Local winery, distillery to turn excess wine into hand sanitizer

Early-season grapes in the vineyards of the Winery at Versailles. 2013 staff file photo by Mark Fisher

Winery at Versailles and Belle of Dayton collaboration will benefit health-care workers, first responders

The owner of a winery in Darke County is joining forces with the owners of a distillery in Dayton to turn a thousand gallons or so of excess wine into hand sanitizer.

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Mike Williams, co-owner of The Winery at Versailles with his wife Carol, said he had some wines that would have required some additional fine-tuning in the cellars before release. Since his tasting room is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, chances are his bottle sales are going to be lighter than usual in the coming months (the winery still sells wines for carryout and can deliver in Ohio).

Williams came up with an idea: why not distill the wine into the primary ingredient of a product in great need — hand sanitizer?

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Wineries are not permitted to produce high-proof alcohol, so Williams began reaching out to distilleries in the region about the idea.

When he called Mike LaSelle, co-founder of Belle of Dayton distillery, he found his match. LaSelle even arranged to come pick up the wine and transport it to Dayton for distilling, a process that will take a Belle of Dayton crew four days of working 12 to 14 hours a day to complete, LaSelle said.

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The Belle of Dayton founders announced March 22 that they were going to begin producing hand sanitizer, to be either donated to first responders and hospitals, or, if there are enough ingredients and packaging available, to be distributed to the public for donations.

Williams said the Winery at Versailles will get about one-third of the finished hand sanitizer product.

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“We will give it away,” Williams said. “We’re contacting front-line health care organizations and first responders to find out who has a need for it.”

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Reports have emerged from across the country in recent days of distilleries using ethanol they produce to make germ-killing hand sanitizer in a time of a pandemic.

Mike and Carol Williams’ son, Jamie, is also providing wines to be distilled into alcohol/hand sanitizer from the family’s other winery in Pennsylvania, The Winery at Wilcox.

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