36 Colorful Years

A Family Story

For 36 years, Charbay has been producing small releases of handcrafted spirits, wines, ports, aperitifs & liqueurs in Northern California.
Our family is committed to offering the finest spirits made in the true spirit of American creativity, while grounded in 13 generations of old world European knowledge. We are proud to say, there is no other family in the United States that can claim to hand-producing the scope of handcrafted wines & spirits than that of Charbay.

Founder, Milorad (Miles) Karakasevic, traces his family winemaking & distilling heritage over 250 years to 1751 in former-Yugoslavia. After receiving both formal and classical apprenticeship training, Miles arrived in North America at the age of 21. Through the years, he and our family have created an American legacy of consistent quality... and consistent surprises.

Miles Karakasevic became the United States’ only (at that time) Grand Master Distiller in 2010. The title of Grand Master Distiller is granted to a Distiller who has distilled all four of the major spirits categories: Brandy, Whiskey, Rum and Tequila. Since Tequila must be distilled in Mexico, this is an extremely rare pinnacle for an artisan distiller to reach.

Marko, Miles’ son, following a 26-year classical European apprenticeship with his father, is the family’s 13th generation to carry on the tradition of winemaking & distilling. Marko’s vision ignited Charbay Vodka and Charbay Whiskey. In 2009, Marko formally became a Master Distiller using the classical definition: he was recognized as having “equaled or bettered the skill of his Teacher, his father.”

Marko’s thesis was Doubled & Twisted Light Whiskey (inspired by watching the still for many hours: when the spirit comes out of the still at a certain proof, the stream doubles & twists around itself), distilled from bottle-ready beer.

Our family promises to carry on the tradition of the finest quality of artisan wines & spirits, always pushing the creative edge and accenting the ingredients we work with. We hope you enjoy the Charbay story and will stay in touch for years to come.

Creativity and passion are grounded with a powerful professional background.

Creativity and passion are grounded with a powerful professional background.

THE EVOLUTION OF A MASTER DISTILLER Miles Karakasevic, 12th Generation Winemaker & Master Distiller

The title of Master Distiller is granted by a teaching master to an accomplished apprentice who has matched or bettered the skill level of the teacher. The title of Grand Master Distiller is granted to a Distiller who has hands-on distilled all four of the major spirits categories: Brandy, Whiskey, Rum and Tequila. Since Tequila must be distilled in Mexico, this is an extremely rare pinnacle for an artisan distiller to reach.

Be sure to visit CharbayWinery.com to learn about Charbay's collection of wines, aperitifs and ports made in Napa Valley.


  • 1751

    Vienna, Austria

    The House of Karakasevic (Karakash) is recognized by the Austrian-Hungarian imperial court of Empress Maria Theresa. The family makes wines and brandies.
  • 1954

    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia

    In the foothills above the Danube, Miles Karakasevic enters his family's 300-year-old profession
  • 1956

    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia

    He follows in the footsteps of 11 generations of his family and earns his title as Master Distiller.
  • 1962


    Miles receives his degree in Enology and Viticulture from the University of Belgrade.
  • 1952

    Quebec City, Canada

    He begins his life in the "New World." Miles enters the United States as a professional winemaker in Michigan (1968). Miles becomes Asst. Winemaster at Beringer in Napa Valley (1972).
  • 1983

    Ukiah, California

    The Karakasevic Family begins distilling and making wine under their own winery name of Domaine Karakash. The first products are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Alambic Methode Charentais Brandy in the classic Cognac style.
  • 1986

    Ukiah, California

    The Karakasevic Family purchases their own Alambic Pot Still from Cognac. They carry on the Brandy distilling program as well as custom distilling. Following the Charentais method of double distilling, their Brandy goes into French oak barrels and is set aside to age.
  • 1987

    Mendocino, California

    At Winesong Festival, the Karakasevic family releases CHARBAY, the world's only Dessert Chardonnay. It is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay laced with hand-distilled Methode Charentais Brandy Liqueur.
  • 1988

