When Ansley Coale picked up hitchhiker Hubert Germain-Robin while driving through Northern California in the early 1980s, he had no idea he’d be lighting the spark that fueled today’s craft spirits renaissance. Germain-Robin’s family had been producing Cognac since 1782 and, wanting to preserve the ancient hand-on methods of distillation that were quickly being displaced by high-volume techniques, Hubert fled to the New World in search of a place to distill with access to high quality fruit.
Hubert and Ansley’s chance meeting soon led to them launching Germain-Robin in 1982. They set up a small distillery in Mendocino with an antique 13HL Charentias pot still that Hubert found in an abandoned distillery near Cognac. Establishing themselves as one of the first small distilleries to open in the US since Prohibition, Germain-Robin purchased Pinot Noir grapes to distill in lieu of the neutral varieties that are mandated in Cognac. They were the first U.S. distillery to make serious use of wine-quality fruit. By 1984, they were distilling Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, releasing their first brandy in 1987.
Nowadays, their Pinot Noir comes vinified from Roederer, while their other grapes are vinified locally. In the cellar, Joe Corley hand-distills and ages the varietals separately to maximize their distinctive qualities. Using filtered rainwater to bring the brandies to proof, Joe often allows several years for his blends to marry, before bottling with minimal to no filtration.