Colorado couple dives into vodka business
August 24, 2004
SUMMIT COUNTY – Tourists looking for a local choice at area bars this winter will be able to choose from the many popular microbrews and a new spirit, as Colorado vodka begins hitting bar backs across the state.Manitou Springs residents Rob and Gail Stephens introduced their new vodka – made in San José, Calif., with the couple’s recipe, which includes Colorado water – to Colorado’s High Country establishments last week.The product, Colorado Premium Vodka, is available at up to 20 bars, restaurants and liquor stores in Summit County. It is a top-shelf brand that competes with brands like Kettle One and Grey Goose. Vodka comprises about 25 percent of the spirits market in the United States.”The taste is an easy sell because it’s so smooth,” Rob Stephens said.The couple capitalized on one of the state’s most popular scenic vistas – The Maroon Bells – and plastered it on the bottle, a move that is sure to attract tourist interest.The Stephens’ chose the California distillery and bottling plant because a similar service is not available here. “It took us a while to convince them to use our water,” Rob Stephens said.The ingredient that makes the spirit special, according to Stephens, is trucked by B&B Trucking out of Modesto, Calif., from Colorado to the distillery. The product will sell on the top shelf at many bars and costs about $20 per 750 milliliter bottle at stores. The first batch, expected to last until December, is already almost gone, so the couple will make a second batch next month. Marketing another of the state’s popular attractions, each batch will be named after one of the state’s Fourteeners.The product’s distributor is Southern Wine and Spirits. While it is a premium product, Stephens said it is made cheaper here because shipping costs are lower than European-born brands.”If you look at any bar back, it’s all European vodka. Why? Colorado has great water; America has wonderful grains. There’s no reason why we can’t have a great vodka from Colorado,” Stephens said.Long-time restaurateurs, the couple owns the Stagecoach Inn in the Colorado Springs area. They have two children, ages 1 and 4. They are pleased with the reception received last week but seem, if not hung over, then a bit tired of taste tests while selling their product, family in tow, along the Interstate 70 corridor. “We’ve been drinking less and less,” Stephens said. “But we’ve been in the restaurant business many years, so we’re used to being around people who consume.”Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.