Spirits are moving us in Sonoma County. Distilleries are popping up all over, crafting hand-blended drinkable delicacies like vodka, gin, and whiskey.
Not only can you see fine spirits being made right on-site, but you can also sample it, to discover whether you like your vodka plain or flavored with espresso, and your gin simple or sloe.
If you want to see what local Sonoma County distilleries are up to, you can find many of them under one roof at the second annual Wine Country Distillery Festival on February 8, 2020.
Griffo Distillery, Petaluma
Located in a business park in eastern Petaluma, Griffo mills organic, non-GMO corn for their award-winning, London-style gin, and distills it onsite in a 250-gallon Kentucky-made copper pot still named Betty. Owners Michael (he has a Ph.D. in physics) and Jenny Griffo are dedicated to uniting craft and science to create precise, complex, and delicious spirits that represent the beauty and bounty of Sonoma County.
Offering a contemporary cocktail bar within the 6,000-square-foot distillery, the tasting room serves up hand-crafted cocktails and tastes of Griffo’s gin, pre-release whiskeys, and special limited edition spirits. Drop-in tours ($20, (Friday-Sunday) include a tasting flight; private tours ($25) are by appointment.
Prohibition Spirits, Sonoma
The Italians may take credit for inventing limoncello, but this artisanal company, owned by Fred and Amy Groth, has perfected it, with its Limoncello di Sonoma crafted of local lemons soaked in high proof distilled grain alcohol and agave sugar.
And where else can you get Orangecello or FigCello, made of black Mission fruit blended with citrus, 14 secret botanicals, and brandy of distilled Wine Country grapes for 30 percent alcohol? It’s delightful, a bit like port, and not overly sweet with beguiling notes of anise.
The company’s micro-distillery also hand-crafts high-quality spirits in small batches. Its hip, cool, urban tasting room in Cornerstone Sonoma in the southern Sonoma Valley lets you savor the distillery’s Specialty Spirits, vodkas, brandies, gins, and limoncello. Or, you can tour the distillery on the east side of the town of Sonoma on specific dates for a behind-the-scenes look at the distilling process and an intimate tasting of select handcrafted spirits.
Sonoma Brothers Distilling, Windsor
Sonoma Brothers is an artisan distillery that’s the dream of Chris Matthies, a Santa Rosa firefighter, and his twin brother, Brandon, a Santa Rosa police officer. Their first batch of vodka was released in summer 2015, followed by bourbon and gin in January 2016.
Their tasting room is open by appointment only Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Looking for the sippy stuff? You can find it at Sonoma County Oliver’s Markets, and at restaurants like KIN in Windsor.
Sonoma Coast Spirits, Petaluma
Owners Jill and Doug Olson launched their small craft distillery in 2011 with their Lemon Drop Martini, which won a gold medal at the 2012 San Francisco Spirits Competition. After Doug’s untimely passing in November 2018, Jill is running the business with the help of her grown children. They craft all-natural, ready-to-drink craft cocktails (Lemon Drop Martini, Raspberry Lemonade, Pomegranate Cosmo, and Mango Tango) using Jill’s family recipes, as well as high-proof grappas made from locally distilled grape pomace (what’s left after crushing wine grapes), vodkas, and liqueurs. Although they previously offered tastings in a small corner of their production facility, they are temporarily closed to the public while they remodel. Their products are available online and in stores throughout California.
Spirit Works Distillery, Sebastopol
Sloe gin is a case of making something wonderful even better. It is the delicious addition of sloe (blackthorn) drupes, which are a small fruit relative of the plum, for even more botanical flavor.
Want to see the process in action? You can, in the tasting salon at this Barlow destination, where giant copper and steel stills work their magic right next to the bar.
The grain-to-glass micro-distillery handcrafts gin, sloe gin, vodka, and wheat and rye whiskeys. Husband-and-wife team Timo and Ashby Marshall use Timo’s British heritage recipes along with Ashby’s West Coast-born palate.
The grains are milled on-site, then mixed with flour and hot water to create a mash. Yeast is added to the mash to ferment and, after a few days, distilling begins.
Sample flights at the bar, then head next door to Sebastopol Liquor & Deli to pick up some bottles of your own.
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