In the summer of 1981, California rancher Ansley Coale picked up a hitchhiker on highway 101 north of San Francisco. It was Hubert Germain-Robin, who happens to be from the Jules Robin family, which has been making cognac since 1782. Hubert was looking for a place to rekindle craft-method brandy distillation ,which had mostly disappeared in France.
Coale had a ranch in the Napa Valley and Germain-Robin found an antique still at an abandoned distillery in Cognac, and they built a shed for the still in 1982. The following year, they got their first grapes, but their first release wasn’t until 1987, making them one of the first two legal indie distilleries in the U.S. since Prohibition.
Germain-Robin brandies are regularly reviewed to be among the best spirits in the world, and disciples of the distillery have gone on to create their own fantastic indie spirits.