Liquor & SpiritsBrandy
Standard American brandies are far removed from the fine, exquisite cognacsof France (with the exception of a few "cognac quality" CaliforniaBrandies) With the exception noted, most American producers use a continuousstill and production is at very high volumes 90% of the grapes used comefrom the San Joaquin valley (Lodi - Stockton - Modesto - Fresno) Principalgrapes are colombard, thompson seedless, chenin blanc, muscat and tokay.High alcohol (8085%) at distillation preserves little flavor. Used whiskeybarrels are used for aging, imparting minimal oak flavors. American brandyrarely receives more than a year of aging, and the resultant product isbland and sweet.
In the last 5 yrs, California Alambic Brandy has come into its own, andrivals many VS and VSOP quality cognacs. Made from premium varietals includingcolombard, chenin blanc and pinot noir and double distilled using an Alambicpot still, resulting in a smooth, clean brandy with pure flavors (and farremoved from standard American brandy). Most bottlings are aged 3-5 yrsin French Limousin oak, influencing flavors, producing a soft, fruity anddelicate product The "Reserve" bottlings are aged upwards of 12-15yrs.
Germain-Robin Alambic Brandy - produced in the rugged hills above Ukiahin Mendocino County (on an old sheep ranch) by Cognac-native Hubert Germain-Robin,whose family has been making cognac for over 200 yrs. The brandy is producedby traditional cognacais methods and the results are of very high quality("cognac-quality"). Smooth, fruity, delicate and a nice hint ofoak.
Germain-Robin Reserve - you could call this an XO version of the above,older, richer and even smoother than the regular bottling. Rich, complex,fruity with abundant oak overtones.
Carneros Alambic Brandy SR - the distillery is located in Napa and thisbrandy is also produced using the traditional cognacais methods (distilledin alambic cooper pot stills and aged in Limousin oak). SR stands for SpecialReserve, and the brandy is made from 6 varietals: colombard, pinot noir,chenin blanc, palomino, muscat and folle blanche. A rich, complex brandywith deep flavors of vanilla, walnuts, spicy fruit and soft sweet oak Comparableto the French VSOP's.
Korbel Brandy - bulk-produced in a continuous still from colombard, muscatand chenin blanc grapes. Simple, one-dimensional and sweet. Good qualityfor an inexpensive brandy.
Christian Bros. - same as above except even simpler, sweeter and half dimensional.