That’s the spirit: Nevada County’s first locally-crafted spirits make their debut |

That’s the spirit: Nevada County’s first locally-crafted spirits make their debut

South Fork Vodka creators Dan Kennerson (left) and Jon Dorfman discuss some of what goes into making their new vodka brand. Many who have offered blind taste tests say South Fork is among the best vodkas out there, according to the owners.
Elias Funez/

Just a few years ago, Jon Dorfman and his wife Katrina were living the island life.

Katrina’s father, owner of the restaurant Room With A View in the U.S. Virgin Islands, sought his daughter and son-in-law’s help in running his eatery, which was a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Then disaster struck. Hurricanes Irma and Maria plowed through the Caribbean, causing extensive damage to many island structures, including Room With A View. The restaurant was forced to shutter so considerable repairs could get underway before reopening.

From tragedy, Dorfman and his wife decided to move back to his home base in Nevada County. A Nevada Union graduate, Dorfman has a background in science and physics and worked for some years in a local physics research lab. Almost immediately after returning to the area last October, Dorfman reached out to his former colleague from the lab, Dan Kennerson.

The two had forged a deep friendship while working together, where they would daydream about using their scientific knowledge to create quality distilled spirits. Within a month after his return, Dorfman and Kennerson began crafting their first product, a drink called South Fork Vodka.

“We are Nevada County’s first craft spirit company and we intend to bring world-class spirits to the Sierra Nevada foothills,” said Dorfman.

“It’s locally crafted with pristine mountain spring water and we are really proud and excited, and happy to bring this experience to our community. It’s something we have been thinking about for years.”

South Fork has come a long way in its short life, and will be the official spirit of this weekend’s Draft Horse Classic. The vodka will be found at the bar in the Sugar Pine Lodge, as well as in a Bloody Mary bar being co-hosted by Cirino’s Famous Bloody Mary Mix.

All proceeds from the weekend’s sales of South Fork Vodka will be donated to the Nevada County Fair Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission of building a better Nevada County Fairgrounds through fundraising and contributions to the fairgrounds.

Since opening sales last Friday, South Fork can already be found in 15 popular locations in Nevada County. Bottles can be purchased at both SPD Markets locations, and drinks including the vodka can be ordered at places like Cirino’s at Main Street, Lefty’s Grill, Tofanelli’s and Peterson’s Corner.

The distillery doesn’t currently have a tasting room that’s open to the public.

South Fork’s official launch party will take place Sunday at 7 p.m. at Golden Era in Nevada City. Dorfman expects a busy night, especially after being featured at the Draft Horse Classic all weekend.

“It’s a smooth product we are able to create,” said Dorfman. “We will be moving into other spirits down the line as well. We’ve really received a warm welcome from the community.”

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at or 530-477-4231.

Editor’s note: This story was changed to correct the spelling of Jon Dorfman.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.