06 Jul San Francisco Magazine – The Five Best Places to go Whiskey Tasting in Wine Country
Squeeze it in between wineries or go full bore for booze.
As a tourist destination, wine country is as much a legal invention as a viticultural one. Wineries and breweries have for decades enjoyed an edge over distilleries, which until this year were forbidden from selling directly to consumers. That all changed when the Craft Distillers Act of 2015 took effect in January and gave small distillers a chance to build their businesses around the taste-and-purchase models that wineries and breweries already thrive on. Now, distillers are playing catch up. Distillery tour-and-tasting combos are still relatively rare in wine country—but that’s changing fast. Here are five of our favorites where you can try and buy.
Spirit Works Distillery
Tasting room: Wed.–Sun., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Private tours: Fri.–Sun. at 5 p.m. (groups up to 10).
What they make: A line of seven spirits including vodka, gin, wheat whiskey, and rye whiskey.
Why they’re great: At Spirit Works Distillery, you don’t have to take the tour to have a view of the action: The main tasting bar opens onto a large window with a view of everything going on behind the scenes. But we still recommend it. The all-female production team, led by head distiller Ashby Marshall, does everything from mill to distill on-site (but you won’t need a degree in chemistry to follow the steps from grain to bottle). On the tour ($20), you’ll find a hybrid pot-still that reaches over 26 feet in the air, and more than 200 barrels of whiskey and other spirits aging. In the tasting room ($18), have some fun with their gins, especially the Barrel Reserve Sloe Gin. But make sure to save your palate for the wheat whiskey, which features smooth flavors of caramel, nuts, smoke, and vanilla, and the rye whiskey, which bursts with honey, caramel, wood, and holiday spice.