You wouldn't expect to find craft-spirit fanatics in Napa Valley, but that's the case at Napa Valley Distillery, where bottled cocktails and small-batch spirits are handcrafted. The microdistillery, cofounded by Arthur and Lusine Hartunian, is the first distillery in Napa since Prohibition. The highlight is the family's signature Vintage Reserve vodka, which repurposes the region's sauvignon grapes to update a bar staple. Wine Enthusiast Magazine named it one of the top 50 spirits of 2011, noting that its "crisp, extremely smooth finish (it’s filtered an astounding 10 times) makes it addictively sippable, especially when chilled."
Other spirits include their Old Hollywood Ginn, a speakeasy spirit with nine rare botanicals and hints of oak; their Meyer Lemon Liqueur, which was the family's first concoction; and their other oak-infused cocktails. But you don't have to sneak into one of the barrels and disappear for several weeks to taste the spirits. The entire selection, including a variety of rum and whiskey not available anywhere else, can be sampled at the distillery's new Grand Tasting Salon.
As Owner and Head Distiller of Sonoma County Distilling Company, Adam Spiegel has made it his primary goal not just to make incredible, hand-crafted whiskeys, but to do so by embracing tried-and-true old-school methods that correspondingly pay no mind to the ever-growing industry trends. The cornerstone of his distilling operation is the Sonoma Rye Whiskey, made from a 100% rye mash bill. Every step of the operation is done in-house, from cooking the fragrant mash to fermenting the grains and hand-bottling the unfiltered final product after it's rested in new American oak barrels. The distillery also crafts two other whiskeys—2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey and West of Kentucky Bourbon—all of which can be sampled at the distillery after tours that highlight each step of the process, including the best part: drinking whiskey.
In the spirit of the original 49ers, who rushed to California in search of boundless treasure, Gordon Helm and Cris Steller founded Dry Diggings Distillery to dig up the abundant nuggets of flavor made possible by small-batch brewing. They transform locally produced fruit and grains into bold varietals of whiskey, brandy, and vodka at a distillery whose decor also seems inspired by the Gold Rush of yore: hardwoods, antique machinery, and anxiety about Zachary Taylor's presidency set the tasting room firmly in the 1800s. There, visitors can immerse themselves in this era and taste the artisanal spirits during tastings and behind-the-scenes tours.