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, you can sample it, to discover whether you like your vodka plain or flavored with espresso, and your gin simple or sloe.
Sonoma County Distilling Co., Rohnert Park
The by-appointment-only “Grain to Glass” tour showcases the secrets of this premium whiskey salon, where everything is crafted in house.
You can see the mashing and fermentation of grains, the direct-fired alembic pot distillation, small-barrel aging, and packaging, including each bottle top hand-dipped in wax to seal it. The finale: a tasting of three to four of the spirits.
5625 State Farm Drive, Rohnert Park, 707-583-7753
Hanson of Sonoma Organic Vodka, Sonoma
This family-owned company has been crafting small-batch vodka from certified organic grapes since 2012, and is building a tasting room in Sonoma, which will open in 2016.
You can tell this stuff is made with love — each bottle is hand-stamped and signed, and most of the ingredients are local. And oh, what taste — the 80-proof delights come in original flavor, or naturally infused with ginger, mandarin, cucumber, boysenberry, or espresso.
The resulting crisp, smooth, and crystal clean vodkas that you probably don’t even want to mix. Just sip as they are, and savor the pure pleasure.
22985 Burndale Road, Sonoma
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 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.
6790 McKinley St., Sebastopol, 707-634-4793
HelloCello/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.
A tour of the downtown Sonoma distillery unveils how it all comes together, and tempts with extras like brandy, grappa, Sugar Daddy rums, or eau di vie, that you can savor on plush velvet couches right in the barrel room.
And where else can you get FigCello, made of black Mission fruit blended with citrus, 14 secret botanicals, and a 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.
If that’s not enough to tempt you, how about some star power — Lady Gaga famously savored it on a visit to the girl & the fig in downtown Sonoma in 2012.
21877 8th St. E., Sonoma
Sonoma Brothers Distilling, Windsor
Sonoma Brothers is a new artisan distillery located in Sonoma County. Sonoma Brothers Distilling is the dream of Chris Matthies, a Santa Rosa firefighter, and his twin brother, Brandon, a Santa Rosa police office. Their first batch of vodka was released last summer, followed by Bourbon and Gin, just released in January. Looking for the sippy stuff? You can find it at Sonoma County Oliver’s Markets, and at restaurants like KIN in Windsor, La Rosa in Santa Rosa, and Stout Brothers Irish Pub in Santa Rosa.
7759 Bell Road, Windsor, 707-888-2120
Of course, this is just the start of the possibilities. Sonoma County offers at least two dozen operating craft breweries, more than half a dozen cider producers, and at least two dozen operating craft breweries. Follow the Sonoma County Beer, Cider, and Spirits Map to find even more craft beverage touring and tasting possibilities.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.