SHOT IN THE ARM: The distillers taking on the wineries in California’s Napa Valley

When you think of California’s Napa Valley you tend to think wine only – but not anymore.

When you think of California’s Napa Valley you tend to think wine only – but not anymore.

A journey to the Napa Valley has the expectation of cellar door visits to famous wine towns like St. Helena or Yountville.

It’s a road trip for wine enthusiasts like the movie Sideways, but without all the shouting and acting out!

But there is a new breed of Californian drink merchants taking over the valley, who are the first distillers to move into the area since Prohibition back in the 1920s.



The first distillery to open its doors in Napa, since the time of Al Capone, was the Napa Valley Distillery, a family-run affair that creates craft spirits with the same care and attention that the winemakers give to the Napa Valley vinos. The Hartunian family’s signature drink is the popular Napa vodka but they do a range of spirits including the Old Hollywood Gin.



Hit the Distillery Tour and Tastings for a behind-the-scenes look at the distillation process, some history on the distillery and sampling of the small-batch spirits. The team here are also big on cocktails, making their own boutique bitters and they are more than happy to chat recipes for their spirits, or you can check out their blog.



This is the motto of Sonoma County Distilling Co., a company that uses traditional methods and copper-pots still to make some of the area’s most unique spirits. Sonoma Country Distilling was founded in 2010 by Adam Spiegel as one of the pioneers of this new wave of distillers sweeping across the US.

Sonoma concentrates on making whiskies in three main styles: rye whisky, wheat whisky and bourbon, the latter known as the West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 1.



Also in Sonoma is Sonoma Brothers Distilling where the Matthies Brothers are producing craft spirits in the area where they grew up, helping to make wine on their uncle’s vineyard. Now they are making hand-crafted, small-batch spirits that are making a name for themselves just like the early winemakers did, slowly but surely.

Sonoma Brothers are just another example of how the valley is changing, and the diversity of offerings from wine to vodka and whisky is driving even more people to explore the beauty of the Napa Valley.


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Have you had a Napa Valley spirit before?