Nebraska March 03, 2019
Some Of The Finest Vinegar In The World Comes From This Family-Owned Business In Nebraska
You may know the Nebraska Sandhills region for its ranches, its sweeping landscapes, or the breathtaking natural attractions that are like nothing else in the whole state. But there’s another surprise waiting out there in those rolling hills: a family-owned company that produces some of the world’s finest vinegar.
In the little Cherry County village of Cody, George Paul Vinegar uses old-world methods and local produce to create a truly magical product.
It all began in 1999 when George Paul Johnson planted a few grapevines to produce his own wine. The unusual and difficult growing conditions of the Sandhills produce some truly distinctive fruit which, in turn, creates terrifically unique wine. That first batch of wine was so fruity and flavorful that it was just begging to be condensed into gourmet vinegar.
Johnson took a chance and experimented with vinegar making, and the product was an instant success. In 2008, Johnson turned his vinegar-making hobby into a business. He and his family built their energy-efficient strawbale vinegary building themselves, launching a truly family-run operation.
If your only experience with vinegar has been using it to color Easter eggs or clean countertops, you'll be amazed at how different these gourmet vinegars are. Each begins with fresh, Nebraska-grown produce. The apples used here come from Arbor Day Farms and the grapes are via Niobrara Valley Vineyards.
That fresh produce is turned into wine, to which Johnson then introduces the "mother" - a substance that turns alcohol into acetic acid. The vinegarization process can take from a few months to eight years. By way of comparison, most of the white or apple cider vinegars that you'll find in the grocery store are produced in a matter of hours or days.
The slow old-world process means that the vinegars have time to form naturally without losing their characteristic flavors and aromas. They retain the essence of their respective fruits, but also take on a more complex layer of flavor.
Everything at George Paul Vinegar is done in a way that the old master vinegar makers of Italy would recognize. From the initial fermentation to the slow vinegarization to the careful hand-bottling and labeling, each step of the process is deliberate and unhurried.
The end product is like nothing you've ever tasted. These vinegars don't have the sting of those produced as quickly as possible. They're smooth, fruity, and full of character. The distinctive balsamic is on par with any traditional Italian balsamic. And believe it or not, the raspberry vinegar is even delicious as an ice cream topping.
The small, slow, traditional technique makes for a hefty price tag, but it's money well spent. These vinegars are so treasured that some of Nebraska's finest restaurants insist on having them in the kitchen. They're shipped to every state in the country. Recently, Johnson's apple cider vinegar became a vital ingredient in dpHUE's popular ACV rinse.
The family offers tastings and tours at the strawbale vinegary if you call ahead to make arrangements. It's definitely worth the time to visit Nebraska's one and only vinegary.
Interested in learning more? Visit George Paul Vinegar’s
website or Facebook page. If you can’t get to Cody for a tasting, you can order bottles online.
Have you sampled these small-batch gourmet vinegars? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Want to see where these incredible vinegars are produced without ever leaving home? Check out
this article from the archives featuring 22 breathtaking Sandhills photos.