FRESNO (The Fresno Bee)–Last year, Fresno entrepreneur Arthur Hartunian took the advice of friends and family and turned his love of making lemon-flavored liqueur into a business. And he’s glad he did.
Hartunian, the former owner of a financial-services company, recently won top honors at the World Beverage Competition in Switzerland for his Meyer Lemon Limoncello Liqueur. His micro-distillery, based in the Napa Valley, beat out competitors in the Spirits Division from New Zealand, Germany and the U.S.
“It’s all very surreal, and I don’t think it has fully hit me,” said Hartunian, who runs the small company from Fresno with his wife Lusine.
And the recognition keeps coming.
His hand-crafted liqueur was mentioned recently on the Fox Business News program, Hot Mixology — a show about new cocktails and products.
Hartunian admits he didn’t think his company would take off so quickly.
He planned to produce about 500 cases next year, but a major distributor has asked for 1,500 cases.
He makes two blends of limoncello: an Italian style that has a cloudy texture, and a California version that has a more clear appearance.
Pino Borrelli, executive chef of GiGi’s Cucina Italiana in Fresno, says that Hartunian’s company — Napa Valley Limoncello — stands out because of its attention to detail.
As part of the liqueur-making process, Hartunian uses only organic Meyer lemons whose rinds are painstakingly peeled to remove the white pulp.
The rind and premium distilled alcohol are combined and stored in stainless-steel tanks, where the lemon’s essential oils flavor the mixture.
“It has a very smooth and clean flavor,” said Borrelli. “It really shows that he takes his time in preparing the lemons and getting the zest.”
Hartunian’s limoncello recipe is the same one he has been using to make small batches for friends and family.
He took the leap from making holiday gifts to running his own business a year ago and hasn’t looked back.
“I have been in the financial services industry all my life, and while it has been very kind to me, it was not something I grew up wishing to be,” Hartunian said.
“I always wanted to do something more creative, and this year after I turned 40, I decided to something that I really loved to do.”
These days, Hartunian’s liqueur in stylish 750 mL bottles sells for $29.99 to $35.
It is sold at outlets in Northern and Southern California. Locally, it can be bought at Old Doc’s Liquor, and starting in January at Beverages and BevMo.
Hartunian also plans to introduce two new products next year: a Meyer lemon-infused vodka and a regular vodka.