Edible Marin & Wine Country

Edible Marin & Wine Country


The Spirit of Epicurus’ Garden is Alive and Well in Sonoma County

“Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher and founder of the school of thought known as “Epicureanism,” referred to his school in Athens as “the garden.” Though his philosophical letters veered into a great many subjects, the main mission of Epicurus’ philosophy was to help people achieve a tranquil life, free of pain and fear, a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

The ideal of leading a simple life, surrounded by friends, enjoying “the garden,” is one of the guiding principles of Sonoma County resident Marshall Dawson, co-founder of Jardesca aperitiva.

Dawson and his business partner, Roger Morrison, launched the Jardesca brand in 2011, having formed a consulting company together in 2006. Each had spent decades in the spirits business, Dawson as a global brand director and Morrison on the agency side. “We both had the idea of the European apéritif moment ingrained in us,” Dawson said.

In many European countries, apéritifs are commonly offered before meals to “open the appetite.” They are lower in alcohol than spirits, and often paired with appetizers. Dawson and Morrison had always liked the idea of this pause, a moment to take a breath, enjoy a conversation and a nibble. “Wonderful moments,” Dawson said.

Morrison lives in Los Angeles and Dawson in Sonoma, so with their combined California sensibility they set out to create something that matched the outdoorsy, ultra-fresh California lifestyle. And something that did not already exist in the U.S. market.

They started tinkering. The partners realized that the idea of an “apéritif” translated differently in the U.S. than in Europe, that it meant something more like a lighter spirited beverage that could be enjoyed during the day—something suited for picnics, for sitting by the pool, for enjoying over brunch. Starts and stops abounded, but the idea of a garden kept returning to the conversation.

First, they wanted to come up with the perfect name for their brand. Would they call their drink Jardin, the French word for garden? How could the idea of freshness be built into the name? “–esca” implied a certain freshness to the partners. Ultimately, they combined the two into Jardesca, a one-of-a-kind brand name that summed up the concept they were after.

By starting with the brand and not the product itself, the Californians’ vision of what the product could be superseded the European apéritif idea, setting Jardesca up as a definitively Californian beverage. To further distinguish Jardesca, Dawson calls it an “aperitiva,” not the more common “aperitivo.” “It is Californian,” Dawson says. “It is different.”

Then it was time to craft a product that lived up to the name. It needed to serve the essential function of an apéritif—or, in this case, aperitiva— to wake up your palate and appetite. For the base, Dawson looked for wines that could be consistent year after year, settling on Viognier. Next, Dawson said he knew he did not want to add traditional bitter flavors, but to focus instead on botanicals. “We didn’t want to cover up incredible California wine, but enhance it and add apéritif qualities.” The additions of pink grapefruit, pink peppercorn and bay laurel were inspired by California.”

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