Publication: The Gazette; Date: Jul 8, 2004; Section: Business; Page Number: 39


Spring gives vodka spirit of the Rockies

Manitou couple provide secret water source for liquor



Vodka is as synonymous with as the hammer and sickle, but now a Manitou Springs couple are launching a Colorado version of the potent drink.

Gail and Rob Stephens, owners of the Stagecoach Inn in Manitou Springs, have formed a company to sell Colorado Premium Vodka, an 80-proof alcoholic beverage that is reaching restaurants and liquor stores this week.

The vodka was distilled in San Jose, Calif. What makes it a Colorado vodka is 6,000 gallons of water trucked from a secret spring somewhere along the Front Range.

“The spring bubbles right out of the ground. We take it there. It requires no treatment other than sediment filtration. Nothing is added to it,” Rob Stephens said.

By law, basic vodka, before any flavor is added, must be colorless, odorless and tasteless. It’s the mountain spring water that gives Colorado Premium Vodka its flavor, the Stephenses say.

To safeguard its purity, the pair won’t pinpoint where the water comes from, only that it began as snowmelt, percolated through sandstone, and bubbles to the surface at a privately owned spring.

Distillery workers blended the water with Midwestern wheat and other grains to make a glistening liquid full of calcium and other minerals.

The vodka was poured into slender bottles imported from France. Corks were set and wrapped by hand, as were the blue necklaces around each bottle’s neck. Labels show the twin peaks of the Maroon Bells peaks framing a lake near Aspen.

Denver-based Southern Wine and Spirits of Colorado distributes the vodka to stores and restaurants. The suggested retail price is about $20 for a 750-milliliter bottle.

“We’ve sold a few bottles. It’s just about in the (price) center of quality vodkas,” said John Meredith, a clerk at Coaltrain Wine and Liquor on West Uintah Street.

The Stephenses labored three years to bring Colorado Premium Vodka to the market. The project grew from a succession of dinners served at the Stagecoach Inn, where foods and wines from foreign countries were paired.

A night of Chilean food yielded an insight: The South American country doesn’t have a dessert wine. The Stephenses thought guests would like infused with the color and flavor of Colorado raspberries. That drink was a hit, and a new business was born, although the raspberry flavoring was dropped from the final recipe.

Gail Stephens is president of Colorado Spirits Corp.; Rob Stephens is vice president. They developed Colorado Premium Vodka with a bank loan and their own money. (Rob and a partner sold the Craftwood Inn last year).

“It’s been a long journey, ”Gail Stephens said.

JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE - GOT VODKA ? Rob and Gail Stephens of Manitou Springs are marketing made with water from a secret spring in Colorado. Colorado Premium Vodka, an 80-proof alcoholic beverage, is reaching restaurants and liquor stores this week.