It is rare for us to highlight a single location in a post. We have really only done this with the major airports that we support and the Tryon International Equestrian Center; all of which are large establishments that have wide regional interests. We generally tend to describe regions and then get into the specifics within that region having never singularly dedicated an individual shop to a single post. After today, however, that changes because today we are doing just that with a post about the artisanal liqueurs and spirits of Vicario.
What is Vicario?
This could also be “Who is Vicario?” as there are two answers to this question:
Vicario the product would be the answer to the “What is Vicario?” question. The product is a collection of wines, spirits, liqueurs, and olive oils that will, and I am not exaggerating, blow your mind. The products are crafted by Renato Vicario (the who, but more on him later) and his wife Jannette Wesley. Together they manage two farms, one in Villa Sant’Andrea (near Cortona) and the other in Greer, SC (USA), that produce the organically farmed ingredients that go into making the products that are available under the Vicario label. While all of the products are not currently available at the Greer location, all of their liqueurs and spirits are available there to sample and purchase. The Greer location is also where they craft their liqueurs that are based on ancient recipes using rare fruits, herbs, bitters, and botanicals using age old traditions.
The man behind the Vicario label is none other than Renato Vicario. Renato, in my opinion, is more interesting than the Dos Equis “The World’s Most Interesting Man“. The Dos Equis guy just drinks beer. Renato, on the other hand, is a wine maker, liqueur maker, taste educator, author, Sommelier, Compagnon de Bordeaux, and Oenologist. He is fluent in many languages including a few ancient languages. He was raised in the Piedmont (Piemonte) region of Italy but has traveled and lived all over the world. Renato loves life and good food. His passion for what he does and his love of life is infectious. Any opportunity to meet Renato and hear what he has to say is a real treat and shouldn’t be missed.
There is one more “who” to point out. Jannette Wesley, Renato’s wife, is as much of the Vicario experience as Renato and she is always there to help and participate with tours, product sales, and the tastings. She is also a very established artist and her artwork is featured on all of the bottles of the spirits and liquors.
Now that you know what and who Vicario is, you should be wanting to visit Vicario and have an experience at their farm and tasting room. Fortunately that is a possibility as their location in Greer is open to the public and available to visit for tastings and/or a tour of the facility. While you could just stop by during their normal business hours to purchase product or have a simple tasting, the tour is where the magic happens and we highly recommend experiencing that.
So what is so special about “the tour“? For starters, Renato himself is usually the person that delivers the tour. That alone makes it special. But wait there is more! It is the way that Renato delivers the tour that is really special…
Renato starts by first connecting you to the ground…Literally. The tour begins out back where they have a small farm and are growing herbs, bitters, and plants you probably have never heard of, seen, or tasted. There will likely be some variations on some familiar plants but the specific varietals are likely going to be new to you. Renato connects you to the earth by showing you all of these plants and letting you touch and sample everything that is in season. Your taste buds are going to be saying “Wow!” and your sense of smell will be overwhelmed with new and interesting scents. The flavors can be intense which is great as you are building a sensory memory of a lot of these items that will come in handy in a little bit when you begin to taste the end product.
After spending some time outdoors in the farm and greenhouse, you are taken inside the warehouse where you are shown where everything is mixed and bottled. Renato shows you the process he uses for extracting the flavors he uses for the various spirits and liquors that he mixes. During this entire process Renato is also answering questions as people are curious and intrigued and usually have a lot of them.
Right next to the warehouse you go into the room where Renato dries everything and stores many of the herbs and bitters that he imports from his farm in Italy. Not everything that he uses will grow successfully in Greer so he imports some of the ingredients. This room is amazing. Immediately you are treated to scents you have never experienced before. It is also a visual treat too as there are usually numerous plants hanging to dry, jars of various herbs, and bins filled with various reagents. This is really a room that defies explanation and you really have to experience it to understand/appreciate it. Let’s just say that everything you have smelled, tasted, felt, learned, and experienced up to this point comes to a pinnacle in this room. The way Renato leads and builds everything up to the eventual tasting of everything is amazing.
Now you go into the tasting room where you sit down in a very elegant room with an array of tasting glasses in front of you filled with various Vicario spirits and liquors. Renato will personally guide you through each individual glass which will put your senses on a complete rollercoaster ride. You will connect various smells and tastes back to some of the herbs and plants that Renato exposed you to when you were outside in the garden. For each glass Renato will tell you what he was trying to achieve with that particular blend. It is a rare opportunity that you get to sit down with the artist and have them walk you through their creative process but that is exactly what you get to do here. It truly is a unique and amazing experience that, if you are into spirits and liquors, you need to experience for yourself at some point. This tour and tasting is so unique because it literally engages all of the senses of touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste; culminating in a one of a kind tour and tasting experience.
The icing on the cake with this whole experience is that Renato and his wife Jannette are super nice, genuine people. Meeting such wonderful people that are following their passion and running such a unique establishment is what makes a trip to Vicario beyond special.
Vicario is located at:
840 State Rd S-42-653
Greer, SC 29651
They typically open during normal business hours Tuesday – Saturday. If you would like a tour like we described above you would need to call them to schedule it. You could also use Van in Black and have us provide transportation for you as well as coordinate your visit with Vicario. This would let everyone in your party experience Vicario without the worry of having to drive afterwards. Van in Black provides door-to-door service with your visit to Vicario and we would coordinate everything with them. All you need to do is contact us, book your spirits tour, and we will take it from there. Whether you use us or not, you need to put Vicario on your list of must-see places in the Greenville area!
Allow approximately three hours for a tour and tasting at Vicario. The tour can be a “one off” on its own as a half day tour or could be combined with a full day spirits tour or added to a brewery and/or vineyard tour. Van In Black specializes in custom tours so the day is all about you and accomplishing your goals. We work with you to build an itinerary specific to your group.
If you have been to Vicario, or go there as a result of reading this post, please leave us a comment below and let us know about your experience.