Sonoma County Distillers, Jenny and Mike Griffo, of Griffo Distillery in Petaluma

Husband-and-wife Sonoma County distillers Jenny and Mike Griffo met while in California grad schools. They moved to New York City to build careers, but soon followed their hearts back to the West Coast, choosing to put down roots in the historic riverside town of Petaluma

“To see the beauty of this land and the Pacific coastline made us feel like we’re home,” Jenny says with a smile. “And I’ve never been somewhere where the community rallies behind you like Petaluma has us. It’s what Mike and I were missing in New York.” 

Once settled, the Griffos sought a project they could work on together, combining their passions for science, sustainability, and Sonoma County. In 2013, cheered on by Petaluma’s tight-knit business and maker community, they founded their acclaimed Griffo Distillery to craft small-batch whiskey, gin, and vodka with a sense of place. 

They achieve the latter by using an open-top—rather than the more typically sealed—fermentation tank. “Here the air is really unique,” Jenny says. “We have incredible brewers and bakers all around us—like Lagunitas, HenHouse, Red Bird Bakery, Della Fattoria—and all of them are pitching yeast up into the air. We start with our own yeast to create each spirit’s dominant flavor, and then over time, our open top allows all the other floating particles of yeast from these beautiful creators to collect in the tank and create their own flavors. Soil terroir is important in Sonoma County wine, but we think of this as our ‘air terroir.'”

Bottles of the small batch spirits made by Griffo Distillery in Sonoma County

Griffo Distillery is committed to being a sustainable, zero-waste facility, using no plastic in their tasting room or shipping, and employing a no-water-waste process in their production.

“It’s amazing to have a facility where we can actually give back to our community in a bigger way than we can just as individual people,” Mike says.

The Griffos themselves are passionate about using their business for good. In the 2020 height of Covid-19, for example, the distillery produced about 40,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, providing half to front line workers, unhoused people, Petaluma schools, and indigenous communities like the Cherokee Nation. 

When visiting downtown Petaluma, be sure to visit Griffo Distillery‘s tasting bar, barrel room, and marketplace. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Visit Sonoma County’s breweries and distilleries page to learn about more Sonoma County distilleries. 

Discover more Sonoma County maker stories at sonomacounty.com/cultivated.

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