Wine isn’t the only wonderful, carefully crafted drink worth imbibing while visiting Wine Country. A little known fact about Napa Valley and Sonoma County is that there are several artisan distilleries and small-batch breweries also available for tours and tastings (and some that offer bites to go with those libations). If you’re looking for a bit of a break from vino on your next visit, here are the best local brews and craft spirits with which to tempt your palate.
California Brandy House is a spirited oasis for brandy aficionados, as well as for anyone looking to learn more about premium California-made brandy. This handsome establishment celebrates the rich heritage and innovation of Californian brandies, welcoming guests to sip their way through the meticulously curated selection of craft brandies. Enjoy a flight to indulge in a diverse range of aromas and flavors, or take your love of California brandy to new heights by joining their Insider’s Club.
1300 1st Street, Suite 309, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 732-1200
Grape-Based Organic Vodka
This family-owned craft distillery in Sonoma focuses on creating organic, grape-based, gluten-free, and non-GMO vodka. Typically, vodka today is made from sorghum, corn, rice, rye, or wheat. Hanson Vodka is made from grapes, which means the distillery turns grapes into wine, and then wine into vodka (the perfect fit for vodka made in Wine Country). Their infused vodkas are flavored with real, organic ingredients, and feature flavors such as cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habañero, boysenberry, and espresso. Reserve a spot in a vodka tasting, cocktail tasting, martini and caviar pairing, or try their introduction to mixology course with Hanson craft cocktails. Best of all, you get to enjoy it all in their beautiful, spacious tasting room, amid a library of color-coordinated vodka bottles.
22985 Burndale Road, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 343-1805
A Bustling Brewery at Oxbow
Founded in Berkeley, CA, this local brewery has a beautiful taproom in the bustling Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. Fieldwork Brewing features a rotating tap list of fresh releases, which can be enjoyed by sampler flight, by the glass, or to-go in cans, growlers, and Crowlers. Order food to enjoy with your beer, or grab something from one of the top-notch vendors in the Oxbow Public Market; you’ll have plenty to choose from to pair with your drinks.
610 First Street, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 266-1582
Napa Valley Distillery
The first distillery to open its doors in Napa Valley since the end of Prohibition, this family-owned and operated distillery offers educational distillery tours, followed by tastings of flights of their award-winning products. With two locations for you to choose from, you can customize your craft spirit experience. Transport yourself back to the Roaring Twenties with a tasting at the Grand Tasting Salon, which is one part art deco speakeasy, one part tiki room, and all parts tasty spirits and education. Reservations are suggested, so be sure to book early to guarantee a spot. If you’re already headed to Oxbow Public Market (where there is no shortage of options for food, drink, and people watching), visit Napa Valley Distillery’s tasting bar, replete with mahogany wood vibes and brandies galore. Taste through a flight, and don’t forget to check out their bitters collection — the largest collection on the West Coast.
Grand Tasting Salon: 2485 Stockton Street, Napa, California 94559, (707) 265-6272
Tasting Bar at Oxbow Public Market: 601 First Street, Suite 8, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 226-9269
Urban Winery Meets Vegan-Friendly Brews
This boutique urban winery, nano-brewery, and culinary garden is located right in Napa a few blocks from the main hub. The brews are made on-site in small batches, featuring 14 different offerings of beer, with more developing all the time. The beers tend to be unfiltered and more malt-driven, favoring a less bitter or ‘hopped’ profile for friendlier food pairings. And vegans, rejoice! With the exception of their Honey Wheat Ale, all other brew offerings are vegan. For those ready to take their beer love to the next level, St. Clair Brown offers their own Beer Boot Camp, where you can learn tastes and semantics at a technical beer tasting, enjoy a beer paired lunch, and brew beer with Brewmaster Elaine St. Clair herself.
816 Vallejo Street, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 225-5591
A Taste of Italy in a Bottle
For a truly unique tasting experience, head over to Prohibition Spirits in Sonoma to try some of their Italian craft spirits. Located on the Sonoma Plaza, Prohibition Spirits is known for their award-winning Limoncello (an Italian lemon liquor), but also offers tastings of their other speciality spirits, such as their gins, rums, and whiskeys. The Groth husband and wife team fell in love while exploring Sonoma, then decided they wanted to bring Limoncello (what they affectionately term ‘sunshine in a bottle’) to Wine Country. So they moved from Boulder, CO to Sonoma County and started producing California’s first organic Limoncello. Prohibition Spirits offers tastings and light bites in their tasting room, as well as group experiences and a traveling cocktail bar for private events.
23592 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 933-7507
Unique Libations in Santa Rosa
Brewer and founder Tyler Smith likes to focus on variety at Santa Rosa’s Cooperage Brewing Company, experimenting with different yeasts, hops, bacteria, and barrel types to develop unique libations. Take your time sipping and tasting here; there are TVs showing sports games for your viewing pleasure, but if that’s not your speed, there are also plenty of board games on hand to make a few beers with friends even more enjoyable. A rotating schedule of food trucks each week completes the experience.
981 Airway Ct., Suite G, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, (707) 293-9787
Post Up With Your Pup
A local favorite, this Petaluma establishment has a huge, ever-rotating selection of sours, ciders, ales, and stouts. Post up in their taproom or nab one of the many picnic tables outdoors. It’s pet-friendly, so there’s usually a handful of dogs enjoying the sun while their humans listen to the live music in the beer garden. And with a food menu of nachos, burgers, chicken wings, and other tasty pub fare, you could easily while away an afternoon here. In fact, we recommend it.
1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, CA 94954, (707) 778-8776
Northern California in a Bottle (and Can)
This craft brewery and gastro-pub celebrates the North Coast and even names each of their beers after a prominent coastal Redwood tree only found in the ‘fog belt’ — the area along the Northern California coast that’s typically covered in fog, which produces a unique ecosystem. At their original brewery and taproom in Santa Rosa, you’ll find stately brews available on tap, local and seasonal fare, and a rotating selection of events each month. Their second location in Healdsburg, known as Fogbelt Station, is a beer garden next to the historic train station, offering both brews and food. Too early for beer? The Station café is open in the mornings to serve coffee, espresso, and pastries.
1305 A Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95401, (707)978-3400