High-spirited Escondido couple’s craft vodka finds its niche among giants

Bella Mar vodka is making its mark across California.

Spirit is where it’s at for Southeast Escondido couple Kerstyn and Michael Zepeda. Spirit as in enthusiasm for an unique product that has turned their business into the headwinds of an up-and-coming lifestyle.

Featured recently at the 13th Annual Coeur de Cuisine benefit at California Center for the Arts, Escondido, the Zepeda’s recently launched Bella Mar Spirits vodka went down smoothly with the gala set. So popular were the specialty GMO-free vodkas, they took home the People’s Choice Favorite Distillery Award at the annual ultimate foodie and drinkie event.

It’s a labor of love for the couple who married in 2014 and bought their first home in Escondido last July.

Michael Zepeda is co-founder, VP of sale and customer experience with a decade of sales experience under his belt. Kerstyn had a successful real estate asset manager career along with an MBA before taking her turn as co-founder and chief financial officer for the venture they christened in October after Michael suggested they combine their business expertise into a family affair.

“We began the early stages of Bella Mar Spirits because we saw a niche in the marketplace for all-natural, infused vodkas with no fillers,” Kerstyn Zepeda said. “While Michael has experience in bar management, we were newcomers to the distilled spirits industry.

“By combining my extensive business skills with his expert sales skills and a lot of research and development, we were confident when we launched Bella Mar Spirits vodkas that we had great American-made products that the distilled spirits marketplace was lacking,” Zepeda added.

Kerstyn and Michael Cepeda show up and show off their all-natural craft spirits.

Kerstyn and Michael Zepeda show up and show off their all-natural craft spirits.

While not easy, the venture has been rewarding. The Zepeda spirt when it comes to all-natural spirits has proven contagious.

“We are competing with the giants, but have focused on making lasting impressions and driving our story and brand to land accounts,” Kerstyn Zepeda said. “Bella Mar Spirits’ presence is growing within San Diego and Southern California.”

A boutique effort in the world of distilling giants, Bella Mar offers an ultra premium vodka along with orange basil vodka and sweet lime vodka distilled courtesy of Fallbrook limes. Last month they hit the Strip as in Las Vegas with a popular exhibit at the Nightclub and Bar Show, one of the largest trade shows for hospitality professionals and distilled spirits vendors in the world.

Bella Mar bottles its blends at Bend, Oregon, continuing to look for local locations to continue, and expand, the spirited product line. The spirits have got great taste, and even better, they’ve got that all-important natural cachet.

“We are extremely proud of the GMO-free, gluten-free, all-natural vodka products we produce,” Michael Zepeda said, “and are grateful as to the incredible acceptance our products have received in the marketplace. We are making strategic, confident steps in growing our market share and social presence.”

Part of that strategic spirit is identifying a niche that can be filled. The Zepedas have two secret weapons in their distilled arsenal. Firstly, they are attempting to appeal to women with delicious, interesting and unique flavors in what has been a male-dominated industry.

That’s a focus enhanced by their use of the finest natural products to make and infuse distilled spirits. This develops the true character rather than just using sugar-rich juices or chemically produced flavors, according to the dynamic duo.

Bella Mar spirits recently won the 13th Annual Coeur de Cuisine benefit at California Center for the Arts, Escondido People’s Choice Favorite Distillery Award.

Bella Mar spirits recently won the 13th Annual Coeur de Cuisine benefit at California Center for the Arts, Escondido People’s Choice Favorite Distillery Award.

Boutique, craft spirits are on the rise, according to the Zepedas, with many great distilleries in San Diego and Los Angeles. Craft vodkas, in fact, have become the major vodka growth segment since 2014, according to beverage industry analysts. Craft vodka continues on an upward trend even as the overall vodka market has declined slightly.

However, much of the craft vodka growth has come from international distillers. The Zepedas have brought this growth industry back home to the U S.A. and found an appreciative market, especially among the millennial generation looking for new twists on old tales.

“People today are much more aware of the products they consume and also more conscious of what they choose to buy,” Kerstyn Zepeda said. “We found that our consumers appreciate knowing our story and the creation of the brand. We are the ones who go out and promote our products and that really resonates positively with those whom we interact.”

Onward and upward then in the wonderful world of boutique spirits for the Escondido couple.

“We are excited about the successful progress of Bella Mar Spirits and are looking forward to an incredible future,” Kerstyn Zepeda said.

Locally, Bella Mar spirits can be found at One Stop Liquor, 873 S Escondido Blvd. and Holiday Wine Cellar, 302 West Mission Ave. at Escondido and Highway Liquor at 630 Nordahl Drive, San Marcos.

For more information, visit http://bellamarspirits.com/home/ or call (323) 432-0640.

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