The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC BTA Client:
Robin Touchet and Kevin Pike both have had extremely accomplished careers in the wine and spirits industry but when it came to creating a business plan for their craft gin distillery at Branchwater Farms in Red Hook they recognized they could use some Business Technical Assistance (BTA) from HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program to help craft a business plan for long-term success.
While it still took longer than hoped or anticipated to get the operation up and running. now the fruits of their patience and labor is – crisp and dry with an expertly reserved flavor that lets each ingredient pay its part.
“HVADC helped us get a business plan together but it took five years to find a bank who would do it with us,” said Pike. “It was very stressful. We couldn’t grow more grain because our silos were full.”
Touchet is the Hudson Valley wine representative for Polaner Selections. She worked for the company in New York City until January of 2020, transferring to be closer to home, serendipitously just two months ahead of the pandemic lockdown.
Kevin is a partner in his own wine distribution company called Schatzi Wines. With both of the couple’s backgrounds in the business, their struggle to acquire loans for so long was frustrating and emblematic of the need for lenders to learn more about how they calculate value in agribusiness; where so much of the cost is front loaded. Through Incubator Without Walls, the couple worked with business advisor Brian Zweig to refine the plan to lenders “read.” Pike says they were finally able to get the loan they needed due to the equity that had accrued in their home and farm property while they waited.
With so much experience in the beverage industry it is no surprise that Pike is getting all the details right in the distillation of his fabulous gin and the brandies that are yet to come. He is using a top of the line Christian Carl still from Germany and is making sure every piece of organic matter that goes into the controlled fermentation process doesn’t already have signs or rot. This attention to the fermentation process is critical to Pike as he says it has a huge impact on flavor. They mill all the grain they grow themselves just before they need it, so it starts the fermentation process without having a chance to oxidize and lose flavor. They also use only certified organic botanicals.
“We are trying to build a national brand,” said Pike. “The only way to set yourself apart is quality.”
The attention to detail is working. Branchwater gin tastes elegant in a precise way. The flavor develops like a guided tour of all the aspects that make gin special. Pike knows however that each growing season and harvest will slightly change the flavor profile even if the recipe stays the same, but that seasonality is something he says they are excited to see develop.
Now, with their first retail batch finally off to market, where the couple’s experience all but assures success, Branchwater isn’t resting and Touchet has reached out to HVADC once more for BTA to help build another business plan and look for funding for an expansion to their livestock program currently made up of an Instagram-friendly flock of Muscovy Ducks. Next year, with the help of added fencing and infrastructure she hopes to add goats, chickens and more of the large goose-like ducks to the farm’s growing list of offerings.
“Branchwater Farms has been an exciting project to watch develop and it’s clear from the first sip their product was worth the wait,” said HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson. “We were excited to hear from them again and look forward to getting them the BTA they need to diversify the farm’s activity with more animals.”
To learn more about the types of BTA services available through HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww