Distilling the essence of Sonoma County
Mike and Jenny Griffo, founders of Griffo Distillery, are crafting spirits in Petaluma that are impossible to make any other place. That’s because one of the key ingredients doesn’t come from a supply company or farm — it floats into the distillery with the breeze.
"One of the things we love about this area is there's tons of yeast in the air because of all the incredible breweries and bakeries," Jenny said. "All their yeast creates this unique yeast profile that no one else is capturing, creating a flavor profile that you can't replicate anywhere else."
Yeast is a key ingredient in any batch of whiskey. These little single-celled organisms feed on the sugars in the grain mash to make alcohol. Most distilleries use yeast they purchased or developed in a lab.
By using what’s called open fermentation, Griffo is capturing the area’s essence as part of their spirit-making process. Yeast-producing neighbors include Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma Hills Brewing, Alvarado Street Bakery and Della Fattoria.
Local ingredients play a big part in connecting Griffo to the area, but relationships in the community have cemented the distillery’s commitment to Sonoma County. Griffo meets regularly with other distilleries, breweries and wineries in the area. Neighboring breweries bring over beer that’s gone wrong and team up with Griffo to try distilling it as an experiment. When the Griffos finished making their gin, other craft beverage producers volunteered to help with the first bottling.
"What made Petaluma so unique is this passion for craft and for true integrity in products that I found here," Jenny said. "I think it's so inspiring to even go to a coffee shop and talk to people in Petaluma."
Griffo’s rye, bourbon and American whiskey still need more barrel time before they’re available. But the distillery’s Scott Street Gin is for sale at Bottle Barn, Willibee’s and Charlie’s Liquor as well as at Petaluma bars. In a couple months, you can try the gin (along with a few cocktails using it) at the Griffo tasting room and bring a few bottles home with you.