10 California Distilleries To Visit When Need A Break From Wine
There are some great California distilleries you can visit now. States laws were recently updated for the first time since prohibition. The new law allows distilleries to open tasting rooms. We know, doesn't get better than that. We thought you might enjoy a list of some of the best California distilleries with tasting rooms. An extra bonus, most of these California distilleries are in major wine regions. That means you'll have something for everyone!
California wine country vineyards, wineries, restaurants, hotels, and events are on par with the best anywhere in the world. It stands to reason, then, that the distilleries popping up among the vineyards would be of equal quality. In 2000, there was just a handful, but by 2015, the 75 California distilleries intensified the already rich tapestry of the region.
Complementing the local wine and cuisine with another example of fine, handcrafted products, these ten California distilleries are a credit to the owners. You can expect to find distilleries on this list that deliver a range of spirits that reach from eclectic to traditional. Have a peek, or better yet, take a sip.
Distilleries To Visit In Northern California
The Napa Valley Distillery was the first distillery to open in Napa since prohibition closed the doors on distilling between 1920 and 1933. Producing fabulous vodka made with single vintage Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, along with a dozen small-batch releases like Old Hollywood Ginn made with nine rare botanicals and a little oak, Napa Valley Distillery offers tastings both at the Grand Tasting Salon in the distillery location as well as at the Vintage Bar Shop in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. Their boutique also offers a global selection of more than 400 cocktail bitters, syrups, shrubs, and cocktail accouterments. This is clearly one of the must-visit California distilleries.
Charbay Distillery in St. Helena (Napa Valley) is one of America's oldest brandy producers. They have a line of fine brandies that begins with Alambic Pot Still Brandy in 1983. Like most of the high-end California distilleries, Charbay is a family affair benefiting from generations of experience carried across the ocean from Europe. Small-scale production of Whiskey, Tequila, Vodka, Rum, and Brandy provides a full menu for a wide range of palates.
The Whiskey R5 (Lot No. 4) is double-distilled using Bear Republic Brewery's Racer5 IPA beer, boasting awards for its 7 percent ABV, two-row barley, and aromatic hops on the front end leading to bittering hops and a clean smooth finish. Their Brandy No. 83, named for the year it was distilled from Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, is a premium Folle Blanche brandy aged in French Limousin oak. The brandy was released after 27 years to celebrate the anniversary of founder Miles Karakasevic's arrival in the new world. Today, Charbay Distillery sits alongside Charbay Winery, offering tasting, tours, and barrel-aged brandies, ports, aperitifs, with the option of a hand-rolled cigar.
The Spirit Works Distillery in Sebastopol embraces the grain-to-glass philosophy held by most of these small California distilleries. They do their milling, mashing, fermenting, and distilling on-site. True to form, this artisan micro-distillery seeks out local organic ingredients whenever possible. Sailing, climbing, and distilled spirits are what Timo and Ashby Marshall love. They are proudly serving up their sips at the Barlow Open Air Maker Marketplace.
You can visit them for a tour and tasting. The cost is $20 per person.
Sonoma County Distilling Company in Rohnert Park started up the trend in 2010 as one of the first 200 distilleries in the US. Distilling twice to reach the desired alcohol concentration. This California craft distillery uses direct fire Alembic pot stills that yield a consistent flavor with slight caramelization. Using non-GMO California grains and malted barley smoked in Petaluma with California Cherrywood, the spirit is then aged in new American oak from Missouri and Minnesota. The result is another standout, grain-to-glass spirit worthy of attention.
Sonoma Coast Spirits is a small craft California distillery in Petaluma Maker's District with a gorgeous view from the cozy tasting bar inside the facility. A favorite for a dozen reasons, one is the World Spirits Gold Medal for founders Doug and Jill Olson's Lemon Drop craft cocktail. They also produce four vodkas and three Grappa selections. The Grappa is made from a recipe passed down by Jill's great-grandfather, Lionardo Dioguardi who distilled using local Zinfandel grapes under his own label in Santa Rosa prior to Prohibition. Taking advantage of the new 2016 laws allowing sales to the public in the tasting room, samples of craft cocktails allow the Olsons to share their passion on-site as well as to take home.