    Mendocino, California

    The family distills Apple Brandy in a Calvados style. Will be called Calvad’or.
  • 1991

    St. Helena, California

    The Karakasevic family changes the business name to Domaine CHARBAY; the United States' first and only family owned and operated Winery and Alambic Charentais Distillery.
  • 1992

    St. Helena, California

    The Karakasevic Family releases a line of handcrafted spirits, including Nostalgie (Black Walnut Liqueur), Grappa di Marko and Calvad'or (California Apple Brandy). All are Single Barrel Releases. A select amount from each new barrel is bottled in a hand-blown glass flask and packed in a wooden box. Sold locally, they found their way in to San Francisco’s finest restaurants. They distill a small amount of Pear Brandy.
  • 1993

    St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
    Home Base since 1972

    Miles, Marko & Susan Karakasevic build the Winery and Distillery beside their home on Spring Mountain, their home since 1972. Miles designs a new 25 gallon copper Pot-Still. It is the first true cognac style pot still to be made in the U.S. The family now distills with this still and their original 660 gallon French-made Alambic Pot-Still in Mendocino County. Visitors learn about distilling beside a 660 gallon Pruhlo still.
  • 1994

    After three years of work, (including two years of pursuing Washington's BATF bureaucratic permits) PACHANGA Sunroot Spirit is released. Distilled from Sunroots, tubers of the perennial sunflower indigenous to America, it is the very first original American Spirit. Pachanga is also the newest primal spirit to be distilled the world in almost 200 years (the last one was Tequila). It is the inspiration of Miles & his American Spirit.
  • 1995

    Marko joins Charbay full time. This is when the line-up of Charbay products and the Charbay reputation begins to grow since Marko is a tireless promoter.
  • 1996

    The Karakasevic Family Releases their first barrel of Distillers' Port, made with late harvest Cabernet Sauvignon and five of their own hand-distilled spirits. It is a salute to Miles' son, Marko, who now has proven he will carry on the family heritage as the 13th continuous Generation in the line of the Karakasevic family Winemakers & Distillers.
  • 1997

    Miles designs and builds a new Still for the distillation of essential oils, which will be used in his future production of perfumes.
  • 1998

    Miles and Marko send in the formulas for California's first Pastis and three flavored Vodkas made with whole fruit. Miles also creates a new California Vermouth from botanicals for Duckhorn Vineyards. Miles goes to the International Perfume Conference in France to further his research for distilling perfume & essential oils. September 1998: Domaine CHARBAY releases Blood Orange Flavored Vodka, Meyer Lemon Flavored Vodka, and California's first-ever Pastis (complete with traditional water decanter).
  • 1999

    Miles and Marko distill CHARBAY Whiskey – a breakthrough in the whiskey industry, it’s distilled from bottle-ready beer! Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka and Key Lime Vodka are released. Marko takes his Vodkas national. The 13th generation has made its mark.
  • 2000

    Limited amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Port are made. Miles continues to work on new spirits.
  • 2001

    Miles and Marko install a bottling line for 100 ML bottles for spirits. This opens a new gift line for the spirits as they are packed in four packs.
  • 2002

    What a year…CHARBAY Whiskey, CHARBAY Clear Vodka, CHARBAY Fresh Fruit Vodka in cute 100mls and CHARBAY Pastis (Release Two)
  • 2003

    The adventure of the year: Miles and Marko decided it was time to distill CHARBAY Rum and CHARBAY Tahitian Vanilla Bean Rum. Too busy to celebrate 20th anniversary
  • 2004

    CHARBAY Rum was released. It earned instant recognition as one of the Top 15 Rums of Consequence and various other awards. Marko was called American’s own Vodka Visionary. Miles, meanwhile, was already moving on…
  • 2005

    As ever, on the cutting edge of flavors…CHARBAY Green Tea Vodka and Red Raspberry Vodka were released.
  • 2006

    This year saw the launch of CHARBAY Pomegranate Vodka, as well as the luscious 2003 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 CHARBAY Rosé. Many trips to Tequila – research has started.
  • 2007

