintocks spend half the year in Oregon, half in DeLand. Their daughter Cristy McDaniel and her husband, David, live in Longwood and own Integra Land Co., based in Lake Mary. The McDaniels joined the family wine business eight years ago (“I sign the checks,” Cristy says), and spend as much time as they can at the vineyards, along with their four children.

“It’s a bigger picture than just making wine,” David McDaniel says. “Our bottle labels are made from our own family pictures. They speak to what we’re trying to do, sharing our values, taking care of the land and helping others.”

While wine owes its existence to nature—rain and temperature can make or ruin a vintage—vodka is a product of science. A grape can take six months of nurturing from flower to bottle. Vodka, the Russian “water of life,” has a two-week life cycle of distillation and infusion. But a short turnaround doesn’t make Matt Anderson’s job any easier.

“I’m 25 years old,” Anderson says cheerily, “and I own a vodka company.” The Winter Park native calls his endeavor Enlightened Grain Spirits (egspirits.com), named for the sustainably grown ingredients and his business philosophy. It’s taken more than two years for his experiments in mixology to become viable products.

After earning degrees in international finance and economics from Rollins, Anderson became an investment planner, a role that eventually bored him enough to change careers.

“I’ve always loved being in a kitchen,” he says. Harking back to his college jobs at Brio and Primo, he went after a job at Chez Vincent, the French restaurant in Winter Park owned by Vincent Gagliano. “I was an unpaid chef. Then when Vincent opened Hannibal’s, I became bartender, where I experimented with infusing vodka.”

Taking a cue from traditional French ingredients, Anderson blended rosemary and lavender into alcohol, which became Inspiration, EGS’s first product. Launched in March 2010, the vodka is served (and sold) in many local restaurants, including Fleming’s, Park Plaza Gardens, The Ravenous Pig and, of course, Hannibal’s, and distribution is being set up in other cities.

While many of the big players—Grey Goose, Absolut, Ketel One—use artificial flavors, Anderson steeps organic botanicals into alcohol made from Pacific wheat, producing a robust and fragrant Russian-style spirit. Like Vista Hill’s wines, Anderson’s vodka is produced in Oregon, in the hotbed of boutique distillers that call Portland home. Next up are spirits flavored with Earl Grey tea and sage, and curry and saffron.

The young polymath—among other things, Anderson is an accomplished trumpet player—has plans for the money made from his products. “I want to be an environmentally conscious and humanitarian force in many fields,” he says, and talks about teaching high-tech sustainable concepts like dynaponics to future generations of urban farmers.

In their journeys from mainstream business to pleasurable craft, both Anderson and McClintock have found new, sustainable passions. And that’s worth raising a glass or two.

Categories: Dining