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The Spirits of Mendocino County

Mendocino County is known for wine, waves and wilderness, but lovers of fine brandy, whiskey, gin and other artisan spirits know that some of the best drinkables in the world are made in the county. There’s nothing quite like a fine brandy or a tasty whiskey to warm up a chilly Northern California night. Cheers!

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The great granddaddy of Mendocino County craft spirits is Germain-Robin brandy. In 1982 Ansley Coale, a local rancher and onetime history professor, and Hubert Germain-Robin, a native of France’s Cognac region founded the Germain-Robin distillery. Hubert and Ansley began making brandy in Ansley’s barn near Ukiah, using a small potstill taken from an abandoned distillery in Cognac. Hubert relied on ancestral methods, but he also innovated by using hyper-modern vinification techniques and by distilling wines made from premium Northern California varietal grapes.

Hubert left the company that bears his name in 2006 to become an independent consultant. While the original still continues to be used, most of the brandy is produced at a larger (though no less authentic) still in nearby Redwood Valley.

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Low Gap, Crispin’s Rose Liqueur, and more

Crispin Cain began working with Hubert Germain-Robin in 1989, and in 2000 he and his partner Tamar Kaye began producing Crispin’s Rose Liqueur, using their own roses and a family recipe that includes apples and honey. Crispin then branched out to several other spirits, including the critically acclaimed Low Gap craft-method whiskey (Whiskey Advocate’s Artisan Whiskey of the Year), Russell Henry Gin, and a craft-method vodka called DSP CA 162. These handcrafted spirits are produced in small batches using a Cognac-style still at the Germain-Robin distillery.

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One of Hubert Germain-Robin’s consulting projects is Jepson Brandy, produced by Jaxon Keys winery and distillery in Hopland. Founded in 1983, Jepson Brandy is distilled in a beautiful traditional alambic still. Jepson brandies have won (and continue to win) numerous critical accolades.

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