    CHARBAY soft launches ultra-premium Ready-to-Drink Aperitifs (Green Tea + Pomegranate)
  • 2009

    Charbay Releases CHARBAY Tequila Blanco. Distilled in Arandas, Mexico by Miles & Marko. This was the culmination of a friendship between distillers as artisans. In the end, both distilleries shared openly distilling techniques. Tapatio Distiller Carlos Camarena felt his Tequila stepped up a notch as he incorporated the changes. Miles is still amazed at how complex the distillation of Tequila is. The shared respect launched the future of perhaps Charbay importing to the U.S. Tequila Tapatio, Carlos’ 75 year old family brand that is loved across Mexico. In December Marko becomes a Master Distiller with the release of his Doubled & Twisted Light Whiskey. He was to source, distill and bring to market his own spirit that is equal to or better then what he has distilled under his master/father. It’s a very flavorful whiskey. Miles gave him the bear hug and said, “Let’s drink”.
  • 2010

    Charbay Brandy N0. 83 - Alambic Pot Still Brandy - released on Nov. 8. Long awaited, it is bottled in 750 & 375 size bottles. 100% Folle Blanche, distilled in 1983 by Miles & Susan. November 8, 2010 – On this day, Miles Karakasevic became a Grand Master Distiller. He has sourced, distilled hands-on and marketed under his own brand all four of the main spirits categories: Brandy, Whiskey, Rum and Tequila. All are artisan quality and available through the family business or through Charter restaurants and stores. This is also the day Miles landed on North America as well as his family’s Saint’s Day, a traditional going back several generations for the Karakasevic family. We don’t know of any other distiller who has distilled all four of the spirits groups. 2010 December - Hard frosts. Just learned they did not affect our citrus crops for upcoming fresh fruit flavored vodkas. Marko will be busy making the 2011 vodka batches with great fresh fruit.
  • 2011

    2006 Syrah, 2006 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Chardonnay released. A busy year for our tasting room! Marko goes back to the Stills to distill Stout Whiskey. Generation XIV was born – Milorad (Miles) Harvey Karakasevic.
  • 2012

    Tequila Tapatio Blanco arrives in the U.S. (CHARBAY Distillers, U.S. Importer). Whiskey R5 (Aged & Clear) and ‘S’ are released in June – distilled from Racer 5 and Stout Beer from Bear Republic Brewery. Miles honored with his first ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award by the US Bartenders Guild – SF Chapter.
  • 2013

    Our 30th Anniversary. Celebrating the start of the American artisan spirits movement. R5 Whiskey receives the Good Food Award. Tequila Tapatio’s Reposado, Añejo and Blanco 110 arrive. New releases: Our ‘Alambic Collection’: Whiskey Release III, R5 Whiskey, ‘S’ Whiskey, Distillers’ Port & Still House Port, Brandy No. 89…Whew! And when we thought we were done (early December), we received 100 rare cases of Tequila Tapatio Excelencia!
  • 2014

    Marko moves to Ukiah to be at the Still full-time. R5 Whiskey (Lot No. 3) summer release. New website. Custom bottle designed by Miles for the vodkas. Aged Rum (10 years old) released for Holidays, alongside a second 100-case allocation of Tequila Tapatio’s Excelencia. (Will it become a tradition?)
  • 2015

    2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) is released to rave reviews of club members and customers. Whiskey IV (1999 Pilsner Collection) is released and sells out in 2 days! 1987 White Port is re-released and Marko was distilling for nearly six months of the year. The next batch of Pilsner Whiskey was distilled and barreled for future releases.
  • 2016

    2005 Double-Aged Rum is packaged and released. Whiskey V (1999 Pilsner Collection) is released, completely sold out to a wait list. Talks of Charbay Bourbon have begun! Ivan Fletcher Karakasevic, generation 14, second son to Marko and Jenni, is born.
  • 2017

    Charbay evolves into two companies: Charbay Distillery is purchased by Marko and Jenni, while Domaine Charbay Winery & Brandy Distillery is carried on by Miles and Susan.