If you visit our winery this month, you will see a posted application to the government for permission to distill brandy on site. My desire to make a local brandy has been several years in the making, a natural progression of my efforts to craft an authentic Livermore-style port wine.
In 2011 we released Opportunity, our port-styled wine that married two of our historic grape varieties – Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Since the first release, our Opportunity port wines have received many accolades, and they sell out quickly. But in spite of this success, I am convinced we can do more. We have yet to capture the full potential of our valley and its rich winemaking traditions.
In particular, we must focus on the quality of the brandy used in fortification, since brandy makes up twenty percent of a port wine. I feel the characterlessness of the neutral spirits the industry uses today dilutes any subtle signature of terroir that may have been captured during fermentation. We must begin to view brandy for its potential to enhance the richness of the wine, and not only as a means to stop fermentation. I am convinced that better brandy, especially a local one, will improve the character of our port.
Livermore has a history with fine brandy. When the Osterhout family in Livermore won the gold medal for their brandy at the 1889 Paris Exposition, it was noted in the local press that the award winning brandy would be used in the production of Livermore port wines. The use of high quality local brandy expanded with the installation of additional stills at Ravenswood and Olivina. The tradition of using local brandy in Livermore port wine production continued until prohibition.
Now it is time we rediscover this Livermore tradition and return it to practice. It is the reason why we are applying for a distiller permit, so that going forward only the finest Livermore brandy will be used in Opportunity. It is about redefining the way we grow and craft our port wine.