Current Old & Rare releases are extensively reviewed in Kelli’s White’s long article about Germain-Robin in Antonio Galloni’s highly regarded Vinous multimedia review publication
In 1981, a chance encounter between Ansley Coale and Hubert Germain-Robin, whose family had produced cognac for some 200 years, led to the construction of the modest shed in the photograph. Among our innovations was the decision to distill wines made from premium grape varietals, in preference to the thin acidic wines distilled in Cognac. We have been hand-distilling these wines for now 31 years. Our wines are vinified in bladder presses and controlled-temperature stainless steel tanks, using champagne yeasts. What we put into our still is the finest distillation material in current use anywhere. Hubert distilled these wines using ancestral double-distillation cognac methods, craft hand methods passed from master to apprentice for generations. The stills are antiques, operated entirely by hand. Preserving these methods by putting them to use in the modern world was one of our fundamental goals.
PRODUCTS & IMAGES
Joseph Corley assembles a blend from the very best of our old brandies, 25-30 years old, then ages it for 12 additional months in a 9-liter cask. A year in so small a cask is equivalent to 5-6 years in a standard barrel. The six components include 3 Pinot Noirs, 2 Colombards, and a beautiful 1989 old-vine Flora from the Kieffer vineyard in Hopland, a rarely-encountered cross of Gewurztraminer and Semillon. 12 bottles only.
GR / 30
Brandies from 30 years ago. Unfiltered. 300 bottles only. Includes a 1984 brandy from one of our favorite vineyards, the Hildreth ranch planting of Colombard along the Russian River in the center of the Ukiah Valley. When Hubert showed distillates from these grapes to a cellar-master in Cognac, he pointed out a depth and flavor which comes only from peat, which must lie within these deep alluvial soils. The Hildreths later grafted these vines to more profitable Chardonnay.
120 bottles from a single barrel of perhaps our finest distillate, a 1987 pinot noir from the Welch vineyard in Potter Valley, 26 years old. The brandy has an almost feral intensity (Potter Valley’s are the northernmost Mendocino plantings), balanced by the distinctive Germain-Robin translucent delicacy.
In 1985, the barrel into which we distilled the Wegner Ranch old-vine chenin blanc contained some 92 gallons at a bit over 70% abv. By 2015, we had only about a quarter of it left, which is why old brandy is expensive. Evaporation is water and alcohol: the flavor and aroma components remain, and have thus been concentrated by a factor of 4. Very rich, intensely aromatic. 120 bottles.
Exquisite aged pinot noir bottled in 2009, some 25 years old . When the AD was first released in 2000, three different magazines named it the best spirit in the world. Brilliant and soft. Creamy sherry note from a touch of an old- vine Palomino distillate from 1984. No longer produced: 150 bottles remain.
Assembled in summer 1990 from 2- and 3-year-old distillates on the occasion of the birth of Ansley Coale’s son, then aged for 22 more years in a 50-liter cask. Lengthy aging in a very small cask has produced characteristics that we will not see in our brandies for another 40-50 years. 60 bottles only.
This richly-fruited blend was originally assembled for the market in 1997, then discontinued in 2002. 5 barrels sat in a corner of our cellar, were revisited in 2008, and used to start a solera. Contains brandies more than 25 years old. “One of the world’s great spirits” (Mens’s Journal).
Germain-Robin has distilled apples since 1992, and began releasing small bottlings in 1998. The XO is a single barrel drawn from our early distillations, deep and very complex, with none of the heaviness that so often deadens old French Calvados.