Hubert Germain-Robin was the first distiller to make serious use of fine grape varietals normally used for excellent table wine. Mendocino County’s warm days and cool nights produce grapes that combine rich fruit flavor with considerable acidity. The grapes are harvested early (about the same time as grapes for sparkling wine) to preserve that acidity, which gives Germain-Robin its well-known focused purity and balanced structure.
The grapes are delivered to local wineries for vinification (except for the pinot noir we get from Roederer, which ferments its own grapes). The grapes are vinified into low-alcohol, high-acid distillation wine, using sophisticated modern methods: bladder presses; temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks. Champagne yeasts such as Epernay provide effective and slow fermentation of these low-sugar wines. The controlled temperature tanks mean that the distiller can choose whether or not to put the wines through malolactic fermentation.
Once ready, we bring the wines to the distillery: the fresher the better. Having refrigerated tanks is a huge advantage. In Cognac, all wines to be bottled as VSOP or higher must be distilled, by regulation, within 6 weeks of harvest because of the deterioration of the stored wine. Here, our wines are stored at 35° and are as good as new three months after fermentation.
It’s a given that wine made from sauvignon blanc grapes is markedly different from wine made from pinot noir. The same is true for brandy: when wines made from varietal grapes are purified and concentrated by distillation, the resulting brandies have unusually distinctive and complex flavors and aromas. Pinot noir brandy is very different from brandies made from muscat, colombard, semillon: each varietal brandy bears the hallmark flavors and aromas of the grapes it originated in. Our cellar contains an amazingly wide selection of flavors and aromas, which allows us to prepare blends that are unusually complex and balanced. We have brandies from more than 20 varietals in our cellars.
A barrel of brandy distilled from pinot noir requires six tons of grapes. The cost of grapes and vinification is more than $10,000 per barrel.