Magic in a bottle
The Vya Story
How did Vya become America’s Original Craft Vermouth? The magic started with Andrew Quady long before Vya hit the marketplace.
Before Andrew Quady became a winemaker, he earned his first degree in chemical engineering from Cal Poly, Pamona, and worked in the field of pyrotechnics for military applications. While he was working in pyrotechnics, Andrew and his wife Laurel developed a hobby of cooking their way through Time-Life® cookbook recipes, which also included learning about different wines. The Quadys enjoyed their culinary experiences so much that Andrew decided to study microbiology and quantitative analysis, two prerequisite courses for earning a degree in winemaking. Then one day, there was an explosion that changed the Quadys’ life path trajectory for good …
Andrew was a plant manager and experimental chemist, producing explosives for military countermeasures. One day, a major explosion at the plant involving rockets created such chaos – even drawing attention from the National Guard – that the production plant was shut down and the entire staff was laid off, including Andrew. The Quadys decided this was their moment to make a change and start on a new adventure in winemaking. They scraped together Andrew’s six months of unemployment insurance, their savings, retirement funds and even sold Laurel’s car so they could make it up to UC Davis where Andrew enrolled in the Viticulture and Enology program. Laurel got a job on campus to help support them while Andrew went to school.
Andrew decided to pursue a master’s degree while at UC Davis, earning the prestigious award for Best Paper Published in the Journal of the Society of Viticulture and Enology. After graduating, Andrew and Laurel went on an incredible trip to France. This trip left a lasting impression on the Quadys, where they experienced wineries they read about in their cookbooks, as well as those learned about from professors at UC Davis. And perhaps a foreshadowing of their future with sweet Muscat wine – Andrew and Laurel were quite taken with a wine called Muscat Beaume de Venise while lunching in the city of Orange in the Rhône Valley. Andrew would end up creating a Muscat wine in a similar style – his Essensia – which would later be used in Vya.
Herstory is imPORTant
While working to help support Andrew through his schooling, Laurel took statistics classes on her lunch break to qualify for the Accounting program at CSU Sacramento. She then went on to pass all four parts of the CPA exam on her first try! Andrew got a job for United Vintners in 1976, so the Quadys moved to Madera, California, and purchased their home, which was bonded as a winery, in 1977. Laurel started her own CPA practice in 1979 to help support her growing family and the winery. At the time, Andrew was making Zinfandel Port and Laurel would help pitchfork grapes, clean out tanks and conduct simple lab tests. She continued to run her practice and help at the winery for 20 years before devoting full-time support to Quady Winery’s growth.
By 1980, the Quadys were considering making a sweet white wine like white Port. Around this time, a local farm advisor informed Andrew that there was Orange Muscat growing in a nearby vineyard. Andrew had experience working with this rare varietal from his time at UC Davis, so the Quadys decided that instead of another Port, they’d make a sweet white muscat wine. Andrew combined winemaking methods used for the sweet wines he and Laurel enjoyed in France, including allowing the grape juice to sit on its skins to absorb the rich color and flavor. They called their innovative new wine Essensia because it exudes the very essence of the Orange Muscat grape; upon its release, Essensia opened new premium categories in the American wine industry.
Andrew Quady continued developing innovative Muscat wines throughout the 1980s and 90s, until one day he received a challenge from a friend to create something different. This friend was a San Francisco restaurateur, and one of his restaurants sold a lot of martinis. The only problem was that his customers never wanted vermouth in their martinis. Andrew’s restaurant friend had the idea that if there was a better white vermouth, he could make a better martini and lead people away from the notion that vermouth was not enjoyable. So he challenged his winemaker friend Andrew to come with a vermouth “that actually tastes good.” Always up for a challenge, Andrew accepted.
1997 - 1999
While at UC Davis, Andrew took a course with Professor Maynard Amerine on sensory evaluation, and as part of the course, Professor Amerine introduced his students to the major wine types like Burgundy, Bordeaux, and even vermouth. Amerine presented vermouth as a wine to be consumed by itself on the rocks, just as the Quadys would discover on their trip to France! And since there was no vermouth-centric course at UC Davis at the time, Professor Amerine taught his students how to make vermouth in one lecture, “The Secrets of Italian Vermouth” – a lecture Andrew took copious notes on. He had no idea that one day a friend would challenge him to make a better vermouth, and he would use these notes to make America’s Original Craft Vermouth: Vya.
