Germain-Robin is a distiller that primarily makes brandy that was founded in 1981, when Ansley Coale picked up some hitchhikers along Highway 101. One of those hitchhikers was Hubert Germain-Robin, whose family had produced Cognac for hundreds of years before selling out to Martell.
The next summer, Hubert found an antique Cognac still in an abandonded distillery in France and had it shipped to Ansley's ranch in Ukiah, in Mendocino County. Once the still arrived, they built a redwood shed around it and began to distill wine made from Pinot Noir, which violates most of the conventional wisdom about making brandy (namely, that you want high acid wine made from underripe white grapes to preserve balance and delicacy in the finished product).
By 2001, a wave of distributor consolidation had set in, and as small distillery making a few hundred cases of spirits a year, Germain-Robin found it difficult to stay in business. Luckily, St. George Spirits, another small distillery, was in the same position, and Germain-Robin and St. George began to distill flavored vodkas under the Hangar One label. Hangar One sold 20,000 cases in its second year, giving both distilleries access to retailers across the country.
Today, Germain-Robin makes a line of brandies and liqueurs, beginning (around $45 a bottle) with their Craft Label line, then Coast Road Reserve, Shareholder's Reserve, Old Havana (meant to pair with cigars, and in very short supply), XO, Single Barrel (which is typically a single varietal - they've done Pinot Noir, Colombard, Viognier, and Muscat), and Anno Domini, which is mostly Pinot Noir and around $350 a bottle.
Germain-Robin brandies tend to be rounder and softer than their French counterparts due to better raw materials for the distilling process. Lower acid wines make lower acid brandies which need less time in oak barrels to become harmonious.
Germain-Robin also makes apple brandy in a regular and XO version. Recently, the company has branched out a bit, making a liqueur called Creme de Poete, a rose petal liqueur called Crispin's (after distiller Crispin Cain), and malt whiskey in the style of Scotch.
Some popular cocktails containing Germain-Robin
- Silvered Mirror — Gin, Herbal liqueur, Absinthe, Bitters, Lime juice, Simple syrup