7 California Spirits to Sip This Winter
Made in Ukiah, Germain-Robin uses a nontraditional blend of Mendocino County–grown pinot noir, colombard, and semillon grapes to gives their brandies aromas of apple, pear, and apricot. (Courtesy of Graphis)

7 California Spirits to Sip This Winter


Cooler weather and longer evenings mean it's time to settle in and hibernate.

Light a few candles, slip into something warm and snuggly, and enjoy one of these boozy sippers when the day is done.

(Courtesy of Monteverde Spirits)

Nocino della Christina from Monteverde Spirits of Napa

Nocino is an Italian liqueur made from unripe walnuts traditionally picked on the longest day of the year, also known as the Summer Solstice. After macerating in a spirit with spices for several months, the solids are removed and a simple syrup is added to the liquid and aged. Monteverde's nocino has aromas of green walnut, spices, vanilla, and ripe berries and it has a smooth, silky finish. // $35 and up, nocino.com

(Courtesy of Germain-Robin)

Germain-Robin Brandy

While Northern California is renowned for producing fine wines, the region remains under-appreciated for its excellent brandies. Ukiah's Germain-Robin began in 1982 when Hubert Germain-Robin, whose family had been making French Cognac for generations, partnered with history professor and rancher Ansley Coale to found the distillery. Germain-Robin employs a traditional alembic to distill the brandy but uses a nontraditional blend of Mendocino County–grown pinot noir, colombard, and semillon grapes, which gives their brandies a fruit-forward aroma of apple, pear, and apricot. Their limited release XO bottlings are aged at least seven years in French limousin oak, which adds accents of cinnamon and caramel. // $60 and up, limited availability; germain-robin.com

(Courtesy of Napa Valley Distillery)

Bourbon Cordial from Napa Valley Distillery

Next to jazz, bourbon may be our nation's greatest gift to the world. But even a fine bourbon can be challenging on the palate, which is why Napa Valley Distillery's Bourbon Cordial is perfect for enjoying the warmth of a good whiskey with less of the bite. And while a straight bourbon may have notes of burnt sugar and caramel, this cordial includes an actual blend of caramel and burnt sugar. Don't worry though, this cordial still clocks in at a warming 80 proof // $39, napadistillery.com

(Courtesy of Hanger One )

Hanger One's Honeycomb Vodka

Flavored vodkas have a reputation for being artificially colored and cloyingly sweet, but this clear expression from Alameda's Hanger One distillery has just enough sweetness to make it smooth, employing the aroma of honey rather than an abundance of the amber sweetener. This sipper finishes cleanly with a hint of lemon and cinnamon. // $32, blackwellswines.com

(Courtesy of Prager)

Port from Prager Winery & Port Works

As any oenophile worth his or her corkscrew will tell you, true Port is produced only from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region of Portugal. Also, Port should be served slightly below room temperature. But we're way past caring about "shoulds." In St. Helena, the Prager family has been crafting ports since the 1970s, and any of their red, white, or tawnies are perfect for ending a meal...or the day. We're particularly fond of the red port because of its rich, viscous balance of black cherry and blackberry. // $55 and up, store.pragerport.com

(Courtesy of Ridge Vineyards)

East Bench Zinfandel from Ridge Vineyards

Zinfandel is known for being a lush, juicy varietal, but the grapes grown in California's hot Central Valley can sometimes be jammy or even raisiny. This zinfandel from the cooler climate of Sonoma County's Ridge Vineyards keeps all of the luscious cherry and raspberry notes we love about zin. // $32, shop.ridgewine.com

(Courtesy of Firestone Walker Brewing)

25 Anniversary Ale from Firestone Walker Brewing

Each summer, teams of winemakers from the Paso Robles AVA compete with each other by blending barrel-aged component beers from Firestone Walker Brewing's extensive library into custom ales. Each team's resulting blends are then blind taste-tested by the entire group. The winning team gets bragging rights (and snazzy cardboard crowns), and the rest of us get to enjoy the best of their efforts. Though Firestone's 25 Anniversary Ale is on store shelves, it can be hard to find—order it directly from the brewery. // $13/12oz. bottle; $75/750 ml., webstore.firestonebeer.com

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