1997 - 1999
Andrew’s notes from Professor Amerine’s lecture proved quite useful when he set out to make vermouth. How fortuitous he still had them! His notes highlighted many different botanicals, as well as classic vermouth recipes, so Andrew had a foundation for getting started. He spent two years developing the formulas for Vya Sweet and Vya Extra Dry, creating and experimenting with countless concentrated wine mixtures containing different botanicals. Laurel would often arrive home from working at her CPA practice to the house smelling of herbs and Andrew beckoning her to try his latest concoctions!
Rebel with a Cocktail
In winemaking and in business, Andrew Quady has always been a risk taker and a trailblazer. Around the age of 10, he began studying economics. By the time he met Laurel in college, he had three business ventures going, including making custom wetsuits, making small rocket engines for hobby planes, and bussing college students up to Mammoth for day trips. After UC Davis, Andrew and Laurel started a winery focused on sweet wine made from rare and lesser used distinctive varietals; in fact, out of the 4,700 wineries in California, Quady Winery is the only one to specialize in low-alcohol, sweet wines. Walking to his own beat comes instinctively to Andrew, who said, “I thought naturally, if you had an idea for a business, why not pursue it?”
Where did the name Vya come from and what does it stand for? After two years developing the formulas, Andrew Quady needed a name for his new vermouth. Andrew and Laurel had a friend who worked in branding, so they turned to him to collaborate on a name. He pitched the name “Vya;” it was short, catchy and vibed with the word “vermouth.” The Quadys liked Vya, so they trademarked it and christened their new vermouth. Does Vya actually stand for something? Some like to say it means “Vermouth You Asked For.” Others in the bartending community heard rumors of Vya standing for something else …
When Vya was first introduced, Andrew was at a sales meeting for a New York wholesaler. A bottle of Vya Sweet and Vya Extra Dry was given to each salesman, who was instructed to go out and sell vermouth. One of the salesmen had no luck getting any of the buyers he visited to try Vya. He would go into each store and say, “I’ve got something I would like you to try: it’s my vermouth.” And the reply was always, “Put it back in your bag, I don’t drink vermouth.” After being rejected all day, the salesman decided to change his approach, and the next time he entered a liquor store he said, “I’d like you to try my Vya.” And the man behind the counter asked, “What the hell is Vya?” To which the salesman responded, “It’s vermouth you asshole!”
Did You Hear That?
In 2011, 12 years after the launch of Vya Sweet and Vya Extra Dry, Andrew Quady created Vya Whisper Dry. He designed Whisper Dry as a subtler, more delicate version of Extra Dry for using with vodka in particular, and other spirits like gin; a graceful vermouth that soothes the edges of spirits rather than overpowers them. True to his trailblazing nature, Andrew chose to include a botanical that hadn’t been used in vermouth before: needles from a type of fir tree that grows in Maine. He also improved the Extra Dry formula with the addition of these fir needles!
While the Quadys were on their honeymoon trip to France in the early 1970s, they were intrigued by people sipping vermouth – especially sweet vermouth – as an aperitif. Everyone at the cafes was drinking it on the rocks! The cafes even had large umbrellas out front advertising Martini & Rossi Vermouth. So when Andrew created Vya many years later, he designed it to be enjoyed not only as a cocktail ingredient, but as an aperitif to be appreciated like a fine wine – for its flavors, aromas and complexity. The Quady family particularly enjoys mixing Vya Sweet and Vya Extra Dry together in an aperitif they call “El Vermut,” which was served in kegs to a packed tasting room at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, 2014.
The Vya Way
Vya is a made-up word, a creative evolution of the Spanish “via,” meaning “the way” or “the road.” The Vya Way is making your own path, just as Andrew Quady did when challenged to make a better vermouth. While the product in the bottle is unchanged in formulation, the new redesigned packaging reveals the primary herbs and spices in Vya, inviting people to experience the alchemy within. What’s next? Andrew’s daughter Allie is evolving the Vya Way, asking how we can do better for our community and our world. Quady Winery is now Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Association, and so are the Orange Muscat grapes used in Vya. These are just the first steps we’ve set out to take on the road towards our future.
Herbs + Spices + Magic
Vya was designed to be enjoyed like a fine wine: for flavor, aroma and complexity. Learn more about the botanicals that are infused into each vermouth.
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