A Solvang vinegar company captured one gold, two silver and one bronze medal in the sixth annual Central Coast Vinegar Competition, according to official results.

Broken Clock Vinegar Works took home the awards following the June 20 blind-tasting of the vinegars entered in the California Mid-State Fair competition in Paso Robles, and a vinegar the company made for another Santa Barbara County business also won a silver medal.

The gold medal was awarded for Broken Clock’s lemon and golden beet vinegar; silver medals were earned by the company’s prickly pear and blackberry and prickly pear and raspberry vinegars; and the bronze went to the prickly pear and pineapple vinegar, according to the results.

“I was going to the [competition] website every day looking for results,” said Charles Williams, who owns Broken Clock with wife Jody. “I was like a kid waiting for Christmas.

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“It was definitely a good day for us,” he said of the day the results appeared, noting Broken Clock also made the blueberry vinegar that won a silver medal for Santa Barbara Blueberries in Gaviota.

“So we were really pleased with that as well,” he said.

The vinegar competition’s panel of judges was led by Chief Judge Tim McDonald of Wine & Spirits Spoken Here.

“This year’s vinegar entries were the most diverse and best to date,” McDonald said. “I look forward to see how next year can top it because these vinegars were hard to beat.”

Broken Clock’s vinegars were up against entries from all over the United States, and only three double gold, four gold, five silver and three bronze medals were awarded.

The irony of shrubs, the newest cocktail trend to hit the Central Coast, is that there is nothing new about them at all. 

What’s even more impressive is that Broken Clock’s first culinary vinegars were just released June 1.

The Williamses have spent the last 15 years in the wine industry and, with Charles' parents, owned Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang for the past 11 years.

He said they decided to try making vinegars after going to a bar that served a shrub cocktail.

“We like trying different things,” he said. “After we started home, we realized we have this big vegetable garden, and we could do this. … We started producing vinegar for shrubs and learning more and more.”

Part of that learning was also unlearning.

“In making wine, the last thing you want is for it to turn to vinegar,” Williams said. “This is just the opposite. There was a lot of trial and error. But that makes it exciting.”

Williams explained the “shrubs” contain vinegar that’s added as an ingredient, while the vinegars consist of just one or two locally grown fruits fermented together, acidified and diluted with water.

Once fermentation is complete, the product — essentially fruit wine — is transferred to the shrub room where “mother of vinegar” is added and the process of turning wine to vinegar begins.

“‘Mother vinegar’ is a base of enzymes and bacteria that converts the alcohol into vinegar,” Williams said. “It lives in the top of vinegar. But we did propagate our own. Vinegar mother is to vinegar as yeast is to wine.”

It takes 60 to 90 days from fermentation to vinegar, which is then aged in neutral oak barrels and various tanks to complete the acidification process. Once it’s deemed ready, water is added to bring it to 5 percent acidity and its bottled, raw and unfiltered with the mother.

In addition to Broken Clock’s award winners, other flavors include lemon and mint, blueberry and lemongrass, raspberry and mint, hopped mango, strawberry and ginger, and persimmon. Apricot might be next.

Williams said their drinking vinegars can be enjoyed straight, with a dash of a variety of spirits or in sparkling water, and they can be tasted at Wandering Dog Wine Bar without an appointment.

“It’s amazing how many people come in and do shots of vinegar,” Williams said.

Tastings are by appointment at The Shrubbery, where the vinegars are made, at 1210 Mission Drive, Suite 103 in Solvang.

Appointments are available by calling 805-245-7389 and on the website at www.brokenclockvinegarworks.com.

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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.

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