Liquor & SpiritsBrandy
Standard American brandies are far removed from the fine, exquisite cognacs
of France (with the exception of a few "cognac quality" California
Brandies) With the exception noted, most American producers use a continuous
still and production is at very high volumes 90% of the grapes used come
from the San Joaquin valley (Lodi - Stockton - Modesto - Fresno) Principal
grapes are colombard, thompson seedless, chenin blanc, muscat and tokay.
High alcohol (8085%) at distillation preserves little flavor. Used whiskey
barrels are used for aging, imparting minimal oak flavors. American brandy
rarely receives more than a year of aging, and the resultant product is
bland and sweet.
In the last 5 yrs, California Alambic Brandy has come into its own, and rivals many VS and VSOP quality cognacs. Made from premium varietals including colombard, chenin blanc and pinot noir and double distilled using an Alambic pot still, resulting in a smooth, clean brandy with pure flavors (and far removed from standard American brandy). Most bottlings are aged 3-5 yrs in French Limousin oak, influencing flavors, producing a soft, fruity and delicate product The "Reserve" bottlings are aged upwards of 12-15 yrs.
Germain-Robin Alambic Brandy - produced in the rugged hills above Ukiah in 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 produced by traditional cognacais methods and the results are of very high quality ("cognac-quality"). Smooth, fruity, delicate and a nice hint of oak.
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 this brandy is also produced using the traditional cognacais methods (distilled in alambic cooper pot stills and aged in Limousin oak). SR stands for Special Reserve, and the brandy is made from 6 varietals: colombard, pinot noir, chenin blanc, palomino, muscat and folle blanche. A rich, complex brandy with deep flavors of vanilla, walnuts, spicy fruit and soft sweet oak Comparable to the French VSOP's.
Korbel Brandy - bulk-produced in a continuous still from colombard, muscat and chenin blanc grapes. Simple, one-dimensional and sweet. Good quality for an inexpensive brandy.
Christian Bros. - same as above except even simpler, sweeter and half dimensional.