Local food artisans win gold medals

Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery, Lillie Belle Farms recognized at Good Food Awards
Diane Paulson, president and co-owner of Cascade Peak Spirits in Ashland, demonstrates the bottling process of the companyís organic vodka.Jamie Lusch

Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery and Lillie Belle Farms chocolate were among the 15 Oregon artisans to bring home gold medals from the third annual Good Food Awards in San Francisco.

The competition drew 1,366 entries with 114 medals awarded in late January during the celebration of the local food movement. Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery earned its second gold medal for its Organic Nation gin and vodka.

Diane Paulson, Cascade Peak Spirits co-founder, said the award is in part a recognition of the growing number of small distillers who have come into the market to take on some of giant names in the alcohol industry.

"As the craft spirits movement continues to grow, we will be able to share more space on the shelves with the large liquor corporations, giving consumers a responsible and palatable choice," said Paulson.

The Ashland distiller was among a handful of organic entries in the market six years ago. Today there are more than 300 micro-distilleries buying raw ingredients from farmers in their regions.

Paulson has put together a group of 25 investors as the organization has upped its distribution, but so far Cascade Peak Spirits Distillery's distribution has mainly been along the West Coast with a smattering of points in Asia and Scandinavia.

This month, however, it will extend its reach into New York, having signed a distributor in the financial hub of the country.

"Those people get it and are willing to pay for something that's organic," Paulson said. "Some people consider it frivolous, but they (the distributors) have got the interest and money."

Paulson said distribution will move into Tennessee in May.

"The advantage is that we can triple our case sales — up to 100 cases per month — pushing us into profitability," she said.

Lillie Belle's winning entry was in the confection category, rather than chocolate. The Central Point company's "The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER!!!" lived up to its billing. The hand-made praline with feuillitine wafers and fleur de sel sea salt has caramelized almonds and hazelnuts stone ground into a butter that's blended with organic milk chocolate, feuillitine cookies and "a generous splash of Fleur de Sel."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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