Alley 6 Craft Distillery is a California micro-distillery that opened in 2012. Located in the city of Healdsburg, its first and only distillery until some recent additions, treats guests to samples of their Rye Whiskey, Single Malt Whiskey, Harvest Gin, Candy Cap Bitters, and a selection of additional handcrafted selections while learning about the distilling process, followed by a distillery tour. Built, as founders Krystle and Jason Jorgensen say, with "thrifty nickels and a lot of brow sweat," Alley 6 is a family business that embraces a passion for making small-batch whiskeys born of time spent mixing drinks behind the bar.
Two 132-gallon Alembic copper pot stills help Alley 6 as they go about milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling, and bottling their complex, award-winning spirits. Composed of 78 percent rye and 22 percent aromatic malted barley, aged in new heavily-charred American white oak, Alley 6 Rye Whiskey puts vanilla, spice, and rye on the nose, followed by caramel on the palate. The Alley 6 Single Malt Whiskey is currently only available in the tasting room, which makes it a great reason to visit.
Prohibition Spirits Distillery offers tastings at Sonoma's Cornerstone Gardens, presenting California's first organic LimonCello, Hooker's House Whiskeys, Sugar Daddy Rums, Jack's Gins, Chauvet Brandies, and specialty spirits that show off founders Fred and Amy Groth's skills and innovative nature. In addition to spirits tastings, the duo provides mixology classes and accommodates private and group events in the serenity of the Cornerstone Gardens, complete with an outdoor test kitchen, art-filled gardens, live music, boutique wineries, and a stunning sunset view. This is a must-visit California distillery
Young & Yonder Spirits in Cloverdale is known for Armont Vodka, slowly distilled six times, through several purification processes, delivering vodka that is smooth, clean, crisp, and refined for an excellent sip whether on the rocks or in a mixed cocktail.
Their H.O.B.S. Gin, named for Harbor of Broken Souls, gives a nod to the connection between this juniper, citrus, and floral spirit as a favorite of those who have spent their lives upon the sea. Years in the making, refining, and perfecting of this handcrafted spirit displays the perfect balance of juniper, lemon peel, coriander, lavender, hibiscus, bay leaf, angelica root, and cardamom. Look out for a very special bourbon from co-founders Josh Opatz and Sarah Fiske.
California Central Coast Distilleries
Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits in Paso Robles takes bleed, the free-run juice from premium red wine grapes before fermentation, and distills it into fine vodka and gin spirits. Usually discarded, winemakers turned distillers Alex and Monica Villicana found that triple distillation turned the juice into something exceptional. New offerings of rye whiskey and bourbon were released this year, adding to seasonal flavored spirits and an oak-infused vodka with spice and caramel that acts a lot like whiskey. Unique, refined, and stylish, this California distillery turns a cocktail into an event.
KroBār Craft Distillery in Paso Robles, mashing up the surnames of founders Stephen Kroener and Joe Barton is the result of a combined 40 years of alcohol business experience. This experience is why they chose the Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Louisville, KY to provide their still.
Tasting from the Social Room or from Ethanol Alley, the distillery overlooks vineyards along highway 46. The experience is a divine one from two guys that learned from the best at their parents' operations at Barton Family Wines and Silver Horse Winery. Discover just how appealing these spirits made from botanicals can be, sipping Rye Whiskey, Gin, Bourbon, and a white wine aperitif called Lit, making the most of Kroener's Albariño and Barton's Grenache Blanc and Viognier. The speakeasy tasting room vibe shares a patio with the Barton Family Wines Grey Wolf Cellars, where lunch is also an option.